Trials of Travel - Pt. 2

long lines at united  

A delayed flight; a missed connection to Australia? I thought this was bad enough, but wait … there's more.

I finally boarded the delayed Boston flight for San Francisco. I was in Boarding Group 597 … read that the last group to be boarded on a packed-full flight. The gate agent asked me to check my carry-on suitcase … no room in the overhead bins. Since I already had one big duffel checked, I thought “what the heck?”. I hesitated … my camera and good stuff was in the carry-on ... but I finally succumbed. I checked the bag. Seasoned travelers know this is a mistake.

The flight was long, cramped and boring. It's what you might expect in cattle class, but it was tolerable. I was getting closer to home, I reasoned. When we arrived, the gate was occupied and we waited on the tarmac another 15 minutes before deplaning. No agent greeted the flight with information about getting hotel vouchers and only with persistence did I finally find a wandering United rep who pointed me towards the service kiosk … a mile or so away.

What I saw when I approached the Customer Service desk was utterly astonishing. The line stretched more than a city block down the terminal. Disgruntled, tired people milled, sat on the floor, grousing, texting and chatting. I made my way to the end of the line, but after 15-20 minutes I spied another wandering United rep who pointed out three supervisors standing on the sidelines, looking at the ever-growing, moving-at-a-snail's-pace line. I approached, interrupted their lively conversation (one guy had just dropped the F-bomb in a phone conversation) and explained that I was already re-booked. Couldn't I just obtain my promised hotel and meal vouchers and be on my way? Well, it seems they were short-handed (wow...that was news), but more staff was coming and it should only be another 45 minutes and yes, I had to stand in line.

Some two and half hours later, a rumor passed through the line that there were no more hotel vouchers and in fact, there hadn't been for the last couple of hours. I sought out that same supervisor. “There are no more hotel vouchers”, he confirmed. “Sorry.” Really? He was sorry? Why ever wouldn't someone have informed people that they were waiting in line at 0200 Pacific time (now 5am for us Bostonians)? WTF?

I walked the long walk down to baggage claim in a huff to find a football field full of unclaimed luggage sprawling out before me. The monitor no longer showed the arriving Boston flight and again, no agents were around. After 40 minutes, I finally located my luggage and rather than pay $5 for use of a luggage cart, I scrounged around on the sidewalk for an abandoned one and lucked out immediately. I found my new, bright turquoise carry-on suitcase immediately. The black duffel was more of a challenge. I wrestled that 50 pound monster onto the cart As I attempted to load the carry-on, however, I noticed it had been modified slightly … the pull-out handle had been totally sheared off. The line for Baggage Claim Complaints was predictably long … that complaint would have to wait.


broken luggage


After several calls, I found a $100 plus tax room at the local LaQuinta. Their airport shuttle had stopped at midnight, so I cabbed it a mile for another $20. Breakfast was included and they allowed me a late check-out to minimize my wait at the gate to only 8-1/2 hours. Good thing, I've got time, otherwise I wouldn't be able to stand in that Baggage Claim Complaint line today to file my claim.

BTW, I received a “Were You Satisfied With Your Flight?” survey from United this morning. Oh, my …what an opportunity. On second thought, I wonder if they bother to read them.

Since this is a 2-part blog spanning an overnight, look for the 13th Day of Christmas (yes, 12 was not quite enough) tomorrow. With any luck, 13 days should do it. I can only pray.