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Traveling nightmares, or why is United Airlines against me? – part 2

This is the second part of my ordeal while returning to Canada from vacation.  Part 1 can be found here.

I started crying then and there. I could not believe that my plane was there, and I was powerless, I could not open the door and get in, I just couldn’t. The plane was there for another 20 minutes. Twenty miserable minutes that felt like an eternity. I had two hours of sleep in me and I was so ready to be home with my family. I was supposed to study even on my winter break. December 25 was supposed to be my only day off, and though I could study at ORD, I was way too stressed to even attempt it. But it doesn’t matter, and it didn’t matter that I got to ORD at 8:40 am, got to my gate at 8:45, and that plane left at 9:05am. I went to the “customer care” centre for UA and tried to plead my case … to no avail. I was willing to be re-routed, even through LA or Arizona or whatever if necessary; all I wanted was to get home on Christmas day. I eventually gave up, but not without screaming at the customer care employee on the phone, which didn’t apologize for the lack of communication among employees of the same airline (at this point I thought it would be logical for airlines to have good and active lines of communication, especially when dealing with passengers who may miss a flight for less than 5 minutes) All he did was offer a voucher for another trip. After leaving me stranded in ORD I was supposed to be happy and giddy about getting on another flight with them and shave off 100$ from my flight! Yeah right.

I more or less waited patiently for the rest of the day. I calmed down and eventually picked up my highlighter and started marking stuff on my papers. My new itinerary had me leaving ORD at around 5:45pm. (If  you do the math that’s adding 5 extra hours of wait time at the airport, and almost 9 extra if we count the 3+ hours I spent before noon). But as usual for UA it didn’t happen (funny note here, on my last flight with them a few weeks ago, the plane was delayed for ~40 minutes and on the plane’s TV monitor was a quote from UA saying that they are ranked #1 in flying on-time …. ON TIME ….how ironic!). We finally got on the plane at 7pm and the plane left ORD after 9pm (UA said they could not find a pilot for our plane so again we had to wait). (Note, this means that I was waiting at ORD for a full 12 hours before we departed, love  how on time they were). I was reassigned to a seat in what they call Economy Plus or whatever section, which was supposed to get me more leg room. As if the leg room was going to erase my entire Xmas day spent at ORD due to UA’s inability to wait for me, or communicate with each other to ensure I got on my flight instead of having me wait for an entire day. I was so mad, and anxious, and in disbelief. I wondered how an airline could still be in business when it treated its customers like crap and “scheduled” for them trips that were completely inconvenient. How they completely ignore customers pleas to be accommodated elsewhere, or at least to notify another gate to please keep the door opened if the passenger at the airport if the plane they came in was delayed. I guess I may sound like a spoiled brat who wants the airline to roll out a red carpet, fine wine and strawberries. It sounds like I have this big ego and a terrible sense of entitlement. But when the employee at the departing gate doesn’t even look at you and tells you, in your face, that the airline has changed you to a 5pm flight, on Xmas day, when it’s almost 9am I think more than one person would feel a bit insulted. To me this situation meant that due to their lack of professionalism, and communication within United Airlines I lost a full day of contact with my family, my boyfriend and the people I love the most. People who I only got to see once (twice if I was extra lucky) during the holidays.

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Traveling nightmares, or why is United Airlines against me?

When I was coming back to Canada from my lovely trip abroad I experienced a hell of a day while traveling with my least favourite airline. In a series I’ve entitled “Traveling Nightmares, or why is United Airlines  against me?”  I’ll recount the nightmare I had to live through to get back home WITH my luggage. This is part 1. There are other wonderful stories around the web on how UA screws up travelers in other ways. Read here, it’s outrageous.

As I type this I’m seething with rage over how stupid it was of me to try and give United Airlines another chance to take me home once again …..

My “comedy” of horrors has a very clear start. Five years ago, on Christmas day, as I was heading home to visit my family for 8 days or so,  it began. I had just 8 days of winter break because I was to take a very defining exam in my graduate career upon my arrival (the qual., or what determines whether I continued on to finish the PhD or left with a Master’s degree). Everything was carefully planned, and was I to travel with Ted, the “cheap” version of United (which wasn’t so, as my ticket was well over 500 USD). My boyfriend was  going to pick me up at the airport and we’d go on a romantic stroll after not seeing each other for 2 months, and then we would head to my parents home, a full 2.5 hours drive from the airport. I’d flown back home on the 25th a couple of times before, and I found it very nice and even relaxing, as most people were already home and the airports I frequented were not as chaotic as usual (mainly Chicago’s ORD). So, I left my home airport, and the small jet taking us to ORD was in late due to weather warnings at ORD (according to what we were told). Thus no planes were heading in or out of Chicago. I thought, “Well, that’s OK then, because it means that my next plane can’t get out and I’ll have enough time to get to my gate (how foolish of me, I realize now that it was naïve of me to think of it this way) even if we head out of here late”. I should have known better. Upon our arrival at ORD, and to my surprise, planes were taking off regularly. We experienced no turbulence and things seemed normal.  Once we were at ORD I tried to ask, beg (almost crying), to the personnel  of United Airlines(UA for short) on gate to communicate with the departing gate that I was in and could make it if given just 5 minutes to run to the gate. They didn’t do it and instead instructed me to “run” to try to catch my flight (I guess that’s too much to ask, and granted, I don’t know if such a strategy would work), if not they would gladly reschedule my flight to the next available one. I was just a 5-minute run away from my next flight which was to put me home in a few hours. My gate seemed to be miles away (or so it appears when you’re in that situation). though. When I made it to the gate an old, blond and grumpy lady told me my itinerary had been changed because I wasn’t on time and that I would not get in my original, without blinking or even making eye contact. My plane was still at the gate but the gate was closed and there was no Santa Claus who could get me in (apparently the old bearded man can’t stand against FAA regulations, or UA old blond and grumpy ladies). It didn’t matter how much I pleaded, begged for the slightest Xmas mercy. She stood her ground and said that no, I was not getting on that plane because “Federal Law prohibits opening the door for even 1 passenger 10 minutes before departure.” It gives me chills to this day to think about it, how the plane was there, and no matter what, I wasn’t getting in.

I have to tell you at this point of the story that American Airlines, 2 years before, had opened the gate for a few passengers on another flight going from ORD to my grad school city … they kept the plane at the gate for 2 hours. Two full hours. All this happened 2 full years post 9-11 so I could not understand what “Federal Law” business this employee was talking about. I also get very stressed when is time to fly as I’m a little superstitious and planes scare me to death.

Post vacation funk

It is just me? Or do more people feel all crappy after returning to the lab from a glorious vacation? I don’t know. I’ve been meaning to start blogging once again, as I’ve been out for a few weeks now. I get some ideas sometimes, but other times it’s hard to just get down to do it. Plus I’ve had a few things happen since I came back from vacation. If you’ve been following my tweets, I’m spewing fire due to an airline’s incompetence (and my car needing some  desperate repairs). I’ve spent two weekends doing nothing, just playing video games and sitting around doing absolutely nada. I miss my Spain, my hotel, the streets, the people. And I can’t seem to bring myself up to speed and feel productive. Bleh. I think I’m what a friend calls a post-vacation funk.

Though no scientific studies have been done on this (I’m cheating here, you see, I have not consulted PubMed to see if this is true or not), I’m pretty sure this is a real psychological phenomenon. Yes. After coming back home, from a nice place, with nice food, with a metro that takes you everywhere so you don’t need to fight people for a parking spot, after having way too many granizados, one has to go back to “real” life, to work, to study, to stay in the lab until really late so you can have results by the week’s end. And it has me all frustrated because I want to sleep in late, I want to get on the Ave and go places, I want to speak Spanish with the Spanish crowd. But instead I’m back at work. Running column after column, gel after gel, and pH’ing all over again.

When I was in grad school I felt the same way. But it would go away pretty fast. Partly due to my former boss’s attitude towards work and play (vacation hard, play even harder). But also, I had something to look forward to. I had a goal, which was to finish a thesis. I hadn’t been gone from the lab for so long. Not even for Xmas. And I’m definitely feeling the pang in my chest. I’m dreaming about exotic lands, food, flavours. A different air.

I hope to be fully functional in a few days. My sleeping pattern has been disturbed (and not by jet lag, but by staying late playing video games and eating tons of ice cream). So I’m guessing that has something to do with it.

I just wanted to stop by and say hello. I hope to start blogging soon and tell you stories about my Spanish fiesta and, of course, about all things grad school and work related.

I’m back and 29

Hello there, dear internet! The BF and I made it back from Spain a few hours ago and I’m sure it will take a long while to get our internal clocks working, and I know that at least for me getting back into the routine will be h-e-l-l. I have too many wonderful things to tell about Madrid, I certainly hope to make a small guide to show some of the cool sites we visited. I also turned 29 AND got to celebrate the WIN of Spain in the World Cup. I met my wonderful nephew and I can say, without a doubt, that I am in LOVE! It was simply amazing. I hope he feels the same familiarity in a few months when I go back home for the X-mas break. I won’t be writing until a few days but I wanted to check in quickly and say hi!