27 and a PhD

Home » Me » Traveling nightmares, or why is United Airlines against me? – Part 4

Traveling nightmares, or why is United Airlines against me? – Part 4

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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This is part 4 of my tales of horror while traveling with United Airlines (within the US). Enjoy!

I consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to traveling. I know what to take off, where to put it, what not to bag, etc. before I pass through security. I wear the bare minimum when it’s time to fly, as to minimize the time I spend being checked and being in the way of other travelers who are probably busier than I am. Last year alone I traveled a good 6-8 times. This year I’ve been on at least 6 flights already. I know the drill. I can follow instructions. Because of this, and because I travel with different airlines (and I’m not loyal to a single one, you know, I take what’s usually more convenient is within my price range and vacation time, miles or no miles). And I’ve had pilots or crew from other companies keep passengers updated on the status of a flight, and the reason(s) for delays. I admit that I know nothing about FAA policies on updating passengers, or whether this is solely at the company’s discretion. But if you know you have passengers heading to different corners of the US, and maybe even the world, wouldn’t it be nice or at least decent of an airline or its employees to keep you informed? After all, you’re putting YOUR life in THEIR hands! It’s the least they could do. A little consideration here?!

So anyway, let’s get back to the story. I’m worried about making it to my next flight, and I’m also worried that my luggage may not even make it! About a half hour before we get to IAD the crew tells us that the passengers getting to ORD and a few other airports may make it because UA or the airport of whoever decided to hold the flights until passengers make it to their connections (how nice of them). There were at least 10 passengers besides me with a similar schedule and we rushed (or limped) across IAD to get to the plane. It was a good 10 minute walk/run/limping session before we got to the gate. Once we get there, and due to bad weather in the IAD area, we get an update, 20 minutes after leaving the gate that we will be waiting at least 40 minutes because ATC (air traffic control) at IAD is limiting the amount of planes getting in  and out (basically all departing and arriving planes are taking the exact route to avoid the bad weather). Now, I didn’t see a drop of rain, or heard reports of thunderstorms, but there we were, stranded once again. The pilot even turned off the engines (or so we were told) based on information from ATC. After 20 or so minutes the engines come back on, and planes start to come and go (I do recognize that weather can be very capricious and change on a whim, I definitely give ATC that). And again we get the same babble that for those passengers with connecting flights they’ll update us at the gate in Chicago. All the while I’m starving. I decided not to carry credit cards with me and I’m only carrying cash.  It’s 5pm and my last meal was breakfast at 9am. I (foolishly) thought that by having 45 minutes of layover I’d be able to purchase at least a bag of M & M’s or something. Then I learn that UA (like so many other airlines) takes only plastic (I understand their reasoning for this, don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate UA that much).

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