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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).
Fast forward to Xmas day of 2008. I made the same terrible mistake of booking my flight back home with UA. Only this time they kept the door open (not just for me I suspect, as several other passengers came after me, including a UA flight attendant). I barely made it, again with the excuse of bad weather (this time at IAD) and they almost left me stranded. There were no apologies from the employees for getting us out the door late again (the same situation that happened above miraculously happened yet again 3 years to the day of my first UA nightmare) The only reason I booked the flight was because there was a 1.5hr layover between my flights, which I thought was enough to keep me covered and ensure that I would make it on time to my next flight and the next trip was not only more expensive, but I thought, even more inconvenient than UA’s flight home. At my home base airport, once I noticed that the plane was not going to be on time, I tried talking to one of the employees at the gate. I told her about my previous experience and that I was sure the plane would not make it on time and I’d again lose my flight. She replied that they’d make everything they could to get us out on time, but this was out of her hands and unless I did make it in to IAD late they would not do a thing for me other than wait and see (I get this and why they can’t rebook you just like that, but when you’ve been through something similar once, you just expect the worst and do not want to re-live it). Once I made it to the plane I was crying uncontrollably as I could not believe it had happened again, even with more layover time. On a side note, if you’ve been to IAD you know how traveler unfriendly that airport is. Not only is it an eyesore, the layout of the airport is most inconvenient. You have to get on those shuttles that look like war tanks and pray that the driver will be on time so that you can rush out the door and attempt to get to your gate, much like I did.
As if this was not enough, now that I live in Canada and use the DTW airport as my home airport they just keep screwing it up to the finest of their abilities. Seriously United, what the f&^% is going on? On July of 2010 I was scheduled to get to DTW at 9:45pm. My day started at 12:51pm, when my plane was to leave for IAD. I had 3 flights with around 45 minutes of layover each. It was scheduled to be a marathon, but I was ready to take it on, and I was also ready to “deal” with UA and their fine way of screwing up my plans. The passengers were in and set at 12:51 pm, then it took 10 minutes to close the door of the plane, and then we were sitting at the start of the runway for what seemed like an eternity (25-30 minutes, actually). While this is happening I’m looking at my watch and thinking that my luck can’t be this bad. I know I’m going to lose my connection at IAD to ORD, I just know it. Also, there are no updates as to why we’re just sitting there, having other planes, big and small, fly all around us while we’re just doing nothing. When the captain finally spoke he said 2 things: 1) that we were about to leave and 2) that the company was aware of the delay and they’d have customer service representatives meet us at the door in Dulles to see who could and couldn’t make it to their connections. Nothing about why we got behind schedule, nothing about bad weather, a missing piece of the plane, or something along those lines. Nada. Cero. Nothing. And it irks me to no end. They plane personnel has changed the speech (to saying things like “the company is aware” and blah, blah, blah) but still, that is of no consolation when you know that you will most likely miss a flight due to unknown reasons. Reasons that this good-for-nothing company according to me, enjoys to no end.