Monday, December 24, 2007

Dan vs. United Airlines

I had a plan.

I would leave work a little early, and head straight to Dulles. I'd be there with plenty of margin for the holiday rush, so I'd be at my gate in time. I even printed my ticket out ahead of time, which I usually don't. And it all worked. I was sitting at my gate an hour before takeoff, more than a half hour before boarding.

I watched many, many people come up to the counter, upset that they were on standby since they did not confirm their ticket and seat ahead of time. I was very glad I had altered my routine and done so.

Boarding time approaches. And passes. Takeoff time comes and goes. The monitor at the gate switches to "Departing: 5:30," and an announcement is made, telling us our flight is delayed due to mechanical problems. So 5:30 arrives, without any change. At 6:00, we are told our flight is canceled, and we can go to the United help desk at the other end of the terminal.

Rumors start as we stand in the 2 hour line. There are no open seats for Burlington or Manchester until Sunday. The hotel vouchers are worthless, since all the rooms are booked. We'll be here until Christmas.

At 8:00, I finally get to talk the the most competent of the four agents.

"Can you get me to Burlington tonight?"
"No, but we can put you on stand..."
"No. Can you get me to Portland tonight."

So they put me on a flight to Maine that leaves in about 2 hours. I call Vermont, and tell my friends I won't be able to see them like we planned. After a fashion, I make it over to my new departure terminal, and finally get some dinner, and then camp out at the gate.

Boarding at 9:35. Nope. Departing at 9:55. Nope.

Announcement: "The plane is ready, we're just waiting on the crew. They are scheduled to arrive from Chicago at 10:24. Your flight should depart at about 10:40."


The crew arrives, eventually, and does their pre-flight check, which takes longer than expected. Finally, a clearly exasperated gate agent pipes "Flight to Portland, now boarding all passengers." We rush out and across the tarmac to our cozy little jet. We slip into the night sky at about 11:15. I suppose I was lucky - I only had to wait around the terminal for 6 1/2 extra hours. I am very disappointed I didn't make it home to Vermont, though. This will be the first time I've ever gone a whole year without at least setting foot in Vermont. I especially miss seeing my friends who live there, or were home for the holidays.

I did learn a valuable lesson - go ahead and to the online check-in for flights, you can avoid getting screwed, especially on heavy-travel days. It won't do any good if the flight is canceled, though. Also, don't give the gate agents grief - they can't do much of anything, so you might as well be yelling at a stone. It runs off them like water off a duck's back.

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