4/10/2007

A Fiasco United

Posted by Brandon |

Traveling has become routine. The relative ease that the Bob Hope International Airport in Burbank offers has made this so. Park, bus, security, takeoff in under an hour. Simple, easy and painless.

That was not the case on Friday when I flew home for my Grandpa's memorial service (he died two weeks ago after a long battle with Alzheimer's, he was 81). I booked my tickets on Hotwire.com Wednesday night and was booked on a United Airlines flight at 8:54 AM from Burbank to San Francisco and then to arrive in Portland at 12:40 PM. Perfect. I didn't have to get up ridiculously early to catch my flight and would have ample time to grab a bite to eat and hit Powell's before heading to my parents in Olympia.

Like a good traveler with an e-ticket, I attempted to check myself in on Thursday night only to discover that my flight had already been canceled. Mechanical problems. Apparently 12 hours isn't long enough to either fix a plane or get a replacement ready for all of us Easter weekend travelers. The fine folks at United had already rebooked my flight....for 5:50 PM. I wouldn't get into Portland until nearly 11:00. So I browsed through my options and found myself a flight that would take me from Burbank at 7:15 AM to Denver and on to Portland landing at roughly the same time. I'd have to get up a little bit earlier than I would have liked, but whatever, at least I'd get to go to Powell's.

I got up and showered and finished packing and was out the door by 4:45 AM, unsure of what traffic was like even that early in the morning, you can never tell with the 101. I got into the terminal and had to go to the ticket counter because United's site wouldn't let me check in on my rescheduled flight the night before. The friendly and helpful counter lady informed me that I could catch the 6:45 flight to San Francisco and then get on my original connector to Portland. Whatever, sounded good. I'd be able to clear security and jump on the plane and be on my way instead of waiting there for half an hour. Plus, I could get an exit aisle. Legroom! I'll take that any day.

I breezed through security (why am I the only one who is ready right when they get to the tables?), walked right on the plane and settled in with nobody sitting next to me in a big ass exit row, ready for a beautifully comfortable flight. It seriously was the most comfortable I have ever been on an airplane. Usually I'm wedged between people and my legs don't fit comfortable in the seats, so this was a dream come true. Nothing could make me happier. Thrilled with my luck, I basked in the glory as we taxied out to the runway. After what seemed like an eternity of just sitting there we were informed by our captain that we had some mechanical problems and we were heading back to the terminal for repairs. After another half hour or so, they asked us to deplane and see a ticket agent to find another flight rather than wait for the work to be done, something they had no timetable for.

With only two ticket agents available for two different canceled flights (a different Denver flight was having issues of it's own), I finally fought my way to an agent who promptly booked me on a direct flight to Portland leaving at 12:29 (by this time it was already 9:00) that would arrive at 1:50...out of LAX, five freeways to the west. So with a free voucher in hand, I boarded a cab and hightailed it to LAX making it there in record time. After witnessing some of the dumbest TSA agents I have ever seen, I was through and to the gate by 10:15 in time to put my name on the standby list for the 10:40 flight to Portland that the agent didn't book me on because she didn't think that there was anyway I would make it on time.

10:30 rolled around and most of the passengers had boarded. The gate guy called out three names. First: "White - party of two." Second: "Gutierrez - party of one." Third: "Brandon - party of one." Gutierrez and me showed up and were informed that there were two spots available. White was nowhere to be found. He made the announcement again. "White - party of two - please report to the gate immediately - last call". He looked around and saw nobody moving so Gutierrez handed him his ticket and I started to give him mine when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, like they were transported by Scotty himself, the Whites showed up and claimed the last two seats. They flashed us two big shit eating grins and strode confidently and proudly up the runway, Gutierrez left to fight again (he was flying standby on all flights) and me with a couple hours to waste at LAX.

After a McChicken Sandwich at McDonald's, an establishment I haven't eaten at in many years and yet another delay that pushed my flight back to 2:00, I was finally on board my flight squished between an amazon woman who took up nearly as much room in her seat as I did (usually woman are smaller and I have a little bit of room to stretch if I need to) and the wall even though I had asked for an aisle. It was the most uncomfortable flight I have ever been on.

But at least it made it to Portland...at 4:30...only 12 1/2 hours after I woke up that morning. Almost an entire day lost due to what can only be described as the horrible quality of United's fleet of aircrafts. Never again United, never again.

And I haven't even told you about my return trip, a serious fiasco in itself.

5 comments:

Dave2 said...

And isn't it sad that this kind of crap is becoming the rule rather than the exception? My last TWO flights were canceled, causing all kinds of nasty missed connections and boring waits at the airport. Nasty.

DutchBitch said...

Wow... I can only say... Phew... That sucks!

Avitable said...

This is why I only teleport.

Karl said...

God, I wish I could afford first class. I'm not a big guy, but I inevitably get these huge people sitting next to me that push over into my space. Your trip sounds like a nightmare.

Schadenfreude said...

Oh that seriously blows.

Very well written tho. I almost felt like I was there suffering with you. Almost.

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