UA Suck

I have been dismissive of their movie selection. The $5 drinks policy on international flights that very properly demand a liquid sedetive is an outrage. I have borne their hard seats. But now I have been part of the archetypeal stuck-at-airport story. The story features myself and a colleague, Rhi, trying to scramble from London to Austin with a stack of music gear tipping the luggage scales and stretching the arms.

I arrived in Chicago O'Hare after flying in from London, lagged from jetlag and last-night-before-trade-show coder lag. There is always time for One More Compile. The link between flights was %^#$^%# tight for a reasonably in-shape 30-something year-old with luggage: I had almost no chance :P. One of my bag's wheels had fused together, so I kinda had to drag it along. Naturally, this was the heavy one with all the music bits. There were others on my from-london flight I had to trample on, but I just made the connection to Austin.

The regional plane to Austin taxied out, then something was broke, so they went back to the terminal, then they realized they needed more gas, then the fixing guys ran off, then they needed more gas again, and the fixing guys boss came back alone, then we went back out to the runway (2 hrs later), where we sat for another hour waiting for the weather to improve and our slot to come up, then it DID, then the pilot said "oops folks, my shift is over. Gotta head back to the terminal!" Couldn't he have done the math whilst still at the terminal?! This is now MIDNIGHT. UA had no hotel rooms. The Hotels had no hotel rooms. UA had no food vouchers. The terminal had no food except onion rings. THE BARS WERE CLOSED! So Rhi and I tried all the different terminals to see which was least uncomfy and had lowest jackhammer count, trying the luggage racks on the monorail for bunks (I called top bunk!). The AC was freezing. The annoying tannoy went off every 5 minutes. We slept under the benches with our sunglasses on to try to stop the bright airport lights just a liddle. We managed maybe 40 minutes.

Then it was morning, and time to try the next plane, then the #^&#^&%# UA desk lady ripped up Rhi's replacement ticket, saying she weren't eligible for an upgrade - this seat was the only one available, nad had been approved by a supervisor the previous night, but no comment had been made on the computer... RIP. Amusingly, I had a guaranteed flight later the day as backup, and we were only trying to get me on the same plane as Rhi, so it was only my ticket that should have been looked at. So we got bumped from 1st to 10th in queue for a spare seat (against an entire plane load of bumped people), so you can guess what happened NEXT. We don't get on that one.

Then security got STOOPID and made us walk all the way around the waiting queue fence thing, even tho there was no one in front, and a gap existed in the fence as a shortcut. Argued with The Stone Wall for a while about how this busy-work made no difference, except to my feet, which I was trying to keep minty-fresh for the 4 days of trade show coming up.

Luckily they managed to put me on an American Airlines plane later that morning, normal plane-takes-off-at-designated-time, flies-through-air-as-plane-should type experience.

Rhi went through another TWO 3hr on-the-tarmac broken planes (one had its single loo broken - entire plane load of pissed-off-wanna-get-to-austin passengers promised to "hold on real bad", but to no avail). By late evening (2nd day) there are 3 plane loads of pissed off people threatening to storm the UA customer counter, saying "Hey! We don't care if we go to JAIL! Do you care?" "Hell no!" "Right! Lets do it!" and the UA staffer is nervously calling airport security. Rhi has broken down from sleep deprivation and the f*cked up ness of it all (despite the increasingly rapid support of the backlogged passengers, as the worst affected case there Rhi was the poster girl for their plight), and briefly considers tying to got back to london between sobs, but then she is rescued by a taxi that takes her to some nice software buddy friends of FX's in Chicago, who ply her with wine and make soothing sounds, so no single-young-female-in-unsecured-terminal that night. Meanwhile in Austin, skot works out how the hell he is going to do a trade show by himself, and with half the gear in Rhi's luggage missing.

3rd day! Rhi approaches O'Hare with trepidation. A United Express plane is coughing its lungs up on the runway, scratching its crotch and leerily squinting upwards at the sky in a pessimistic evaluation of its chances. After the first plane of the day gives up, Rhi Demands, forces re-energized by a few hours sleep, to be put on an American Airlines flight, this shit ends now. She is. It does.

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