Thursday, October 13, 2005
Dear United Airlines,
Do you recognize this meal? Perhaps it looks like an ordinary breakfast: bowl of cereal, milk, and a large coffee. But it was after this very meal that I decided: I'm GLAD you, United Airlines, are going bankrupt. GLAD. GLAD. GLAD>
Still don't recognize it? Don't remember how such an innocuous bit of food could provoke consumer rage? Perhaps some background is in order:
This was me at 10:30 am, Sunday morning. I'm in California, I'm having a good old-fashioned Nation's breakfast. I'm a happy person.
Then it's 12 noon on Sunday, and I'm at the Oakland airport. All my things are stuffed into carryon bags since I've lost baggage three times in the past. This time, I'm prepared.
2 pm, Sunday. My flight was supposed to have left by now but we are delayed for an hour because they are missing a flight attendant and have to wait for one to come from San Francisco. I'm worried about missing my connection but instead of reassuring me the United person is flirting with Lou Ferrigno. I think it's Lou Ferrigno, anyway.
6:30 pm, Sunday, Denver. I didn't miss my connecting flight, because the plane is still in St. Louis with a mechanical problem. It's the last flight from Denver to Cleveland so I'm stuck.
8:30 pm: The plane is still in St. Louis, so they decide to look for another plane.
9:30 pm: They have found another plane. But they have no pilot. So they are looking for a pilot.
10:00 pm: They have found a pilot. But they have no first officer. So they are looking for a first officer. The cheeses I brought from California are suspiciously soft and mushy.
10:30 pm: United cancels my flight. We are all in line to re-book for a flight tomorrow.
11:00 pm: One of the United guys re-booking us has reached the end of his shift. So he goes home. With about 20 other people still waiting to be booked.
11:30 pm: I am huddled outside of Denver airport waiting for the next shuttle to the hotel. While a freezing snowstorm comes in. The first shuttle came, filled up and left. When we catch another shuttle ages later to the hotel, we see what happened to the first shuttle: it had broken down on the road.
12 pm: Finally inside a hotel room. Without a toothbrush. Or toothpaste. Or dinner.
5:30 am, Monday, still in Denver: Up again to catch the 6:15 am shuttle to the airport.
8 am: I have the above breakfast at the airport, using the $4 breakfast voucher given to me by United Airlines. The breakfast comes to $4.22. The voucher, United's one extension of courtesy for my inconvenience, is not even sufficient to buy me a measly breakfast.
9 am: On the plane about to take off for Chicago! The plane just has to get de-iced and we'll be on our way ...
11 am: Still on the plane, still on the runway, still getting de-iced. And now the flight attendents announce that they have run out of plastic cups passing out beverages during the delay so if we want more drinks during the flight we'll need to hold on to our used cups.
3 pm, Chicago: Finally out of Denver! But having missed my connection, I'm on standby for the Cleveland flights.
5 pm: Still on standby. O'Hare is insanely crowded and I don't have anywhere to sit. Eat an entire box of McDonald's fries in frustration. The lumpia my mom gave me are starting to smell very odd.
8 pm, Monday: Finally, finally in Cleveland. After 32 hours. No free flight. No upgrade. And no sympathy or helpfulness or timely informational updates from the United staff. All the compensation I got, really, was 6 hours in a hotel and this:
Which, I remind you, I had to pay $0.22 for.
Would it have killed the profit margin to have covered my cereal and coffee????
And that is why I am glad United Airlines is bankrupt.