It never fails. Late-summer travel from the east coast to or through the midwest is always an absolute nightmare — especially when I try to do do a long weekend with family or friends. One year I spent 12 hours sitting in JFK and then slept on the floor of the Salt Lake Airport on my way to California. Another time I was delayed in Minneapolis en route to Boise and my luggage was lost for a couple of days. Last year, on my way to Chicago, I got rerouted to St Louis and spent the night on the floor there. Tonight, on another trip to Boise, it looks like I’ll be sleeping in O’Hare (unless for some reason United decides to chip in for a hotel; I’m currently waiting in line to find out).
What makes me really mad is that the airline could have avoided this problem. The plane was over an hour late getting to (and leaving) DC, and they knew full well that a bunch of us on the flight would be trying to get onto the Boise flight. They also knew that we landed in Chicago with about 10 minutes to spare — at the gate immediately adjacent to the Boise gate. We sprinted out of the plane and across the waiting area, arriving about two minutes before 9:00pm, the scheduled departure time. The plane was sitting at the end of the gangway but, in typical airline fashion, United’s response was the corporate equivalent of the middle finger. No one at the gate to help; refusal to open the door and let us on; twenty-minute hold times on the phone; a sprint to the other end of the concourse to get to the customer service counter, only to find myself in what’s now passed one hour in line at the customer service desk. Note, too, that the long line is not due to over-crowding, it’s due to severe understaffing: in a bank of twenty service stations, only six are manned. They’ve clearly adopted the Post Office school of management. (It doesn’t help, either, that a supervisor keeps walking by promising that help is on the way, when help hasn’t materialized for the past twenty minutes.)
[Time passes fumingly]
I finally got through to a representative on the phone, and the earliest I will be able to leave is tomorrow afternoon. Which means that I’ve lost a full third of my time on the ground with my family.
People say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. I clearly need to stop traveling through the middle of the country this time of year.