Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stucky in Kentucky!

3:40pm, rush through airport security. Take off shoes, jacket, and put in plastic bin with purse, carry on luggage, and souvenir stick horse for my boys at home. Naturally, the stick horse gets examined carefully by TSA and eats up five more minutes. We’re finally allowed to proceed to the gate after inspection and arrive at gate A12 forty five minutes before departure. Whew!

General boarding is to begin at 4:17pm with an expected departure of 4:40pm. At 4:30pm I decide it isn't looking good. The plane still hasn’t arrived at the gate and other, later, flights are boarding before ours. The passengers begin to line up at the airline kiosk hoping to make sense of the unexpected delay. We are told over a dated P.A. system that the pilot didn’t show up and the airline is trying to find him or someone else that could fill in. Seriously?!?

At 5:00pm the flight is delayed to 5:30pm and at 5:30pm delayed again until 6:00pm. This continues until 7:00pm when it is announced that our gate was changed to A8…which had an empty, fuelled airplane parked there for our departure. The bags are loaded onto the aircraft and the gate agent said that general boarding would begin in fifteen minutes.

7:15pm rolls around and nothing. I am restless and frustrated beyond words. I’m desperate to get home to my children and relieve my best friend who has kindly stayed with my two boys and her daughter, all under the age of four. 7:30pm I hear talk amongst the other passengers that the flight may not go out at all because the pilot still has not arrived.

A hoard of riled up people approach the co-pilot who had been waiting at a nearby restaurant and berate him for the actions of the airline and captain, none of which he could have helped. Poor chap. The only United gate agent, working four gates and countless flights by himself, arrives to the situation.

After the gate agent comes to the co-pilot’s rescue, he instructs people, well about half the people...only the ones within earshot, that the gate had been changed back to A12. The other passengers stayed at A8 waiting, waiting, and waiting. Half the passengers remained completely uninformed in the ether of this very strange and chaotic situation.

After being in line for an hour and a half, calling the United customer service line for our options, we finally reach the front of the queue. At that point the harried gate agent announces that the flight has been officially cancelled. No other flights to Denver tonight, one to Colorado Springs but oversold. That leaves us stucky in Kentucky.

Luckily we were at the front of the line when all the passengers of what would have been full flight line up to be re-booked. We receive a hotel and meal voucher. Thanks for throwing us a bone! What an ordeal.

I understand hiccups occur but the problem with this particular delay was the way the gate agent handled the situation. The people of this flight, anxious to complete their journey, were left uniformed or misinformed. We were separated into two departure gates and left to wonder what was going on, roused by gossip of new happenings. It was not only the unreliability of the airline and the misinformation provided, it was the pinnacle of poor customer service.

While United is one of the world’s largest airlines (48,000 employees and 359 aircraft), 20.68% of United flights were either delayed or cancelled in the past year. Combined with the dated aircrafts (seriously I thought there was a green screen in the cabin!) and despicable customer service, it is no surprise that United Airlines has been evading bankruptcy since 2002. My prescription, keep customers calm and happy by keeping them informed. Novel idea.

It was a wonderful weekend that unfortunately ended with a 27 hour delay in getting home. Thanks to those who helped make the situation 'ok' and for reminding me that if there's 50% chance something could go wrong while traveling, there's a 90% chance it will. That's just the nature of it. Delays and cancellations make you realize just how excited you are to get home.

Now that I’ve had my rant…stay tuned for my rave report of Louisville, Kentucky.

1 comment:

  1. United Airlines seems to take the cake for some of the most ridiculous reasons for canceling and worse communication. I've had my fair share of travel delays (including an 7 nighter in London because it snowed 5 inches), but this reason is pretty awesome- no pilot!