FLYING THE FRIENDLY SKIES – PART II: THE RETURN
After all the inconvenience I underwent on my flight out, I finally landed in Grand Rapids. I didn’t have to worry about my luggage since I NEVER check a bag if I have a connecting flight. My friends arrived to pick me up shortly after I did. A wonderful dinner and lively conversation served to erase all the trauma I had gone through earlier flying those “Friendly Skies”.
The next couple of days were spent house hunting and just enjoying the company of good friends. I narrowed my “possibles” down to three and spent a couple of restless nights weighing pros and cons. I finally decided to go with my heart and not my head and place an offer on the house I had fallen in love with even though it was way too big! I made the offer on Tuesday morning but I didn’t really think things would go my way.
As we waited to find out whether my offer would win out, I decided to check on the status of my flight that was scheduled to leave at noon the next day from Muskegon. I got out my iPad, logged onto United.com and punched in my confirmation number. And what do you think came up – a message stating my flight was scheduled to be on time? Or maybe a change in gate assignment?
No, what my eyes were treated to was the message stating that I had NO reservation whatsoever. End of story. No explanation. A moment of panic set in as I frantically searched for another flight, changing my departure airport to Grand Rapids. I found a flight leaving around 10am and proceeded to try to book a seat. The little map on the United website indicated there were seats available, but the website was stubborn and would not let me access them. Now, I could have booked the flight without a seat, but experience told me not to. All the United flights I’d been on had been egregiously overbooked, leaving passengers seatless. So, I went to the “contact me” section and tried the online assistant. Again, the website failed me. The virtual assistant sent me links, but none of them worked. I tried several times before I giving up.
I was left with only one option – the dreaded phone call. Anyone who has had to go to this length knows they bury the phone number somewhere deep within the bowels of the website because the last thing they want you to do is actually call. After some searching, I found it, dialed, sat back and relaxed, suspecting this was going to be a lengthy, frustrating experience. And it was!
First, I got their virtual receptionist who prattled on about a menu that I knew wouldn’t contain the option I needed. So, I patiently and calmly kept saying over and over again, “Speak to an agent”. At about the fifth iteration of this phrase, the virtual guy got the message and transferred me to elevator music, which I listened to for about a half hour. Oh, and they kept telling me how important I was to them. Well, if I was that special, why didn’t they inform me my flight was cancelled? I got no email or phone call. Think on that for a while.
At long last, the phone rang and I was connected to a real person – albeit a person with an accent so heavy as to be almost impossible for my poor ears to understand. But, this was to be expected, so I stayed calm knowing that this was not going to be quick. After about another 20 minutes of back and forth and a lot of “I’m sorry. I can’t understand you,” I finally got my seats. One cost me an additional $16.00 but I could live with that.
I settled in to watch the ballgame with my friend and got the phone call I was waiting for. The house was mine! Things were beginning to look up – or at least I thought they were.
The next morning we left for the airport in Grand Rapids. The weather was good so I didn’t expect any delays. My friend dropped me off and I proceeded to my gate. The flight was on time and I sat down to wait. About ten minutes later, the agent at the gate got on the mike to inform us that our flight would be leaving late because of weather at the originating airport. But, not to worry, she said, she had backed us up on alternative flights in case we missed our connections.
Slowly, in a state of disbelief, I got up and approached her. “What flight have you backed me up on?” I asked. She replied that it was a flight leaving at 9pm. Now, for those of you reading this who do not live on Chebeague Island, let me inform you that the last ferry to Chebeague leaves at 9:30pm. So, the 9pm flight would leave me stranded on the mainland with no way to get home. I informed the agent of this. She replied that she thought I might make my original connection, but, considering my luck so far, I asked her to see if there was any other way to get from Grand Rapids to Portland. After some searching, she found a flight to Chicago with a connection that would get me in that afternoon. I had her check the weather in Chicago – I didn’t want to get rerouted again – and it seemed to be okay. I would have to get another seat upgrade and the cost on this flight was $35, but the agent kindly gave it to me for the $16 I’d already paid. I opted for the Chicago flight and, lo and behold, got there on time, made my connection and, at long last, made it home in time to catch the 6:30pm ferry!
All’s well that ends well, I guess. No one was harmed; no baggage was lost. The only additional monetary expense was the $16 upgrade. However, I would like to ask United Airlines why they failed to inform me that my flights out and back had been cancelled? They had my email, phone number, etc. on file. I have their credit card and that’s supposed to make me “special”. So, why wasn’t I treated better? And another thing, why is an upgrade to Economy Plus $16 on one flight and $35 on another? That hardly seems fair. I think next time I fly, it will be on some other airline and as for that United credit card, I do believe there may be a “cancellation” in its future.