E3 2015: Day 1 – United Airlines, official airline of the 9th Circle of Hell

Today’s trip to LA was a total ordeal thanks to United Airlines’ exhaustive crew of apathetic clowns. They, along with a recalcitrant check-in kiosk started my journey to customer service Hell.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. This memorable trip began this morning with my cab driver, who I found crashed out in my driveway. There he was, with the seat reclined all the way back, passed out in a dirty white t-shirt. I woke him up and he graciously popped the trunk, allowing me the pleasure of stowing my own bag. The ride to SFO was lackadaisical, and he yawned hugely at multiple points. Right before the airport, he asked offhandedly if I was going to China Airlines or Singapore Airlines.

“United,” I said.

“I was joking with ya,” he responded like I was totally thick.

Hrm. Cabbie humor.

While his “joke” didn’t grab me, what was amusing was the way he pressured me to ask for him on my return trip. Twice he said emphatically—“Ask for Marty. Or number 206,” in a tone that said my safety depended on it. Right dude. Because you and your t-shirt provided such stellar service the first time?

The Universe was in a funny mood today I guess, because this narcoleptic cab driver gave me the best service I’d have all day. I got to SFO 2 hours early, expecting to check in and have time for coffee, breakfast and a little unwinding before my flight. United had other plans.

The kiosk refused to check me in, so I was directed to a line. I waited there for half an hour only to be told by the goon behind the counter that he couldn’t help me and I had to go to another line. Another agent pointed me to the line reserved for people with serious problems – totally canceled flights, missed connections, people carrying enough baggage to take the entire population of Micronesia on vacation – the kinds of issues that take ages to resolve. I tried to explain that I didn’t have that kind of problem, and this is how the agent (and every agent subsequently) looked at me.

I gave up trying to explain, stood there 40 more minutes, my flight time ticking closer and close. FINALLY, an agent who moved and talked so slow it was like she was underwater, checked me in and pointed me – what a surprise – to a really long security line. /cry

With fifteen minutes to get to my flight, I tried to get them to fast-track me, but no dice. I got stuck behind two families with babies in strollers and I was freaking out about how long they were going to take, when an agent branched the line off and sent me in a different direction. Halleluiah! (I thought.)

It seemed as if she’d sent me to a shorter line, but then she changed her mind and combined the lines, thus putting me not only behind the two stroller families, but behind ten other people as well! I swear to god I was being punk’d.

I dashed to the plane, got there just in time, and then the gate agent told me there was no room for my bag. I felt my face morph into Clint Eastwood’s…

…but handed it over. They put it next to a couple of strollers so I thought I’d at least be able to pick it up at the gate upon arrival in LA. We landed, and surprise! The strollers were there but my bag wasn’t, and yet another Satan spawn–er, United agent told me I had to pick it up at baggage claim.

So yeah. What should have been a super-simple hour-long trip was a huge headache – the kind that can’t be gotten over without something good to eat, at least one beer, and maybe a voodoo curse.

Conveniently located right near my hotel.

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