Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blues Traveling

I craft quite a few emails and blog entries that never make it out of the draft file. I find writing them cathartic and most of the time that's all it takes to get whatever it is out of my system. Usually, after a month or so I've forgotten all about whatever it was that set me off. Sometimes I even feel a little sheepish about having let it bother me in the first place.

This is one of those blog entries. But I my actually click the "publish" button.

I flew to visit my mother for Christmas last week. It was going to have to be a quick trip. In on Wednesday and back home on Friday. Lots of food and fun on Thursday. I always hope for uneventful travel. Especially this time of year when there's always a big risk that the weather will throw you a curve ball.

Because the trip was so short, I booked a 7:15AM flight so we'd get there in time to spend most of the day with her. Yeah, that's early. I know. We were out of the house by 5:00 (shudder) at the airport by 5:30 (cringe) and at the gate by 6:00 (twitch, twitch). The coffee shop hadn't even opened for goodness sakes.

Then we sat at the gate. And sat some more. At 7:00 the gate crew told us that the flight crew was missing in action. No one knew where they were. Their crack detective work had unearthed the fact that they had checked out of their hotel, but they didn't have any further information. Somehow I find it hard to believe that between the pilot, co-pilot and three flight attendants, there wasn't a single cell phone.

7:30 came and went. I stepped up to the desk to see if I should start worrying about my connecting flight. Three gate agents successfully ignored me for over two minutes. Take out a watch and see how long two minutes is. I just stood there watching them. One was on the phone, one was eating cheese popcorn and the other was admiring her manicure. Once I finally got their attention I was assured that we'd be in Philly in plenty of time to make our connection.

Still no flight crew. And as a bonus, the weather was deteriorating by the minute.

Just before 8:00 the flight crew sauntered to the gate. Call me crazy, but if I was over an hour late and had a plane full of people waiting for me on Christmas Eve, I would have at least made an effort to appear to be in a hurry. Maybe just the last 10 yards. But not these guys. The captain just smiled and waved. He leaned over and made a joke to one of the flight attendants. They all laughed. The passengers that had been waiting for them? Not so much.

By this time, everything was bothering me. Like the gaggle of teenagers in their pajamas. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I still have trouble with the concept of 'jammies as outerwear. Flights are uncomfortable. Suck it up.

Or the woman who had a cup of coffee and two Cinnabons and left the garbage on the chair next to her when she got up.

Or the guy two seats down whose music was so loud I could hear it over all the other noise in the airport.

Or the guy on the other side of me who took up the armrest and more than his share of my personal space. Did I mention he was in sweatpants? They bug me too. I figure they are the grown-up version of traveling in pajamas.

By this point, everything was bugging me. I felt like a kid in the back seat on a long car trip whining "Da-ad, he's touching me." And we haven't even boarded. This was not shaping up to be a good day.

We finally got on the plane. Then it had to be de-iced etc. Ice wouldn't have been a problem if the crew hadn't been late. By the time we took off from Chicago we'd already missed our connection. Big. Heavy. Sigh.

While we were int he air, the captain was thoughtful enough to let us know why they were late. Apparently it was all his fault. He looked at his Tuesday schedule instead of his Wednesday schedule. Ummmm....and not a single other person on the crew double checked. And I have entrusted my life to these people.

Too make things worse, it was a rough flight. We had turbulence all the way. The seat belt sign never went off. The crew wasn't allowed to do beverage service. One poor woman got up to use the restroom and was chastised over the PA system. "If you are out of your seat, it is at your own risk". Kind of adds insult to injury. (I'm sure this was a safety precaution, but it felt more like the airline was just covering its tail.)

We did get to Philly in one piece. And to their credit, the airline had boarding passes waiting for us for the next available flight. Unfortunately, it was three hours later which put a cramp in the day I'd hoped to spend with my mom.

This was the first time I'd flown with this particular airline and the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I was fully prepared for weather delays. But I had trouble stomaching not having a flight crew. I would have even given them some slack if they hadn't seemed so darned cavalier about the whole thing. I wasn't expecting a free flight or anything like that, I just wanted it to seem like they cared and the attitude we got all day was at best of disinterest and at worst disdain.


Anonymous said...

In recent years I have found that most American airlines treat their customers like a herd of cattle to round up--poor customer service. This past summer I flew South African Airways where the staff was efficient, kind and polite--very refreshing.

Ellen-Mary said...

I'm sorry you had such a frustrating day that took time away from being with your mom. They owe you an apology at least and "I'm sorry I thought it was Tuesday" is not an apology, it's an excuse.

I'd write a letter to the President of the airline company, the Chairman of their board and the FAA. It might not get you a response but it will be noted especially if they get other letters. It's the cumulative effect of letter writing that causes change.

ES said...

This happens so much and we just let it go. Last year I thought I would do the same but worse, I got a flight early Christmas Day. Not only was it horrendous trying to find parking ($28/day) they almost refused to let me on the plane because I checked in with less than 30 minutes before take off. Awful. I won't even get into the fiasco at the Security Gate.

Point: I feel your pain. And watching all the thoughtlessness around you just adds to the misery..including ugly clothes.

Felicia said...

While I totally understand being upset about missing the day with your very lovely mom, that particular point just added frosting to the cake (to me). Imagine showing up whenever you felt like it. And then being rude enough to make jokes. I happen to agree with you - the whole situation sounds rude, inconsiderate and unprofessional. To take time away from you was added insult. Hope the time you could spend was lovely.