United Sucks, Pt. 2 (NEVER AGAIN)
I was just going to add this to the end of the Maui travelogue. But, it wouldn't be fair to the wonderful trip that was Maui 2018.2. As I've stated previously, getting to Hawaii from the Eastern U.S. isn't without pain. I expect that. I have used United Airlines more than any other to get to Hawaii. Recently, however, it seems like something weird is going on. Weird = Shitstorm. Every year, flying there just seems a little worse. This year was downright horrendous. I thought our trip TO Maui was a challenge. The return trip has made that one seem dreamy.
We are diligent travelers. We check and double check our bookings, trying to be our own smooth travel advocates. That being the case, we saw winter storm "Avery" was bearing down on the East coast (when did they start naming winter storms?). As a precaution, I called United to reroute us through Chicago. This was to scrap our original Dulles itinerary, as DC was supposed to get the brunt of the approaching weather. This switch also moved our departure back 2 1/2 hours to 4:31 from 2:08pm. Also, it cut our planned itinerary down to 13 hours from 14 1/2. Sounded like an efficient plan.
Having more time in paradise sounds ideal. But, the last day is always painful, knowing that you’re leaving. You can’t really do anything that will involve you perspiring or will dirty your travel clothes, because after you check out of your condo (usually 11 or noon) you lose access to a shower. You try to plan your departure close to 2pm to allow time for lunch and getting to the airport gate, with all that involves. By that time, I’m ready to pull the plug on the vacay anyway. There is simply no need to prolong the agony of leaving.
(Don't worry, the United part is coming.)
We tried to waste as much time as we could, but still ended up getting to the airport 2 hours before our flight. Of course, when you don’t need them to be, check in and security were a breeze. One last outrageously overpriced tropical cocktail later, we were boarding our flight and taking off early. As an added bonus, our flight was only half full. So, Heidi and I were blessed with an empty seat between us, which later turned into an entire row for each, when we discovered the back of the plane was very empty. Not a bad start, especially for United.
Then, we landed in San Francisco. We had payed extra for the economy plus seats for our next flight, because this was our overnight leg and we thought the extra leg room would allow us to stretch out and catch a few winks. First, we discovered the economy plus seats they sold us were actually in the emergency row (it used to be that if you sat there and agreed to help in case of an emergency, the extra leg room was a free bonus). Now apparently, they charge for this "privilege". Also, by not informing us they were charging us extra for emergency row seats, they failed to say these seats don’t recline. Which might not sound like a big deal. But, if you’re on a 4+ hour flight, you’d like to be as comfortable as possible. It is a big deal, when they charge you an extra $100 each for these seats, while everyone else on the plane gets reclining seats for the price of their ticket. Not being able to recline, also makes the extra legroom kind of useless.
It also sucks, when you’re in boarding group 4 and they tell you there isn’t enough room in the overhead bins for groups 4 and 5. Then, after surrendering your carryon to be checked to your final destination, you see that most people have stuffed overheads with two bags each, car seats and coats.
Being the diligent travelers we are, I went back to the front of the plane to ask the attendant if I could have the stub for my now checked carryon. Just in case they somehow lost my bag under the fucking plane. I had to wait for my stub, as the clerk on the jetway was told my final destination was Buffalo, as he scribbled on the stub. I received the stub, and stuck it in my pocket as evidence in my murder trial (Extreme? Keep reading). One other thing about the United terminal in SFO. When you arrive after 11pm, every single restaurant/snack bar is closed. Not even a vending machine. Unless you’re looking for lip gloss. Not kidding.
So, back on the plane, finally everyone on this full flight gets boarded. Then, the pilot comes on the overhead and says, “Sorry folks, maintenance is telling me there’s an issue with this plane, and we’ll have to deplane.” Are you fucking kidding me! So, 30 minutes later, the entire flight is standing at our new gate, with another plane as we await the same crew to switch over. 45 minutes after that, were back on. Hmm, I wonder if my carryon will follow? She told the guy, Buffalo. I was standing right there. Relax.
After taxiing for about half an hour, we were finally airborne, shitty extra $100 seat and all. All of these delays of course, killed any chance of us making our final connection to Buffalo. Or did it? Our next flight was scheduled to leave Chicago at 7:55am. Even after the delays, we were still scheduled to land in the Windy City at 8:03. I mean, why wouldn’t they hold the plane for a few minutes when they know they have incoming connections which aren’t that far away. You’d have to ask them, because we received the text as we landed that our next plane was already gone, 15 minutes early.
With that disappointing news, we were herded to customer service by a gate agent unwilling to help. There must’ve been a hundred people in line at customer service, with only two agents helping the non-premier flyers. After an hour and a half in line, we finally got to the counter. We were informed by the less than pleasant agent that we had already been booked on the next flight to Buffalo. At 2:15pm! Oh, well thank you, Lady. Already booked, as in we didn't have to stand in line? Any idea why we didn’t get any notification on that via text, app or other stone faced agent? Well, geez, since we’re going to be best buds (Translation: hold me hostage) for the next 7 hours, how about a couple United Club passes to make our stay just a little more comfortable? Agent: (Sternly) Sir, we don’t offer those as compensation! Oh, well thank you again, Lady. I'm sorry I was being so unreasonable.
So, we decided food might be a good idea. We walked around the United terminal in search of breakfast. Keep in mind that all these employees working under the United umbrella. The hostess at one restaurant said she could seat us, but it would be 30-40 minutes before we saw a server. Okay, onto the next. The sarcastic (I'm not kidding) bitch at Chili’s said they stopped serving breakfast at 9:45 (who doesn’t?), then snidely said she liked Chili’s food for breakfast. Finally, breakfast until 10:30 at Wolfgang Puke’s. After a craptacular airport breakfast, we headed to our gate to try and nap. As Heidi dozed off a bit, I decided to check the United app to track my elusive carryon bag. Did it actually make it home before me? I typed in the number on my aforementioned tag. Hmm, no such listing. Uh, oh. I then went to another counter to have them check.
Agent: I’m sorry, Sir. Your bag is at baggage claim, carousel 11. It had a final destination of Chicago.
Me: That Mother Fucker! (I don't think I said it out loud.)
Well, can someone bring it to me?
Agent: Why can't you get it? Your next flight doesn’t leave for 3 1/2 hours.
Me: Doesn’t that mean I’d have to leave to get my bag, and have to go through security again?
Agent: Yes, I’m afraid so.
Me: Well, where is carousel 11?
Agent: You’ll have to leave Terminal C, go through the tunnel and come out at Terminal B and exit. Get your bag, go through security, and come back through the tunnel to back here, to C.
A quick hour later, I was back. Heidi, still napping at our gate. Only now, there’s an entirely new bunch of people around her. This was a flight to Albuquerque leaving the same gate prior to our flight....or so they thought. About an hour later, their plane was declared disabled and had to switch gates for another plane. I guess we weren’t the only ones thrilled to be on United.
It was about then we got the text saying our next plane was delayed getting in, and our departure was moved back to 3:10pm at another gate.
Let’s go for a walk.
When we returned, we finally started feeling like our odyssey was coming to a close.
But, just for old times sake, they told us our plane had just come in from Mexico City, and would take extra time to be cleared and taxied over from the International Terminal. New departure, 3:39. At 3:10, they started their stellar boarding procedure. You know, the one where they call Extreme Elite Excelsior passengers, A1A Top Flight passengers, Gold Bouillon passengers and anyone traveling with small rodents.
After an efficient 45 minutes, everyone was boarded, seated and ready to go.
Take a wild guess at what happened next.
The plane has an issue, and we have to get off! No, you’re not rereading the same paragraph. For the second time today, we had to deplane. I think I’ve had to do that once before, in my life!
So, now it’s 5:41pm CST, and we’re back on another plane, still waiting to push back from the gate. IF we take off, and actually don’t get highjacked to Cuba, our 13 hour trip will have turned into 24.
As luck would have it, shortly after take off we had a small engine fire and had to retu… Just kidding. But, after this trip, you would’ve believed it.
Exhausted and thankful to finally be home, thankful for our Maui experience and resolved to NEVER fly United again.
Update: United did refund our Economy Plus seats. They also gave us, what I would consider, a fair amount in vouchers for future tickets. That being said, it still doesn’t erase the poor treatment we received from some of their staff. Although, they also apologized for that. I would still never willingly sit at O’Hare for 11 hours for the exchange of a couple vouchers. But, it does take away some of the sting. I still will be hard pressed to fly them to Hawaii again, unless something drastically changes. We’ll probably use our vouchers towards a Florida flight....nonstop.