Take a Good Attitude Along For Air Travel:
Airline Flight From Hell
It all started in Baltimore February 16, 2016 where I felt lucky to make it to the airport on a snowy day and find out my flight was the only one of United’s not canceled that morning. Luck was on my side for sure. We boarded flight 753 that was supposed to take off at 6:21 am but found out there was a mechanical problem so we were delayed at the gate for about 45 minutes. When it was fixed we rolled out through the fog to take off, but turned around and headed back to the gate because the mechanical problem resurfaced. It was fixed family quickly and we took off some twenty minutes later. I had an hour and ten minutes to spare so I wasn’t too worried, anyway what can you do except grin and bear it?
We landed and taxied to the gate arriving at 10:20 giving me twenty minutes to make it to my gate for flight 358. I looked at my smart phone’s United app and it said to go to gate 64. Off I went as soon as I got off the plane only to find out they had moved to gate and aircraft due to another mechanical. I walked as fast as I could to get to gate 73 where many of my fellow passengers were grumbling about a much smaller aircraft. About that time I heard an announcement that they needed 16 volunteers to give up their seats. No one seemed to know what was going on. The United gate agents or the passengers were in a state of confusion. Then ten minutes after I arrived at gate 73 they said they had a bigger aircraft at gate 74 to fly us to Las Vegas. Off we all went to line up only to find out the gate agent there knew nothing about a Las Vegas flight. A few minutes later the correct gate agents showed up and took over. We then found out the flight would not leave for over an hour. I heard more grumbling but since I like the SFO Airport it was no bit deal to spend some extra time there staring at the beautiful cloud formations over San Francisco.
I grabbed lunch and waited it out at the Experian Club by American Express. Later when we boarded the flight we wondered why we weren’t taking off? The pilot informed us there was a mechanical issue and if we dumped some fuel, which would take forty five minutes, we could safely leave. Forty five minutes later we taxied out only to have to turn around and come back since the mechanical problem resurfaced and the pilot said to go to customer service and ask what to do. When we got to the customer service counter the agents didn’t know what to do and said to return to the gate which most of us did. Back at the gate the gate agents were bewildered we were sent back to the gate and suggested we return to customer service. I was really starting to see some pissed off customers, but I enjoyed observing it all instead of getting upset about it.
We were given meal vouchers and told there was a 4:30 flight to Las Vegas and all would be well. When the time came we lined up to board and I noticed the departure time changed to 4:45 and knew something was up. Sure enough we were told that there was yet another problem because they were missing one of two pilots needed for our flight. This was too much! Why would United not known after all we had been through about this crew member being late? In all my years of flying 50k or more per year I have never seen such a screwed up day, but it was to get worse.
As a full-time travel writer I fly often and these delays caused me to miss an important meeting for an article I was writing. Missing that meeting caused me to have to write the article without a key part due to flight delays on February 16th. I believe all customers, including myself, of this ill-fated flight should have been given a free round-trip voucher to anywhere United flies in the 48 contiguous states for this monumental headache inflicted upon us unfortunate customers. It was the worst mis-handling and multiple mechanical trips I have seen in many years of flying on United. We were delayed more than nine hours by the time the plane landed.
In the end I sent a letter to United and got 10,000 Milage Plus points and a voucher for $200 towards future travel. I could have asked for more but decided to put it to rest. Moral of the story is take a good attitude with you when you fly and always write to customer service after an incident for the best compensation. You will usually get more compensation if you write to customer service instead of trying to get compensated at the airport at the time of the incident. Good luck my friends and travel safely and happily.