Airport woes …

Been meaning to write this up since I came home from php|works; however, life kept getting in the way.

So let’s try now …  Let’s just say that this is the epitome of bad airport experiences.  You see, I tried to fly home, out of Atlanta, on the day the hurricane came through.

So let’s start with me about to leave the conference at 5:30pm or so, to go to the airport and catch my 8pm flight home.  Someone, I forget who, as I’m saying goodbyes, says “Hey did you check the flights?  I hear lots of them are delayed.”

My response?  “Eh, it doesn’t matter, I’ve got nothing to do here, might as well wait a little extra time while at the airport.”

Dumm dumm dummmmmmm

This is probably the point in time where I should state that I almost always fly US Airways, because they regularly have the best, or close to best priced tickets going out of BWI.  And at this point I’ve flown so much with them that I’m a silver member.  And therefore get free upgrades/etc.   I still think that they are a GREAT airline, and nothing that happened was their fault.  In fact, they tried their best to help me.

So I get to the airport, have no issues getting through ticketing and security, and get to my gate, snagging some Quizno’s salad on my way. I pass one of the information boards for US Airways, and it only showed one flight being delayed, not mine (Boy was it wrong)

So I’m standing at my gate, starting to break upon my salad and figure out how to eat a salad, while drinking my soda, while standing, with only 2 hands.

And I notice that the flight listed at my gate, is not my flight.  I check my  ticket, I’m at the right gate.  I go back to the flight board, it says the same gate number.   So I head back to eat my salad.

While eating, they make an announcement that the previous flight had been delayed, and that they would be boarding soon.   Oh!  That explains it.   I munch away.   They they make an announcement that ALL flights are delayed, by hours.  (Uhoh) … and that they will be calling people from my flight up, by their destination city, to try to get them on different flights.  And to NOT, repeat NOT come up to the podium until your city is called.

They call a few cities, but not Baltimore.  Eventually that earlier flight starts loading, it’s 8pm now.  I and a few other people standing around realize that if we were on that flight, we’d make our connections.  We start moving closer to the podium.

Eventually the call comes back that there are 5 empty seats.  4 Standby passengers are called up to get on.   There is 1 seat left.  And this is the one point where I DO find US Airways at fault.  One of the throng in front of us could get on that plane.  How would they choose?  Would they go by preferred status? (makes sense to me at least *grin*).  Would they ask who had a really good reason? (another good solution), etc.  No.  The lady just looked at the guy in front of her, who had gone up to the podium, when he was told not to.  She told him to go on.

Uggg

So much for being a good little boy who obeys.

So what then … I waited, they called Baltimore.  Options were slim.  I could fly into National?  No thanks, my truck was at BWI.  I assumed they’d just have to schedule me for tomorrow.

In retrospect, I should have just told them to do that for me.  But I didn’t, and the very helpful Agent said “Here’s what I’ve done”.  And he has booked me on an Airtran flight, and given me my voucher for them.  The flight is scheduled to leave at 9pm.  It’s 8:30pm right now.  I have to walk to the other end of the concourse to go to the AirTran desk, because I’m confirmed to be on the flight, but haven’t paid yet.  To pay I have to hand them my voucher.

It’s a long concourse, time is short, I run.  I get there, and the lady tells me that I need to go to the gate agent instead.  And ‘oh’, it’s on the C concourse, I’m currently on D.

So, I turn around, for a LONG trip, still trying to get there before 9pm.  I get there out of breath, at like 8:45pm, JUST in time to meet the ‘doors close 10 minutes before’

And it’s been delayed again, this time to 12:30am!

Ok, fine.  Whatever.  Lemme get my ticket, and then I can find a bar to kill 3 hours, do some shopping, maybe find an airport massage place, whatever.

So I wait in line at the gate, as they are trying to help other people.  And the agent is getting very frustrated at people constantly asking him questions.  Pulling his hair out, whole nine yards.  I talk to the lady next to me at one point and mention ‘US Airways put me on this Airtran flight’ … he overhears and yells at me, saying that US Airways has been jerking them around all day, putting people on flights without confirming them.  I shrug, since if that did happen, it’s not my fault.

I finally get up there, he pulls me up, and claims that I’m confirmed on the flight, but owe $331.  What?  I point out that the agent told me this voucher thing (Rule170-70 or something like that) was my money.  Agent told me I had to go to Customer Service (AirTran, yeah, right), and pay them $331.

So, I thank him, and walk back to Concourse D, to the USAirways help desk.   I wait in line, eventually get up there, and she sends me back down to my original Gate, where the guy who originally ‘helped me’ still is.

We chat, he tells me that Airtran is being an idiot, and breaking federal law by not accepting my voucher.  He calls down to Airtran, and gets his cousin on the line, who is a supervisor.  His cousin promises to reprimand the guy who told me wrong … and tells mt to go to Airtran Customer Service, where they will know better and get me on the flight.

So I had back to Concourse C … I find the customer service line … it’s long.  Real long.  But hey, it’s like 10pm, I still have time, right?   Turns out that they only had 1 person working the desk.  It turns out the line is so long, because they weren’t having their gate agents hand out hotel discounts and reschedule flights at their gates, making everyone go to customer service instead.

At midnight, I finally get to the front, and get my ticket.   I rush over, as they are already loading my plane, and I get on, and get home.

I spend 6 hours standing in lines.  My legs/feet were killing me, and my neck.

Many other experiences happened while standing in line, watching people break down and cry, watching people scream bloody murder.  But I’ll let those pass.

The main thing here though, is that Airtran, well, I flew with them once, and had sworn never to do so again.  This is my second experience with them, and while they couldn’t have ‘handled the hurricane’.  They could have had gate agents who knew what they were doing, ensured that lines didn’t take 2 hours to get through, etc.

In the future, if someone hands me free tickets on Airtran, I’ll say thanks, but no thanks.

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