“Ranthem” on United Airlines: from bad to worse on the less than friendly skies.

November 10, 2014

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The bewildered gather…

I did not think I would ever write a blog post about something so cliché as a terrible airline experience. Griping about shitty airlines on social media –not me.

Yet, the debacle I am currently enduring regarding United flight 466 to Denver is so epic in it’s awfulness that if I don’t detail it here it will form a cancer inside me. Besides, I’m waiting in an emptying concourse. What the hell else am I going to do? I’ve already eaten a $5 dollar M&M cookie from the newsstand as well as imbibed a Monster energy drink. Currently, I’m sitting in an abandoned wheel chair staring out the window at my sick aircraft being operated on.

Look. I get that planes have mechanical difficulties. I comprehend the myriad issues that come up during air travel. Like you, I’ve slept on dirty carpet waiting for a Z-grade flight out of Mexico. Like you, I’ve endured projectile vomiting from ill children. Like you, I’ve said my prayers during extreme turbulence. And so on.

But the clusterf–k that United put me and my fellow travelers through goes beyond the pale; not so much because of the delay (4 hours and counting) but because of the carrier’s incomprehensible stupidity and, in my view, duplicity. More than anything, the lack of communication and the questionable nature of what little we were told is why I am writing this post.

The gory details: Flight 466 was scheduled to leave SFO at 5:39PM, Sunday night. At 6PM, no plane is at the gate. The first announcement states our plane is coming from a hangar somewhere near, it’ll be here in 15 minutes. Half an hour goes by and still no plane. When the aircraft does arrive, for some reason we are not allowed on it. Unexplained delay ensues.

We board. Once in the tube it becomes clear there is no room for luggage in the overhead compartments. Everyone is paralyzed. The dimwitted staff does not know what to do, like this mess is totally foreign to them. One barks at us standing in the rear to turn around and head back to the front, to check our bags. However, no one in the front gets this message, creating a jam of irritable and confused people, myself included. Before this matter is settled, I will have lost my temper. None-the-less, we finally sit. And sit. And sit…

30 minutes goes by yet still no movement from our plane. Eventually, the captain reports over the intercom that we’re waiting for something but he’s “not sure what it is.” When whatever it is finally arrives, he jokes about the miracle of flight and pushes off. We are now 130 minutes late.

Half way to the runway the plane stops. The captain gets back on saying “you are not going to like this but that we have to go back to the gate.” No reason is given. But he’s right about not liking it. I begin Tweeting my disapproval and soon receive hilarious and useless Tweet-pologies from United. To the drone working UA’s Twitter feed I reply #fuckyou

When the plane arrives back at the gate we sit in silence, engines off, for another 10 minutes. We are like that haunted aircraft from The Strain. Just sitting on the Tarmac. Dying inside. I’m kidding. Sort of. It dawns on me I’m missing The Walking Dead.

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The Strain! The Strain!

Then the captain tells us that one of the engine’s “oil filters did exactly what it was supposed to do: fail on the ground.” He laughs. Tells us they are getting another one from Jiffy Lube. Thirty minutes go by with no further details and, thankfully, jokes.

Suddenly, a flight attendant makes the announcement to “prepare for arrival.” But, the entire plane is thinking, we haven’t freaking left! To make a long story longer they kick us off the plane to replace an oil filter. We are told the job will take 20 minutes.

An hour goes by. Then this: “Due to regulations, the legal time limit for the flight crew to work this flight has elapsed. We are now looking for a fresh crew.” We are told this will take 45 minutes “or so.” Liars. By the time we board we are 260 minutes late for departure. And counting…

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Free cookies and warm soda, for our troubles…

But the delay isn’t what’s most infuriating. What kills me is that United should have known better. About so many things. For example: The plane arrives to the gate with a defective oil filter? Guys, it’s coming from the garage! United waits until the last minute to tell us the crew has run out of legal flying minutes, despite knowing as much the moment they turned the plane around? On a lesser note, why would the flight attendants allow every person to board knowing full well the luggage compartments would fill up long before the plane did? Why bother when you can make thirty angry, hot, tired travelers back up? You fly this route every day. You should know better. Or else you’re way too f–king stupid for words.

And speaking of words, United, where were they? A weird joke from the captain is hardly a communication plan for a flight that’s over four hours late. All airlines suck at communications. In my experience, United is the worst.

While I can’t hold everyone at United accountable for this awful experience, I do know the brand suffers among the lowest scores for service and quality in the aviation industry. Sadly, the once “friendly skies of United” have sucked for a very long time. There is a Twitter account: @UALfail

For the record, I landed in Denver at 1:47 AM.

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