This special edition of Sunday Snark is being brought to you by the letter S. S stands for snow, screwed and Scrooge. (If my Nana didn’t read this site, today’s post would have been brought to you by the letter F, for the word that I have been saying all day.) On today’s episode, we’ll learn what happens when you take thousands of holiday travelers, mix in snow and shake vigorously.
My flight home was supposed to leave on Saturday morning. Due to a blizzard that can best be described as the angry hand of God, it was cancelled late Friday afternoon. Expecting that many other travelers would be in the same boat, I booked a separate one-way flight that was supposed to leave Sunday morning after the storm had ended. I thought that this flight would be my safety net ensuring that I would get home even if rebooking my fellow Saturday travelers made it difficult to get out of the land of crack pipes, philandering politicians and dreams in a timely manner. But by Saturday afternoon, my safety net had morphed into two tickets on two different airlines for two flights that were both cancelled.
Thus, began Belle’s death spiral into the land of airline customer service.
The phone on the right is the United phone. The phone on the left is the Frontier phone. They are plugged into their chargers because at 5:30pm, after more than three hours on hold, they started making funny beeping noises. Clearly, they too had grown tired of the United Airlines hold music.
At 6:07pm, the Frontier phone finally produced a lovely operator named Brian. Who, despite what I’m sure was a horrible day at work, was as polite and helpful as he could be. It was surely not his fault that the only flight Frontier could offer me left at noon on the 27th.
That’s right, the 27th. Eight full days after my original flight was supposed to leave and two days after the second most important holiday on the Christian calendar–the reason for this entire flight in the first place. A day that also happened to be just one day before my return flight giving me a grand total of 16 hours at home.
When I started crying quietly, like a small child who just learned that Santa beats the reindeer and that Rudolph is on the sauce, Brian offered his sincere condolences for my predicament. So, I saved the screaming tirade for his supervisor (who probably gets paid more and who probably is an asshole like middle managers tend to be).
After expressing to the supervisor in my “outside voice” that this entire situation was unacceptable verging on criminal, I was told that there was simply nothing that they could do but apologize.
After all, it’s not their fault that even though the snow would stop falling at 11pm, they would not be able to get a plane out until noon the next day. After all, it isn’t like they have the power to add flights to the schedule to accommodate stranded passengers or the power to find me a seat on another airline.
Fun fact, did you know that Frontier refuses to codeshare with other airlines, even in the event of an emergency? Awesome right? Guess who’ll never fly Frontier again? This girl.
After hanging up with Frontier, I still held hope for United. But as four hours on hold turned into five, I decided to frantically searched the Internet for another ticket.
By some miracle, United had a flight open on Tuesday. Not ideal, but better than spending the holidays eating stale Captain Crunch from the box while watching a West Wing marathon and crying myself to sleep every night. So I said goodbye to $306 more hard earned dollars and said a very loud prayer that the two-stop itinerary with layovers in both Chicago and Denver would not be hampered by anymore “weather related disruptions.”
Barely twenty seconds after I confirmed my purchase, a signal went out to United’s customer service center that now, having stolen more of my money, it was time to pick up the phone.
As “Paul” expressed his deepest regrets for the six hours spent on hold, his thick Punjabi accent and the sound of his furious typing seemed to calm me slightly. But my calm was not to last.
There were no flights on Sunday. Nor Monday. Nor Tuesday. Nor Wednesday. Not on any airline. Not to any of the cities within a day’s drive to my home. I started to weep again.
What about a flight from another Washington airport? After some more furious typing, “Paul” offered me a flight leaving at 5:40AM on Monday, and my heart grew three sizes. “From which airport?” I yelled with delight. “From Seattle,” he responded.
Following a lengthy American geography lesson, Paul tried again. Miraculously, a flight from BWI, leaving at 4:00pm Sunday appeared. United was happy to waive my change fee of $150, but I would have to pay the difference in price. What was the difference in price you ask? $1,242.
“Rupees?” I asked. “American dollars,” he replied.
If the Frontier supervisor got a tongue lashing, then the United supervisor (an American) had a close encounter with a pre-menstrual Banshee. I said things to that man that would have made a Hell’s Angel blush. It was at this point that he offered to waive the change fee due to unforeseeable circumstances, but sadly, the flight was now sold out.
Next available seat? The 27th. And thus, began the second wave of Hurricane Belle and a conversation that ended with the phrase, “Could you spell your full name please? My lawyer will need it for the letter.” Yes, it was a great day. No, I won’t be flying United ever again. I’m all Delta now, baby!
At the end of Snowmageddon 2009, I am $2,000 poorer. I have lost four days of my vacation with my family. I have used two boxes of Kleenex. And I have shattered one television remote that collided with a wall while traveling at a high rate of speed.
Make that $2,210 poorer; $30 for a new remote, $180 to repair the hole in the dry wall.
Whatever glimmer of Christmas spirit I possessed this morning has been violently ripped from me by the airline industry. It seems insane that they don’t have some sort of contingency plan for this sort of thing that includes scheduling more flights and code sharing between all airlines. After all, this seems to happen to one city or another every holiday season.
It also seems insane that they can keep a person on hold for six-hours until a man in Mumbai becomes available. Perhaps, I should spend my newly free Monday crafting legislation setting new regulations for the airline industry? Or maybe it would be easier to pen a bill moving Christmas to the month of June?
I can’t imagine that Jesus has a PAC more powerful than the people who lobby for the airline industry. Then again, I imagine Saint Peter would notate that kind of thing and file it away blocking my entry to the pearly gates, so maybe not.
Hopefully, I make it home on Tuesday and ended up celebrating the birth of my Savior with my family as it should be. But I can guarantee you that if I don’t, the crazy lady being arrested for tagging the United ticket counter with vulgar graffiti will be me. Saint Peter would probably forgive me for that infraction.