Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Air Journal: June 2 Can we seat the assholes on the wings?

Flying back from Florida, I had... a really bad time. This morning I sent the following through the customer service web site of the airline in question, which shall remain nameless unless I don't get some kind of satisfactory response from them in the next few days.
I am writing to relate to you the worst air travel experience I have had in memory.

First of all, there was only one person working the check-in counter for [Insert airline name here] at [Insert airport name here] when I arrived an hour before my flight. There was some confusion over who was in which line. I had immediately gone to one of the electronic check-in kiosks, but some people hadn't and there was no distinction between lines. The employee at the counter was moving very quickly, but it was still very chaotic.

My biggest problem occurred when I was told I had already checked in a bag. I had selected one bag to check, I had one bag to check, and that was it. Because the employee at the counter was trying to handle the people coming up to check-in, he could not take the time to sort out my problem.

I try to be a patient person. I really do. I know that glitches happen. However, it's very unclear to me how in this day and age, with security issues such as they are, that a bag can get checked under the name of a person who has not even shown up at the airport to check-in. To make matters worse, I had had to fly to [Insert crappy Florida city name here] on a dire family emergency which has been very draining, and I had a head cold, which I wasn't looking forward to flying with. The whole thing was making me feel somewhat light-headed, but there was no place to sit and wait. I just did not have the werewithal at that point to deal with that kind of frustration. I am not embarrassed to say that I just started to cry, something I try to avoid doing in public.

I was there half an hour waiting before the issue was resolved. I know that the employee at the counter was trying to be as helpful as he could given the number of people he was forced to juggle on his own.

I was feeling better by the time I got on the plane. Until a child who was about 4 years old a couple rows behind me had to scream his excitement at every single thing, from the fact that he could fasten his own seatbelt to being able to see other planes outside his window. His parents were making no attempt to try to limit his volume. About 20 minutes into the flight, I asked a flight attendant if she could somehow ask them to try to control their child's volume. I'm not sure she ever got around to that, because she kept having long, flirtatious conversations with the men in the seats across from me one row behind. Men who, when she was not around, were having rather offensive conversations about how "fat chicks" should be forced to fly in the cargo hold.

Meanwhile, the child in question was still shouting on a regular basis, and when he did so, other people around me would turn around to look in annoyance, too. Note that this child was clearly not shouting in distress. He simply had to narrate every single thing that was happening.

I realize there is only so much that can be done to control passengers' behaviors, but as far as I can tell nothing was done to try to quiet the excessively loud child, and the flight attendant was spending so much time with the two men who discredit their sex that she was simply encouraging them.

I had a connecting flight, ####, from Dulles to LAX which went perfectly smoothly, but that does not erase the absolutely unacceptable situation I had checking in and on the first flight.

Sincerely, Karen X
(No, I'm not related to Malcolm.)

I really tried to write a straightforward note, but the whole situation was just so absurdly stupid that I fell into excessively-politely-sarcastic mode.

Standing in the check-in area, I ended up staring at the large window at the end of the building. Fortunately there was no other counters past the one I was at and this was the most... private... direction to face. There was a small bird flying next to the glass, trying to get out. I seem to remember the same thing had happened the last time I was here.

The ticket agent kept trying to reassure me that I wouldn't miss my plane, but I was just too upset to explain all the crap that had built up to this moment, so I would just smile and nod.

The assholes on the plane, well, when they started talking about how fat people should have to ride in cargo, all I could think was that the first thing the airlines should change would be to make assholes ride out on the wing. The more obnoxious of the two said at one point that he had been married and divorced twice. Big surprise. When Miss Flirty Stewardess (I simply don't have enough respect for her to call her a flight attendant) told them she was going on to Albany, after she walked away, the bigger asshole said he really wished he could go on with her. I think he thought he had "a chance." I'm not saying he didn't, because clearly this woman had absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Anyway, by the time we were starting to descend for landing in LAX, I thought my eardrums were going to explode, the pressure from my head cold and the change in altitude were so bad. Blowing my nose not only didn't help them pop, it caused excruciating pain. Of course, since my sinuses were (and are) completely congested, I didn't have much choice if I wanted to breathe through the night. My ears didn't even really "pop" until sometime after I went to bed last night.

P.S. I came home with no fewer than 6 mosquito bites.

ETA: No one ever responded to my complaint. United Airlines, if you webcrawl looking for mentions of your name, this means you.

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