May 3, 2008

Trying to Fly the Friendly Skys

Managed to get out of the flat this morning with three giant suitcases thanks to the help of my yoga buddies. Splurged on a car to the airport with Simone and arrived to find that my United flight had been cancelled.

I wondered why I couldn't check-in online last night. You would think that the airline would have come up with some alternative travel solutions for their stranded passengers, but no. A flight full of people had the pleasure of waiting on line to each be told that there are no flights out and we'd have to come back tomorrow.

Simone went ballistic (that's what friends are for). Come on folks, it is only 10am and there are no flight options? After a seven minute circular conversation with the ticket agent I managed to get a seat on a Virgin flight arriving in DC just a few hours after my United flight would have landed. The entire negotiation experience was bizarre.

Amy: Is there a later flight today?
Agent: Computer says no.
Amy: Is there another airline?
Agent: Computer says no.
Amy: Is there another airport in DC I can fly into?
Agent: Computer says no.
Amy: Is there another city I can fly into?
Agent: Computer says no.
Amy: What is United going to give if I take that flight tomorrow - any vouchers?
Agent: You will need to go to the website, fill out a form, mail it to United corporate offices, they will consider your request and get back to you by mail.
Amy: What? This isn't my fault.
Agent: It is a mechanical difficulty and it is your choice to stay here at the airport and look for another flight.
Amy: You're telling me that you are going to tell the next 40 people in line that they have no options? I feel really sorry for you. My heart goes out to you, but I'm not leaving the airport and coming back tomorrow.
[Repeat 2 more times the above circular conversation, seven minutes pass.]
Amy: Is there another airline I can fly?
Agent: Virgin has some seats on their 5.30pm flight and can get you into DC at 8.55.
Amy: Fantastic! Sounds like a solution to me.

Do most people just take the first "no" as an answer and they just wait until you've proven you can endure their seven minute test - and then they find a solution?

So, we move over to Virgin and I now had to weigh my ginormous bags, already knowing that I'll have to pay for the extra one. Turns out that one is 8kg over weight. Simone and I head over to the repacking area - clearly this happens all the time, and begin to re-shuffle contents. We were not alone. The area was filled with Americans. All of us started to bond over our overweight issues. I was able to even out the contents so that each suitcase had the maximum weight amount. Turns out that the offending weight in the most-overweight bag was a cookbook by Nigella Lawson, the UK's own voluptuous domestic goddess, which made me and Simone laugh.

Bags repacked we move towards the check-in. All is good except that the woman wanted to weigh my carry-ons. Of course they are grossly overweight since I'm carrying all my worldly possessions. We did some quick thinking and magically got them down to the appropriate sizes. Walking away with our hands full of the extracted materials we begin to re-loaded the carry-ons with their former contents. Two can play at this game.