I’ve just finished traveling again.
This time I was in Kentucky, staying with a friend in Louisville and then the two of us took a road trip to another friend’s daughter’s wedding in North Carolina. It was sort of Thelma and Louise but with a different ending.
It seems I’ve been flying a lot lately. At the risk of having my luggage deliberately lost on the next trip I’m going to say something here anyway.
Nothing good has happened from the merger of Continental and United. NOTHING!
Last time I flew I got a text at midnight telling me my 7:40 a.m. flight was delayed for four hours because they had to wait for the plane to come in, but I should still show up at the airport two hours ahead of the original scheduled time on the off chance it really would leave on time.
A little aside about my home airport, John Wayne/Santa Ana/Orange County…it has all three names. Because it is situated so close to Newport Beach, which is rumored to have the highest per capita income per square foot of anywhere in the United States, no planes are allowed to land after 11 p.m. or leave before 7 a.m. They actually close the airport down then. Additionally, airplanes are required to cut their engines way back on take-off as they pass over. Some pilots will warn you that this is going to occur, but most don’t. It is a little freaky when the jets start getting quieter and quieter while you are still climbing. They call it “The Good Neighbor Policy.” I call it scary.
Apparently my flight delay that time was caused by the fact that it was 11:03 p.m. and the equipment I was supposed to be flying that morning was diverted to LAX because of the ungodly hour and heaven forbid some of the housewives of Orange County missed some beauty sleep as a result. Hence, United wanted me still to get up at 4:30 a.m. and be ready should the airplane show up closer to the specified time it was supposed to leave.
So, this latest trip, once again, I got that annoying text from them saying the flight was delayed two hours. Once again, some pilot had not made the specified deadline for landing and the plane had to come in from somewhere else. I was not a happy camper…however, I did opt to leave for the airport later than planned having at least learned from the previous experience that it wasn’t going to take off anytime near it was supposed to leave.
When I got there and checked my luggage, not only the kiosk I was using, but all the electronic departure boards in the airport showed it as still leaving at its original time. I almost panicked because according to that, they would just about be closing the door on the plane. The desk attendant checked and said I was fine, it was still delayed. I asked why it wasn’t giving the new time anywhere in the airport and she responded “Oh, our computer doesn’t know how to update changes.”
It was reminiscent of the time mid-merger when I had to take a Continental flight for half of a trip and a United flight for the second leg and I couldn’t book my seat for the latter part of the journey. When I called I was told by the agent on the phone that the Continental and United computers were unable to “talk to each other.” Apparently even now, fully a year into their marriage, the Continental and United computers still need couples counseling.
So, having determined that I had not missed my flight, I went up to the United Club, had my doughy bagel (the toaster there is from the 1950′s, but I shouldn’t complain because prior to the merger, there was no club at SNA). I used the wireless to catch up on some emails. About a half hour into my visit I realized I was inordinately hot. It was then I realized that the club, the only fixture situated near the top of a one story building, had glass walls, completely open on top. This means that there is no air conditioning in those rooms and all the hot air from below was rising to where I was sitting and just hanging there with me. I packed up my stuff and decided I’d go sit at the gate where it was considerably cooler.
I am actually a good “waiter.” I love to people watch and sometimes I strike up a conversation with a fellow passenger and meet some interesting people that way. I can’t tell you how many times I have counseled women going through a divorce, teenagers whose parents don’t understand them and tourists who are not sure where they should go once they arrive at their destination.
So, I hung out at the gate until they made this announcement:
“Good morning, ladies and gentleman. Those of you who are leaving on Flight 123 for Houston please proceed to Gate 12 for an on-time delayed departure.”
What? What the hector is “…an on-time delayed departure?”
Well, when I posted this on Facebook one of my friends said “That is an oxymoron!” To which I responded, “No, it’s an airline being run by just plain morons.”
I got stuck in Louisville on my return trip because of yet another lollygagging aircraft. The best part was when I got a text saying that very same flight had taken off on time, while I was still waiting at the gate for the plane which was not scheduled to arrive for another two hours. While there, I of course commiserated with all the other nervous flyers with connecting flights we may not make. That was when I learned from a “dead-heading” United employee who was also stuck waiting that the computer systems were changed six weeks ago and no one had yet to figure out how to update delays. I would fire the entire IT department, except that they are probably in some third world country and they could just hire another whole team of people who didn’t know what they were doing anyway.
I debated posting this before I flew back. But I am not that much of a risk-taker when it comes to going up in the air in a machine that weighs many tons and could drop from the sky at any moment, so that’s why there was no blog posted last week.
One of my most feared things is that I will meet my end when I am in the toilet in the tail of an aircraft. I have visions of hurtling through space in a very immodest mode of dress only to be found in some farmer’s field in a flyover state. I think that quite possibly would be a preventable death…and that is also an oxymoron.