Ah…the airport. My home away from home. How can one not love to experience this benchmark of human ingenuity and social progress? When I was younger, my father worked for U.S. Airways, and our family flew stand-by. We took Sunday day trips to San Francisco, Seattle, and Tampa; spent 72 hours in Amsterdam and 48 hours in London, and left at the drop of a hat on my parents’ whim to an exotic destination of their choice. On Monday, my classmates would ask me where I had flown the previous day, and I would answer casually that we’d stopped into Charlotte, NC, or St. Louis for a few hours. In between, my father took us to the airport to watch the planes take off.
Being the well-traveled, educated, and all-around awesome person that I am, I’ve had my fair share of travel. But for some reason, we’ve always had back luck with flight timing. On my recent trip to Israel, I visited five airports in two weeks. ALL FOUR out of FOUR United flights were delayed, with Swiss Air being the only one to depart on time.
Thank heavens for Germanic precision.
On my return trip I had a nonstop flight from Tel Aviv to Newark (EWR), with a three hour layover between the flight to Dulles. A light drizzle was falling in Newark, and most flights were either delayed or cancelled. I ran on a wild goose chase, having to claim my bag, go through customs, re-check my bag, and switch terminals on the shuttle, only to discover that my flight to Dulles was leaving from the terminal that I had just left. So I returned to the C terminal, to discover later that our flight was delayed because the flight crew was on a delayed international flight. Great. Newark has no wifi, the people are weird, it’s mobbed, the staff is unhelpful, nearly everyone seems to get pat-downs, terminal transfers are inevitable, and it’s just, simply…unpleasant. (I was informed by a ticket agent on my outbound flight that nearly all flights from DCA to EWR are always delayed, and I suppose EWR’s outbound flights are always delayed too.)
Then another announcement was made that the flight crew was switched and the 7:40 pm flight was delayed until 9:15 and connections would be missed. I grabbed my stuff and marched to the United customer service and asked to be put on an earlier flight, either to IAD or DCA, but nothing was available. At this point I walked over the United Club, where I begged for the wifi password so I could at least check my email and phone home since I didn’t have my cell phone.
Problem: to enter the lounge, one must be 21 and either have a pass or pay $50, neither of which I qualified for. The receptionist looked around, hesitated, told me she really couldn’t do this, but that I could go in and use my laptop as long as I stayed away from the bar. Success!
When I returned the gate they announced that the flight would be delayed some more. Lovely. We boarded the plane around 10 pm and just SAT on the tarmac for nearly 45 minutes. Someone yelled at the flight attendant to at least keep us informed, and all the passengers in the dinky little RJ, including yours truly, grumbled their agreement. We finally landed at Dulles at 11:30, and I went to the baggage claim and to get a Super Shuttle. To make another long story short, we waited 45 minutes to leave the airport because they wanted to fill up the van. I marched back into the airport, where the driver was simply chilling with the cashier, and through grated teeth I informed both of them that we’d waited for nearly an hour, which was simply outrageous. The cashier told him that we had to leave, and he walked out with me, fairly upset. I didn’t tip him. It’s not PC, but a tip is for good service, and waiting unnecessarily for 45 minutes is certainly, in my book, not good service.
I went to sleep at 2 am that night, and got up for my first day of school at 7.
I’m pretty disappointed with both United Airlines and Super Shuttle, but there are two things I’m thankful for: that woman in the United Lounge who had kids of her own, and my gutsy defiance that, more often than not, lets me manipulate people when the need arises.