I don’t get claustrophobic on airplanes. I don’t mind waiting in airport gates. And I actually like the food they serve — that you now pay for — on board.
But after this weekend in Las Vegas, I officially loathe flying.
Here’s what went wrong:
1. The flight from Honolulu to Las Vegas via Los Angeles was booked. So airlines agents were checking check-in bags at the gate and deciding whether they were too big to fit on board. (This should have been done earlier, say, at check-in.)
2. I was asked to switch seats twice. I wound up getting a worse seat than I already had. Good thing the women on both sides of me were pleasant company.
3. The flight crew on our flight on Continental Airlines were completely hateful. They didn’t smile, they snapped at passengers, one rolled the cart into people’s feet and yelled at them. I thought I was getting punk’d.
4. Our plane had to turn around due to mechanical problems involving something the word “auxiliary.” We spent three hours in the air — and returned back to Honolulu. Our flight didn’t leave for another hour. In all, it took us 11 hours to get to Los Angeles.
5. When we got to LAX, the Continental crew didn’t have any information for us regarding the connecting flights we missed. They directed us to the airlines of our connecting flights to figure it out. (I felt badly for a couple heading home to Europe after their honeymoon in Hawaii.) We waited another hour to find out what flight we had been rebooked on — only to find out all four of us had been rebooked on different flights, including one departing the next day.
6. Amazingly, even though the booking agent said ALL OF THE FLIGHTS WERE FULL — repeatedly — we got seats on the 4:10 p.m. flight out of LA to Vegas. All in a row. All in the bulkhead aisle. And when we were on board, the flight attendant said there were 12 more open seats. Full, huh?
7. Though the airlines inconvenienced us and, in most cases, made us wait at the airport for hours, we were not compensated at all. In fact, the airlines kept saying, “It’s not our responsibility.” It was driving me crazy. We didn’t even get food vouchers for airport grub.
8. While checking in online for my return flight on United Airlines, I found that I was now rebooked — without my knowledge — on a later flight to LA. I would miss my connecting flight, too, which would bring me home more than four hours after my scheduled arrival. I spent another hour or so yelling at United Airlines customer service reps — including a supervisor — about getting on the plane, on the flight, and in the seat I had booked (and paid for) on July 1. How was I kicked off the plane and rebooked on a later flight? I had reserved a seat two months ago. It was ludicrous.
9. After being told for 45 minutes that there was ABSOLUTELY NO SPACE ON THE FLIGHT, it had been oversold, there was NO WAY I would get on it — I miraculously got back on the supposedly sold-out flight, though in a different seat, and was able to get home on time.
10. Our other friend wasn’t so lucky. I dropped her off at the airport at 4:45 a.m. for her 6 a.m. flight to Honolulu via San Francisco, which got postponed to almost noon. She didn’t get home until later Sunday night when she was supposed to arrive in Honolulu before lunchtime.
It’s hard to believe all this happened during one vacation — but it did.
The sad part is that I’ve lost faith in airlines. Not only are their planes unsafe — both times, the delays were caused by mechanical problems — but the customer service reps flat-out lie to you. How could a flight be completely sold out — but then I get a seat? It just doesn’t make sense.
How can you trust a company that’s 1) unsafe and 2) lies? You can’t.
Anyone got a travel horror story to share?
My worst experience was being out of the country (Canada) when 9/11 happened. I was scheduled to fly back on the 12th. It took me a week to get back to Hawaii… understandably so. But still, if it weren’t for AmTrak to get me back in the country to Chicago from Montreal, and a college friend’s generosity to let me crash at his place for those days until planes were flying to Hawaii again, I’d have been sunk!
Of course, I’ve experienced it all… mechanical failure mid-flight forcing turn arounds (multiple times), sitting on the tarmac for SIX HOURS before taxiing and taking off, emergency landings with a strange chemical in the fuselage asphyxiating everyone (my interview by local news crews in R.I. where we emergency landed was shown on the Today SHow and Good Morning America the next morning–in 1998). Also the bumped flights and lost luggage issues have occurred multiple times too.
Before 9/11 I was flying 100,000 miles a year, (I had a satellite office in Austin TX and was going there every 4 to 6 weeks), and I was upgrading to biz/first class for next to nothing for every flight… that ended and flying has never been the same since. I do miss the romance of the air as I felt I had a love affair with traveling!
How about the short version. I flew out to Denver on United Airlines from RDU without a single hitch. Flying time was about 4 hours I think. Great meetings, great times, loved the trip. All in all it was a winner. Now here is the short version. I left Denver early Friday to return to RDU. I arrived home on Sunday night. It took four legs. I was treated like crap the whole time. I switched to Continental Airlines and had effortless flying for four years. But now United has bought Continental. From the sound of it United must be the ones running the show. They have sucked out loud for years, their planes always have mechanical issues, their flight attendants on average are dragons, and my luggage and I frequently have arrived on different days. I guess I will switch back to AA.
in the merger, they kept the UA name but most of the operations are being run by CO personnel and CO policies.
Years ago when my daughters were very young we traveled to Seattle to attend a wedding. There was some mix up with our seats (nothing like you and your girlfriends experienced) and we missed our flight. A couple of weeks after we returned home I wrote a letter to Alaska Airlines corporate office describing our unhappiness with the problems we had. I didn’t expect a reply or anything but a week later I got a nice letter of apology and a $100 voucher toward future travel with Alaska Airlines. It was nice and unexpected but spoke volumes about their customer service. Complain to the airlines responsible for your travelling nightmare. I think businesses, at least at the corporate level, are concerned about customer satisfaction.
Strip searched Winnipeg International Airport, Manitoba, Canada. There’s no dignity in flying. “Welcome to Canada, young American.”
Strip searched??? How naked did you have to get??
Completely naked. No rubber glove or cavity search. There was only one of these heavily armed guys when they went through my luggage, and he went through everything. When he told me they were going to have to strip me, there were two of them that follwed me into the room. I actually thought it was going to be a sexual assault.
because of the tough terrible state of affairs our Great Nation is in….i feel, almost everyone has a general “pissed off disposition”. Sad but true. People are being squeezed for every nickel they have. And its taking its toll. I’m surprised someone hasnt coined the phrase “plane-rage” or “airport-rage” yet. disgraceful. Life used to be fun. Now, “dont worry, be happy”, has been replaced by google execs. saying “please tax me more mr. prez.” .wtf? Down is up…and sideways is backwards. *sigh*. Sorry for your big bummer. Dont worry it will soon be forgotten when the Stampedes of Black Friday roll in…..and over. Aloha.
You should have flown Hawaiian Airlines. They are not perfect. But their planes are ok, and they don’t have United’s bad attitude.
I’m not quite an airline apologist but I travel a fair amount and worked in the industry for a few years so maybe I can provide some insight on your points.
1) this is standard. on the plus side, gate checked bags are free so you save some there (if you don’t already get free bags via a credit card program or elite status).
2) you’re under no obligation to change seats if you’re asked by another passenger. they way they check if via the PNR (six digit letter/number combo of your flight record) on the flight manifest. if you’ve booked all your tickets at once you’ll be on the same pnr but if it’s a group of friends who booked the same itins separately, you’ll all show as traveling as singles. if you explain that you’re traveling with friends (and sitting next to said friends), I’m sure they’ll look for other true singles to try to swap with.
3) as was explained to me by one of our FAs because of the FAA flight time rules, they can’t do a back to back inbound/outbound from the west coast to Hawaii, so incoming flight crews have a mandatory rest period in HNL. what that amounts to is a free one day Hawaiian vacation that usually includes very little rest (although they can’t drink 8 hours prior to flying so you won’t have drunk/hungover FA’s on your trip). inbound crews are usually happy because they’re on their way to an expenses paid stay while outbound crews are often grumpy or tired because they’re on their way out. I’ve found that UA crews are usually pretty good when leaving the islands because UA has a number of HNL based crew so they don’t suffer the “end of vacation” effect as much as mainland domiciled FAs. plus, there’s more aloha, naturally.
4) sucks to be on an MX but i’ve always thought that it’s better to be delayed and safe than have a mid flight discovery
5) not sure why but i’m guessing that, because of how long you were delayed, the number of people affected and because it was a the next day, customer service felt it was more efficient to process all the flight changes in person via the customer service desk rather than assigning seats on outbounds randomly.
6) all the flights probably were booked full but people didn’t show up for various reason. mis connects in other parts of the system, flat tires, change in plans…it happens. the best thing to do is secure a seat (any seat you can) and try to stand by on the earlier trips.
7) while they can issue vouchers/compensation at the airport for some things, they’re not really as free with the goods as customer relations is. call customer relations (or write to them) and complain. absolutely do this.
8) no idea why they did this one but i can’t say I’m really surprised. when I travel, I check my itin pretty often online to make sure there aren’t any schedule changes. also, you can sign up for email alerts for any changes that occur on your itin.
9) see #6
10) see #7
bottom line is irregular operations sucks for everyone. as bad as it sucked for the passengers, it was probably serious headaches for the employees as well (not that it makes it better for you but at least you weren’t suffering alone)
Hello Cat, I love to travel but I don’t like airports or the time it takes to get from point A to B. Inter island flights are long enough, anything longer I have a hard time with it. I can’t sit for very long because it’s so cramped and uncomfortable and I can’t sleep on the plane.
I think the airline business has forgotten it’s really about customer service. Thankfully I have not had any negative experience as described – and I have flown quite a bit. I just booked a trip with my family to Israel and now I cross my fingers. I always try and fly the home airline where ever I go…I somehow feel they will take better care of you but now it’s probably sheer luck.
*knocking on wood* I have to say in all my travels, I’ve been fortunate not to have an encounter like this. Been delayed here and there, but what you went through sounds absolutely dreadful. Chris Elliott (elliott.org & @elliottdotorg) would probably enjoy hearing your story. 🙂 How future travels get better for you.
I tweeted him and now we’re Facebook friends. He was a lot of help, for sure!
Couple of years ago, our family flew on Aloha Airlines to Las Vegas with a stopover in Orange County. After arriving in Las Vegas, our luggage never appeared at the baggage claim and the flight number on the screen switched to a different flight. We were in complete panic. After speaking with the Aloha Airlines customer service reps, it was discovered that the luggage crew had put our luggage on a flight to Los Angeles while were stopped over in Orange County. We didn’t get out luggage until the next morning (we bought toiletries and cheap clothes from Walgreens to get by). Aloha Airlines gave our whole family an airfare refund.
Another horror story was when an individual passed away on the airplane while in-flight. My family and I were headed to Las Vegas on Hawaiian Airlines, an elderly man suffered a heart attack, and the flight crew and a passenger who was a RN were unable to resuscitate him (they literally performed CPR for hours). The plane ended up landing in San Fransisco and we were forced to spend the night in the airport, sleeping on the floor and chairs in the airport terminal. Hawaiian Airlines staff explained that another group of flight attendants had to be brought over to San Francisco from Dallas for our departing flight to Las Vegas. They also provided us with food vouchers, blankets, and pillows to make our terminal stay a little more bearable.
OMG, that’s crazy. I never thought about the possibility of someone dying on board. I guess it could happen — and it must happen a lot more than we realize. Holy. My story doesn’t compare!
I think you win for having the worst airline experience ever…brutal.
Oh, I think there are worse situations. At least I got to my destination — eventually!
United is famous for screwing you over and rebooking you on flights that then makes you miss your connections. On the other hand, United does shine through every once in a while. Will be forever grateful to the United pilots that flew us out of Bozeman, Montana into Denver during the storm of the century. They were superb. But going to Vegas…always fly Hawaiian. Even if they’re more expensive, it’s worth the direct flight.
Sorry to hear about the air drama. Once I was headed to Disneyland for a short trip — we had just enough time to enjoy our 3-day park passes — only to have a major wrench thrown into the plan when the guy driving the baggage truck crashed into our connecting plane! Right in front of our eyes, too. Long story short, everyone was rebooked onto later flights, but we were one of the last and were stuck at the airport for over 12 hours. We lost one of our three precious vacation days and wasted 1/3 of the pass, and when we tried to argue for compensation, we were told “it’s our job to get you there, but not necessarily on time.” In a way, I see their point — what else could be done at that time? Accidents do happen. But flying is stressful enough; good customer service and some sensitivity go a long way.
In your case, I guess you can be thankful that the mechanical issue only caused you a delay and not something more serious. The rebooking problems and bad attitudes sound like things Continental could work on, though. Flying was once posh and glamorous, but now that it’s (thankfully) affordable to all, professionalism and class in American airlines often seems lacking. (Internationally, I’ve experienced so much better.) Too bad we’re stuck needing them!
I just remembered an important travel lesson I once learned. While traveling in Europe, our arriving flight was seriously delayed. Thankfully, we were booked on a single airline to our final destination, so the company easily arranged for us to get on their later connecting flights. No fee, either.
Another couple was booked on a different airline for their connecting flight (separate itinerary) and they were totally screwed. The arriving airline told them there was nothing they could do to help them change their later flights because their flight service was complete — i.e., they got them to London, which was all their records indicated they were responsible for. The couple were essentially no-shows for their connecting flight on the other airline and would have to take up the problem with them and pay any necessary rebooking fees. This was news to them!
That taught us to always have one itinerary, with one airline. Even if you have to take a connecting flight on a partner carrier, at least they can see your complete intended flight plan and must take responsibility for the entire journey, not just a single leg.
We are scheduled to go to Hawaii in Dec. I am praying we don’t have an experience like yours. Esp. traveling with young kids. Ugh. I really dislike flying, for all the reasons. It is the only way to get to Hawaii in a reasonable time frame tho!
Waited at the gate on the plane with no AC at LV for about 4 hours then had a turbulent 10 hour flight to NY. That was when smoking was allowed on the plane so factor in the cigarette smoke. Or waited at the airport here for 7 hours then had an 11 hour flight to Manila and missed my connecting flight to Cebu. PAL was good and put us up at a nice hotel with a good buffet. Then had to go to the airport at 5am to catch the first flight to Cebu.
how about a “best” airline experience. i once (before kids) had a trip home for the holidays. this was on the, now defunct, carrier ATA. the flight was overbooked so, as I was between jobs then, I put my name on the bump list. got my bump and was put up at the ala moana hotel with food vouchers for the night as well as a 350 flight credit. wash, rinse, repeat two more times and I had over a thousand dollars in flight credits before all was said and done.
All US domestic carriers can learn a few things from the Asian airlines. I am currently on vacation in Thailand, and have flown three different airlines since Sept 7th.
We flew ANA out of Honolulu to Narita and then onto Beijing. Service was impeccable! All of the Flight Attendants had a sincere desire to assist in any way possible, and with a smile!
We then flew THAI from Beijing to Bangkok. Once again, outstanding service. The only issue I had (which wasn’t the airlines fault, but the airport) was that we didn’t takeoff for almost an hour after we left the gate.
In both instances, all luggage arrived in tact (including my golf clubs)
On to Air Asia. They are a budget carrier that serves many destinations around Asia. While they nickel and dime you to death (there is nothing on board that is free), they were on time, and best of all, their entire fleet is new.
I personally love the idea of flying. Being able to get to a different city (or country) in a matter of hours appeals to me. What I hate is the activities leading up to the actual flight. Arriving at the airport hours in advance, security, etc. Is a major PITA.
Unless you are assured of getting a better seat, never accept to switch seats. If the party that is requesting the seat change didn’t plan ahead, that is their problem, not yours. Advance seat assignment is available on most, if not all airline websites.
Just got back from Arizona. Print out boarding pass at my friend’s house. Seat has been changed from 3D (window up front) to 11C (aisle in back) It’s a puddle jumper so I’m kind of picky about where I sit. Having elite status on United helps a bit as I talked to the counter agent and got my seat changed to 4D. Why? He couldn’t tell me why but when I boarded and saw who was in my original seat I figured out that this adult female wanted to sit together with her Mom. Maybe they should book earlier in the future. If UA is going to change my seat, I would appreciate some sort of notice.
Off to SFO. Flight was delayed due to a mechanical (no a/c) and they needed some instruments changed. Full flight. They changed gate agents because I’m guessing the shifts have changed. No problem but the new guys were from Europe or the Mid East and had heavy accents and with a not so good P/A system, good luck understanding them.
Finally boarded an hour later (don’t let me go there about boarding) and I get seated with the air vent going full blast on my seat. Had to use the blanket until I could stand on the chair to close the vent.
Our purser (the one who makes the announcements) had a soft voice and spoke gibberish so I couldn’t understand what she was saying for most of the flight. Mind you that’s with my headset plugged in I could not understand her gibberish. After we landed and as we were taxiing, I could barely understand her yet but this time realized that she was speaking GERMAN! Like why would one want to speak German on a HAWAII flight?
I hope the smattering of German passengers on the flight appreciated her efforts to practice German.
I go to Dallas next week so I hope I won’t have anything to bitch about. Believe me, I bitched to UA through their customer service link and on their flight evaluation survey.
[…] I booked this flight on United Airlines — before my well-documented debacle involving said airlines and Continental Airlines, which got us to Las Vegas from Honolulu in 24 […]