Monday, May 25, 2009

AirTran Nightmare

My mom and I went to see my baby brother graduate on Saturday.  It was beautiful and my chest swelled with pride as he walked up to the stage to receive his degree which he earned with high honors.  I was so glad I was able to be there... in Rochester, NY... to see the moment live.  Especially since I paid for it with the last strand of dignity I had left.

Our flight was set to take off at 11:30 PM (PST) on Thursday.  This would take us to Baltimore where we would have a 5 hour delay before our connecting flight to Rochester.  We would land at 2:15 PM (EST) which would leave us plenty of time to get to our hotel, hang with Wayne and get plenty of sleep before his graduation at 8AM the next day.  

We got to the airport early.  By 8:30 we were checked in, through security and at the gate.  At 9:30PM they announced that our flight was canceled due to an "insufficient crew."  I walked up to the counter to ask questions.  I was the third person in line.  They were going to postpone the flight to 7:30AM and transfer all tickets for that flight.  This solved the problem for the 90% of the passengers that were flying just to Baltimore.  But it didn't solve the problem for me.  11:30PM - 7:30AM is more than a 5 hour difference.  We would miss our connecting flight.

Apparently neither of the only two people AirTran sent up to the gate knew how to solve my problem.  Oh, they tried.  They tried really hard.  For almost two hours... in between other customers.  They helped me intermittently between the easier-to-help passengers.  When they finally told me they couldn't help me there and to go down to the check-in desk on the other side of security there were only 6 passengers left.  I went to grab my original boarding passes but the girl, the supervisor, said to leave them there.  She would be down shortly to help me at the other desk... as soon as she helped the rest of the passengers.  I hauled my mother and I down the two sets of escalators, onto the stupid tram thing and back to where we had started over four hours ago.  I waited there for 30 minutes.  The supervisor hadn't shown yet.  The other passengers who also had to go down there to receive their hotel vouchers were all but gone.  I approached the counter thinking somebody else could start working on this problem.  

A girl worked on it for about three minutes before she called another supervisor who wanted to know where my boarding passes were.  He couldn't help me without the boarding passes.  "Can't you just look me up in the computer?  The girl upstairs said to leave them there."  The problem was that he couldn't find me in the computer (a persistent problem).  I suggested he use the walkie talkie attached to his vest for good.  So he jabbered a lot on his walkie talkie to the girl upstairs at the gate and began to sweat.  He told me since it was Memorial Day weekend that all connecting flights to Rochester were booked... actually oversold.  Could we go Saturday and be there by Saturday night?  No, we'd miss everything.  He graduates in the morning.  He sighed.  He thought that maybe he could help.  Maybe.  But he couldn't do anything that night because "Ticketing" was closed and wouldn't reopen until 5AM.  It was almost 1AM so I asked for a hotel voucher and said we'd be back at 5AM.  He said they were all out and walked away.  So, while I was standing at counters for four plus hours not getting help, everybody else walked away with vouchers for a free bed to sleep in.  Awesome.  

My mom and I found a patch of crappy carpet and set up camp for the night.  It was horribly uncomfortable and I "slept" for maybe an hour combined between blinks.  At a quarter to 5, my mom and I went back to the counter where I gave the completely new crew my name and a brief description of the issue at hand.  The guy at the counter said the problem had been fixed and handed me my tickets.  I looked at them.  There was a flight to Baltimore leaving at 7:30 as planned and a flight to Rochester.  Yippee!!

My mom and I went through security again and made the trek to our gate.  By 5:30AM we were sitting at our gate waiting for our 7:30 departure.  Which was now an 8AM departure for unknown reasons.  The guy that had helped us last night was there and he came up to us and asked if we had received our tickets.  I said we had (obviously because we were at the gate and not crying) and thanked him.  Prefusely.  Because we were going to make it in time after all.  He smiled and walked away.

I looked at our tickets again, so pleased we had them at all, when I noticed a problem.  Our first leg landed in Baltimore over an hour after our second leg took off.  I looked around.  Not an AirTran worker in sight.  I ran around the gates and finally found somebody.  He looked at them, shrugged, and went into a bag cubby to investigate.   He came out 30 minutes later and pretty much just said, "I don't know.  All flights to Rochester are oversold."  He found another worker who looked about 16 to get on the case.  There was another flight leaving to Atlanta whose customers took priority.  The guy told the girl not to help me until everybody else was taken care of because my problem would take a while and the others' were easy to fix.  By 7:30 when I still hadn't been helped I demanded to see Rudy... the guy that had "fixed" them earlier and came to receive his compliment this morning.  He didn't come.  I saw him on the other side of the terminal talking to other workers.  I pointed at him and did the teacher finger that means, "Get over here right now!"  He Charlie Brown walked over to me.  The plane to Baltimore was boarding.  My flight would be leaving soon.  I demanded that he figure this out immediately because I was going to miss it.  I was going to miss my brother's graduation even after I spent an entire evening standing at AirTran desks not getting helped and sleeping on an airport floor... with my mom!

He suggested I just get on the plane to Baltimore and see what they could do for me there.  I was already on the standby list for that flight.  It was over sold by one and my mom and I were number 3 and 4 on the standby list but sure... maybe 5 people would decide not to use their tickets to Rochester that day.  I told him that there was no way in Hell I was going to fly my mother and myself across the country to Baltimore just to see if maybe five people would randomly ditch their airplane tickets.  I had endured enough and, up to this point, had never raised my voice or become emotional.  He looked at the gate that they were about to close and said, "Get on the plane!  I promise you that I'll call Baltimore... I'll make them get you on that plane!!"  And I did.  I grabbed the luggage, yelled at my mother to follow and we got on the plane.

Our flight to Baltimore landed late and it took longer to unload because the ramp guy couldn't get it lined up right... maybe it was his first day... I dunno.  This left us with 40 minutes before our connecting flight, which we didn't have boarding passes for, was set to take off.  My mom and I ran to the gate and... stood in line.  There was one person manning the counter.  He was arguing with some woman about a seat assignment for a flight that was to leave in four hours.  The time ticked away.  My mom went to the people collecting boarding passes and explained what we needed.  They said to talk to the guy at the counter.  We waited some more.  When the last call had been declared I finally yelled, "That's my flight!  That's my plane and Rudy from Seattle promised us we'd get on it!  It's about to leave and I'm not on it yet!"  The man said not 
to worry and turned to help the woman again... the one that had four hours.  I told him no.  That I was panicking.  He stopped, apologized to the woman who was more irate about a window seat than I was about being ignored for 35 minutes and printed me two boarding passes.  I thanked him and got on the plane.

We made it.  But I was dead inside.  In 72 hours I had slept for a total of 4 hours and had had exactly 2 meals.  I had rescued my mother from security during our first trip through because they had dropped her hearing aides and she started to meltdown.  But we made it.  

We had dinner with Wayne and his friend, took a tour of his boy-smelling apartment and his awesome looking campus and then went to our hotel.  It was almost midnight by then and I got a full five hours of sleep before I had to wake up at 4:30 AM (PST) to attend Wayne's graduation.  The graduation that was beautiful and so worth the torture that led up to it.  Because look at him! 

6 comments:

Sarah said...

Em! That's horrible! I'm glad you made it to the graduation and that you enjoyed at least that part of your trip. Thanks for the good laughs though with this post- you are a great story teller. :o)

Laura said...

Sheesh! And I thought I'd had bad experiences with airlines! I'll have to remember your story next time I fly ... and to avoid AirTran. :)

Your baby brother looks so grown up! Last time I saw him, he was a teenager and didn't have facial hair. I'm glad to see that he's graduated and that you're proud. Glad you had fun - and I agree with Sarah, you are a great story teller!

milton3 said...

Yikes, what a mess! But so glad you could be there. Congratulations, Wayne! I can't believe he's so grown up!! Time flies.

Leah Vanessa said...

Crazy sauce. I wouldn't have been as calm as you. Heads would'a rolled.

مؤسسه الحرمين said...


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amira reda said...


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