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Kevin Remde's IT Pro WebLog

What’s the deal with cancelled flights?

Bozo Airline Supervisor Bozos…

I have never been one to go for conspiracy theories.  I don’t think that there’s some central organization that is setting gasoline prices at artificially high levels, or running the world’s economy because they are under the direction of aliens who want to maintain the appearance of all of us being able to determine our own fates.  However, recent events are causing me to suspect that certain industries may in fact LIE to their customers in order to save a few $’s.

Here’s my story.  Monday, two days ago, found me traveling to Peoria, IL from Minneapolis.  I have one stop in Chicago.  I’m traveling on [Airline Name Deleted] Airlines.   

Anyway, the flight from Minneapolis to Chicago was just fine.  No concerns.  So now I’m waiting my flight to Peoria.  “Hmm… I don’t see a plane out there.”… not usually a good sign.  But soon an announcement of my plane’s delayed arrival from somewhere else leads me to believe that there is hope.

However… many minutes later, after the plane has emptied, there is announcement that they are “working on a mechanical issue” and that they “would let [us] know in 30 minutes what the status is.”  Uh oh…

30 minutes pass.  True to her word, here’s the announcement. “We’re sorry, but the flight has been cancelled.  The rest of our flights to Peoria are pretty full today.  Come to the desk and we’ll give you some options.”

The options were: Risk standby on [Truly Aggravating] Airlines or some other airline, take a bus voucher for a 3–3/4 hour ride, or let them put me in a hotel for the evening and take a flight tomorrow.

Hmm… well, the flight tomorrow wasn’t an option.  Tomorrow is why I’m going to Peoria.  My briefing attendees won’t sit there waiting for me to arrive on the morning flight.  And it was being said that the standby option probably wasn’t going to work because those flights had been sold full, too.  So I guess that will be one bus voucher for me.  Thanks.

“Oh, and sir… the next bus leaves in 10 minutes.. so I don’t think you’ll make it, but you can try.  Go and collect your bag at carousel ten.”

Cool.  Go get my bag.  I walk briskly to carousel 10 (which is a LONG walk.  Any walk in O’Hare is a long walk.)  C’mon bag!  

So I waited.  And watched.  And counted the minutes.  And watched the 3:00pm bus departure time come and go… but still no bag.  Frustrated, as you can imagine, I went to the luggage claim desk.  The “friendly” woman there informed me that my bag is on it’s way to Peoria on one of the later, “full” flights, so I should get it from the Peoria airport when I get there.

Splendid.  So my bag is getting better treatment than I am, apparently.  It better, though.  It’s got several hundred dollars worth of Microsoft Software inside it.

Anyway… I go to the bus terminal.  Yes indeed, I missed the 3:00 bus by 10 minutes.  And I found out that the next one departs at 7:00pm!  <sigh>  well… I got nothing but time (and a heavy laptop bag), so I head back to the terminal figuring, “I’ve got the bus ticket.  There’s no harm in going to the [Stupid] Airlines ticket counter and asking if there were please-oh-please some other option.”

One the way to the ticket agent, I decided that I might just double-check the baggage-claim-carousel-from-hell to see if my bag might have suddenly appeared.  Guess what?!  A miracle!  My bag was there, going ‘round in circles!  Lesson learned: Never trust what [*@!*$#!] Airlines employees tell you – especially when their stories don’t match.

Somewhat relieved that I had at least claimed my week’s belongings, I head to the ticket counter and explain my exasperation.  (I was really polite.  Seriously.  More polite than they deserved, which is ALWAYS a good thing.)  Unfortunately my exasperation or even my most polite smile couldn’t coax all the clickety-clacking on her circa 1976 keyboard to find me a flight to Peoria this evening, on any airline.  I said, “Well.. then can you get me a one-way rental car?” 

“Nope.  We don’t do rental cars.” 

[smiling, mostly] “Can I have a second opinion?”

“I’ll get the supervisor.”

“Great.  You to that.”

Several minutes pass… and finally an obviously overworked supervisor du jour comes over.  “How can I be of assistance?”

<gasp>  “Okaaaaay…. What do you recommend I do that won’t mean I have to sit around here for four hours and then another three-and-a-half hours on a bus?” 

“I can give you this $5 voucher for a snack.”

<bigger gasp>  “Um… (still smiling politely, but feel like I’m talking through gritted teeth..) Unless you know of a cab driver who will accept a $5 snack voucher in exchange for a trip to Peoria, this is not going to help much.”

“I’m sorry sir.  That’s all I can do.  Well… actually, I can also give you this $10 voucher for dinner.  But that’s really all I can do.”

“ummm… <sigh>  I guess I’m traveling by bus then.  Thank you.”  (See?  I am way too polite.  Thinking about it later, I’m kicking myself that I thanked them for so little.)

So off I go, big bag and heavy laptop bag and all, back over to the bus terminal.  On the way I use my “$5” to buy $4.85 worth of coffee and bottled water at a Starbuck’s kiosk. (“Can’t give you change, Mr. Customer Sir.  Not for a voucher.”)  And then at the bus terminal I use my $10 to buy about $8.50 worth of Uno’s pizza and a Snapple. (“Can’t give you change, mack.  Not for a voucher.”) 

Well…to cut to the end of this Monday saga; I catch the bus.  And because I’m going to the Peoria airport on a voucher, I have to be the very last stop.  (“Gotta do the regular route first, buddy.  You’ve only got a voucher.”)  Rental car folks kept their word, though… they were there waiting for me to arrive, even after their closing time.  Big points for Avis.  They do “try harder” when it means some nice lady waits around an extra half hour late in the evening just for little ol’ me.  Very nice!

Is that the end of my story? NO!  Tuesday night I leave our event (Had a great time!  Thanks again, Peoria!) and head to the airport.  Check the bag.  Head to the gate.  Board says it’s still on time.  Cool.  Head to the wash room.  And just as I’m washing my hands, I hear the announcement.  “Flight #xyz from arriving from Chicago has been cancelled.  Because of this, flight #abc, the flight that Kevin A. Remde is on, has been cancelled.”

I’m sure many people in the terminal heard the echoed “NOOOoooooooo!” emanating from the Men’s room. 

Unbelievable.  So… back to the ticket counter, where they put me on a later flight on yet-another-but-obviously-more-reliable airline.  Fortunately, and thankfully, I actually SEE them hand my bag from one company to the other… and this new flight to Chicago goes just wonderfully – made better by the fact that one of my coworkers was also on the flight, so we each had someone to talk to.

So where does this leave me?  I’m sitting here writing this, on Wednesday afternoon, at O’Hare gate G7 (oooh.. that may have given away the Airline. <heh>), having had two days prior of cancelled flights.  I’m waiting for a plane to arrive at the gate that will take me to Madison, Wisconsin.  It’s not here yet.  Hmmm… 

And as you can imagine, I’m wondering… will it happen again?  Is it true that “bad things come in 3’s”, or will it be “the third time’s the charm”?  And did [really frustrating] Airlines make money on Monday when they cancelled my flight, because it only cost them $45 for a $30 bus ticket and $15 (really $13.35)

So I’m also wondering: Maybe they lied. <gasp!> Conspiracy!  Could it be?!  Maybe “mechanical problems” sometimes is just code for “in this case we think we can save some big bucks by making you all make other arrangements and we’re willing to risk pissing you off because we know right now you have no other options so just shut up and take this voucher [forced smile]”.

There is something I’m not wondering, however.  In fact, I’m absolutely certain… Unless I get some satisfaction from them in the form of at LEAST a letter of apology, I will NOT be traveling on [Poopy-Pants] Airlines ever again if I can help it.