Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Why I Am Grumpy With United Airlines

I get to Dulles Airport and wait in line for 62 minutes to check in. At the counter, they hand me a card and tell me to check in at the gate. After going through security (moo…moo…moo…(that’s the sound of cattle being herded)) and riding the mobile transporter thing (they were cool about 17 years ago when I was 13…now the airport is too busy for them and they’re just a hassle), I found the gate but no gate agent. I left the gate for long enough to wee and buy a Diet Coke and the gate line was huge. So, after waiting another 21 minutes, I got to the desk and was told that there were twenty people waiting for seats and I would be called later. When I tried to ask a question, she repeated the same thing. When I tried to ask if I was even on the flight, she repeated the same thing. So, I had to wait and wait and wait to even find out if I had a seat on the plane. (In all fairness, the delay was made even longer by the poor weather outside.)

My question is this: Why do I have to wait so long to check in and then be told I have to go wait in a different line in a different building to get a seat assignment? Out of the entire plane, only twenty of us had to do this, so obviously they were able to make seating arrangements for most people.

(To clarify, I know the airlines have nothing to do with the security or the mobile transporter things. But, all the same, the security procedure seems fairly hotchpotch and pretty muddled – you shuffle barefoot (at least the didn’t make me remove my belt this time) while dragging your plastic tub (which you had to get yourself) down a row of tables, pass through a metal detector, and then grab your luggage and plastic tub while hopping madly trying to put on your shoes before getting shoved over by the people pouring in behind you…honestly, would a row of chairs be too much to ask? And, as for the mobile transporter things, I think Dulles is trying to put in underground walkways. I hope so, because they are desperately needed. As I mentioned, once they were pretty cool. When you had to go to the ‘new midfield terminal,’ it was a big deal. Now, though, just about everyone has to go to one of the several midfield terminals and there really aren’t enough transporters to do the job efficiently…but they are trying.)

None of this changes the fact that I had the same problem with United Airlines in December when I flew to England. Flying from England, however, was great. You just walk up to the counter (no hour-long line) and go. It almost makes the airport experience fun. Almost. But at least Heathrow has the nice shopping/waiting area before you go to the gates.


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