I basically stopped flying United and the other big domestic airlines three years ago. I go JetBlue whenever possible (90% of the time). They are always on time, have no “equipment” problems, and are generally not shoveling crap at you (although, this may be changing). Their staff is usually reasonable and helpful.
When I need to go to Chicago, I like to fly out of White Plains. It is 12 minutes from my house, and I time it so I arrive at the airport with 30 minutes to spare. The security line usually takes five minutes. I’ve done this about 20 times over the years with no issues.
This week I was booked on a 7:34am flight to ORD on United (JetBlue doesn’t fly there). I arrived at the check in desk (United still hasn’t figured out that kiosks reduce cost and customer wait time) at 7:09am. The desk agent said, “You got here too late so I am moving you to the 8:30 flight.” I explained to her that I could get to the gate in about two minutes, leaving 33 minutes before the flight departs. The regulations say you should be at the gate with 20 minutes to spare. She told me (fabricated) that passengers “must” arrive at the airport 45 minutes before takeoff. I told her I had never heard that but it needn’t matter…give me my 7:34 boarding pass and let me take my chances at the gate. She refused. I asked why and she actually said, “Because I said so.” After arguing for five more minutes (wasting time I could be boarding), I understood Lucy Chaus’ power trip was going to cause me to be late for my 10am meeting in Chicago and there was nothing I could do about it.
It gets better. When I got to the gate with plenty of time to spare, the gate agent told me that I was no longer booked on that flight and that she couldn’t change me back to it, but that the front desk could.
If you have any doubt why the major airlines are hemmoraghing cash, tanking and will once again soon be in need of a taxpayer-financed government bailout to save them from extinction, yes soaring oil costs and inflexible labor unions have something to do with it. But downright hostility to their customers — their only source of revenue — might be a contributing factor.
What did I learn from this experience? 1) Arrive at HPN earlier than 30 minutes before my flight, and 2) Never fly United again.
Nice going Glen Tillton, you’ve got it all figured out.
Want to see how bad United is doing? Check out www.untied.com.