2.0 MediocreNov 7 2021
Don't book with United Airlines. I never got to Cleveland because United Airlines failed to plan for the weather. A 5-Day Forecast of the weather is 90% accurate. There is nothing we can do to CHANGE the weather, but there is plenty we can do to PLAN for it. Yet, when bad weather is approaching, airlines take no preparatory action whatsoever. They KNOW, perhaps a week in advance, pretty much exactly when, where, and how their schedules will be disrupted, yet, instead of doing things like preemptively moving more aircraft, pilots, and other personnel into the places where they will be needed, they allow a handful of flight delays to cascade into hundreds of thousands of missed connections. Then, those who COULD HAVE done something to minimize such ripple effects leave their frontline workers out in the rain--forcing them to LIE to passenger after passenger, claiming that the airline is helpless against the forces of nature. In the end, it may take them DAYS to recover from such an event, but--in their calculus--playing catch-up is less costly than planning ahead. And, what about the passengers? Well, we're not that important to them. They figure that market scarcity and lack of competition is on their side, and that--past injuries and consumer grudges aside--we will be forced back into using their services. The LAST time I found myself in the crosshairs of this cynical approach to doing business, United Airlines was the provider. My father was scheduled to have a surgery which had a 50% survival rating, and I was flying to Wichita to be with him, and with my mother. My flight from Hayden to Denver was fine, but--when I got to Denver--there were no connecting flights to be found. And, why? Well, because, 800 miles away, in Dallas, it was snowing. Now, weeks ahead of my flight, United knew, within 50% accuracy, that this was likely. But FIVE DAYS before my flight, they knew, with 90% certainty that winter weather in Dallas was going to cause hundreds of thousands of passengers to be displaced. And THREE days ahead of my flight, their foreknowledge of the problem was at least 95% certain. So, what did they do to prepare for this? Nothing. Instead, I stood in a customer service line fully twice the length of the whole terminal, and watched, as United marched the dignity and self-respect of dozens of their own employees to their deaths, as they dutifully both denied United's culpability, and vouched for the company's sincerest apologies. And, by the time I got to the front of the line, I was more heartsick for THEM than sorry for myself. So, I accepted the meal vouchers for restaurants which were closed for the night, a travel voucher for a taxi driver who grudgingly accepted me as a passenger, and a lodging voucher for an adequate hotel in a sketchy neighborhood. The next day, they got me on a flight to Wichita JUST in time for my fathers surgery, and I was so overwhelmed by emotion and exhaustion that I actually found myself grateful enough that--whenever I told the tale--I only joked that, in the time it took United to get me from Denver to Wichita, I could have driven there and back, twice, on a Vespa--and gave little voice to the frustration and anger I felt over the fact that United put me, and 100,000 other passengers, through 24 hours of hell, for no reason. They KNEW, well in advance, exactly what was going to happen, and they could easily have taken steps to get us all safely to our destinations, with--at most--a few hours delay. Yet, instead, they did nothing, blamed it on the weather, and allowed their frontline employees to take the fall. THIS time, however, I am not feeling quite so generous. You see, a few days ago, Emily's and my nephew, Seth, died suddenly and unexpectedly. We learned late Wednesday night that there would be a funeral for him this morning, Friday, at 10 AM, in Wadsworth, Ohio. So, we hurriedly got online and booked a flight to Cleveland. Our itinerary took us out of HDN at 3:30 PM, to a connecting flight out of DEN at 5:20 PM. However, due to rain somewhere else, thousands of miles away, our flight out of HDN was delayed by two hours. The cascading effect of this delay was that--at best--United could have gotten us to Cleveland sometime this afternoon, five or six hours AFTER the memorial service. In the meantime, we would have spent the night at the Denver airport, without our luggage, and so would have arrived in Cleveland dirty, tired, and hungry. We would have had to go to the hotel (if we had been able to reschedule the rental car and room) and clean up before then driving to meet family, who could have TOLD US ABOUT the viewing and the services. We WOULD have gotten to spend a few hours with other exhausted family members (all of whose flights were ALSO delayed, but who were lucky enough to be able to reschedule their connections) before returning to the hotel to catch minutes of sleep, before getting up to catch the redeye back from Cleveland to Hayden. But, we decided that those 200 minutes were too expensive, at the $10 apiece they would cost us. So--after, once again, watching all the color drain out of the eyes of the airline's most dedicated personnel, as they scrambled to ATTEMPT to compensate for what their logistics people SHOULD have done DAYS ago--we cancelled all plans to attend the services, and went home. This is not the end of the world for us, but it IS the end of domestic airflight for us. In three weeks, we are flying to New Orleans, to spend a week with Emily's family. And, if EVERYTHING goes perfectly--if all the flights are on time, if the staff is delightful, if the cabin is cool and comfortable--that will still not be enough to make up for this loss. Not even close. Nothing short of a full-throated public admission, by United executives, that the company has been cynical, callous, and negligent in its domestic logistic planning, for decades, will get me on another domestic flight.