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Worst Flight Ever – 2001

My friend Kevin had a shit-tastic flight on United recently, and of course he blogged about it. While chatting, I linked him to what I thought was a post about why I too don’t fly United, but instead was about my flight from hell. In that post I touch on the fact that I don’t fly United, and that that day, while shitty, was not the worst flight ever.

August 5, 2001

The date I remember clearly. I’d gone to Cleveland to see Taffy and my father (who was in town from Japan) and my brother. We’d had a great weekend, and Sunday we went to fly home on United. The tickets had been crazy cheap, so why not. Dad dropped us off at the airport around 11 and went to Jacob’s Field to watch that day’s game. Cleveland vs Seattle.

This is why I remember that date. The game started with the Mariners scoring four runs in the second inning, and eight in the third. At this point, my plane should have taken off and I should have been almost home. Instead, I was watching the game at the bar in the airport, waiting for my plane which was ‘delayed’ for reasons unknown. Since my day was clearly not getting better, I went to ask what was the what with the flight.

They didn’t know. I sighed and asked what the ETA was on knowing, or who were we all waiting for. “The mechanics.” Now, weather I understand as being a pill in the OH-IL trip. It just is a shithole, especially in summer, when you get storms over the lake all the ding dong day. That’s par for the course. And so is ‘mechanical problems’ – sometimes it happens. I wait another half hour or so (and see the Indians tack on two runs, only to be matched by the Mariners getting two of their own – if you’re keeping up, it’s 14-2 now).

Dad pages me (yes, it’s 2001 and I have a pager) “Well shit. I’m going home.” I call Taffy’s and remark “I’m still at the fucking airport.”

My father has a bajillion miles. It’s into the multi million miles. He probably has more miles than Matt Mullenweg. He has returned to Taffy’s and says “I will bump you guys up.” Alas, we’re on United, not American, and he says “Let me make a call.”

Ten minutes pass, we’re still loosing the game, and Dad pages me the flight of an American flight that WILL honor my tickets. Yes, I could walk up with my United tickets and get on the 5pm flight to Chicago. I decide to be human and give United a last gasp. I go to the counter and tell the woman that I would like to know the status please. She says she doesn’t know. I know it’s not her fault, but FFS, it’s been about four hours without any status. I hand out my ultimatum. Within 15 minutes we get a status, or I trade in the tickets. Then I come back and tell everyone else how to do it.

That got a response.

The plane was ‘broken’ – The AC was stuck off, so the plane was very hot. And there are no other planes handy. BUT a plane from Boston is due in 30 minutes, we will take that plane.

Everyone cheers. Within 20 minutes, we have a plane! They go to clean the plane and …

Guess what? The plane is broken. They can’t take off because there’s a problem with the landing gear.

I go to American, but the flight is not available for transfer now, and they put me ‘on standby’ for the 8pm. Interestingly, they let me keep my United tickets.

Back to United, they say we’ll all have to come back tomorrow for a flight at eleven AM.

There is a riot. Not only will they not provide us with places to stay (I was just going back to Taffy’s but that isn’t the point!), they won’t give us credit for anything, and the flight isn’t till 24 hours from the original time? The phrase “Oh FUCK no!” was loud.

I don’t do anything this time, the crowd does. Within a half hour, they get our original, no AC, plane. We all get on the plane. There’s no food or beverages, but it’s 90 minutes. We don’t care until the plane dates off and it dawns on me… it’s not that the AC is off, it’s that the heat is stuck on.

In August.

In Ohio.

What the actual fuck?

They can only give us lukewarm ‘tap’ water (which is nasty), and when we finally land, I inquire as to what sort of compensation, credit, or chits one might get for the epic events I just had. Nothing. I look at the man for a moment. Nothing. Not even double miles? Not even a taxi ride home? Or a hotel since god knows anyone with connecting flights was fucked over.

Nope. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

I am tired. It’s 11pm. I want to sleep. Fuck this. We take a taxi home. As we walk in the door, the phone is ringing off the hook. I grab it and my dad shouts “WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN!?!?” My pager had been off, and I’d forgotten to turn it on. I explain about the flight, or try to, when he shouts again, “THE GAME IS TIED!”

The … what?

In the 7th inning, the Indians had scored three runs, making it 14-5. By the 8th it was 14-9. Now we were in the 9th inning, two outs, 14-11, a man on first and the tying run was coming to the plate. I turn on the TV and ESPN has switched to the game. Dad and I put the phones on speaker and we watch the game to see the Indians tie. Then we watch two more innings until the Indians finally manage to win, 15-14 Tribe.

It was close to 2am at this point. I finally shower, eat something or another, and go to sleep. I drag my ass to work the next day, high on the game, and proceed to call United to complain about the day. There’s still nothing they can do. I sigh and tell them I would like to donate my miles. All of my 80k-ish miles. To the military. “I want you to use them to bump service people to first class.” The guy stutters, I end up with a Manager who explains to me how the process works. Done.

I have flown United once since that time, and that was when someone else bought the tickets.

I do not fly United.