Whine and Dime #0022

Whine

Wow. I've seen some service incompetence in the past, but last night's LAX-LHR flight with United will go down as one of the worst. I travel a lot, and so I am fully prepared for delays and the general inconveniences that happen with airports. Between the ineffective security theatre of the TSA, the jet lag, and the MTBF of aeroplane parts, things are going to go wrong from time to time. These are incredibly complex machines, surrounded by complex systems, and littered with tired and grumpy people. And that's just the staff.

But this was different. First of all, departure was delayed by 2 hours because of a warning light while the plane was prepped. Given that it arrived just after midday for a 5:30pm flight, why it took until just after 5:30 to discover this is the first mystery. After a two hour wait in the lounge, we board the plane and we're ready to go. Except the plane doesn't move. A message from the Captain informs us that another warning light means further checks are required. Another two hours goes by with a full plane sitting at the aerobridge. Unlike Monday's LHR-LAX flight which sat at departure for nearly an hour without even an announcement from the crew, the Captain at least made the odd PA to let everyone know that things were not progressing.

About 1.5 hours into the second delay (3.5 hours in total now) we get a message that the crew had gone overtime and would have to be replaced. This takes about an hour to complete so we're now upwards of 5 hours behind schedule. Finally, the new crew arrives, the doors close and the plane begins to move. We taxi for approximately 3 minutes before stopping. The plane returns to the aerobridge. There there is an announcement from one of the cabin crew that the Captain had now gone overtime.

It is impossible to conceive that United "management" did not know this at the point when they realised the cabin crew were going to go overtime TWO HOURS EARLIER. The Captain makes a quick exit and the cabin manager announces that we have to get off the plane (or "deplane" as they like to neologise in the USA).

It's now just before midnight and I'm still in LA along with a 777 plane-load of very unhappy travellers. I've missed my son's birthday party and have to mill around in the departure lounge with no idea what's going on and zero communications from United. Two people on the "customer service" desk attempt to process everyone. They fail. I give up and call corporate travel. They get me a hotel for the night.

I understand that things can go wrong with aeroplanes, and I'd much rather have them go wrong on the ground than in the air. But the combined and coordinated levels of incompetence needed to stuff up a departure to this level is truly staggering.

Bottom line: I won't fly United again.

Shine

And in other news, the greatest minds of our generation have come up with a new chat program that allows you to whisper or SHOUT by changing the size of the font. What a time to be alive. #sarcmark

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