Lesson Learned: Travel Delay Humbuggery

My mother – and the rest of the people on her flight – were treated so badly by United that you could probably justify a lawsuit. Don’t tell people who’ve been waiting 6-8 hours for a delayed flight and are lined up and ready to board as instructed that they’ve been cancelled for the night and instead, another flight’s passengers will be boarding. And during those 6-8 hours, they were told not to leave the lounge or risk losing their seat if their name was called and they weren’t there…which means no one ate and bathroom trips were few and far between. There’s a lot more to the story, including an unjust handcuffing/arrest, a nasty non-supervisor refusing to get a higher-up, and just being told they were on their own for the night, better luck tomorrow. This was not due to weather. Apparently some corporate jet idiot blew a tire on the Aspen runway, and no flights were able to get in or out for all that time. Everyone ended up running for the last bus to Aspen that night, which got them in at 2am and cost $80. Oh, wait, United did offer a $20 discount voucher towards Greyhound, which doesn’t even go to Aspen. 

My delay was purely weather-related, and my only complaint about United (aside from the rant last week about losing my original itinerary on their whim) was that they must be used to this for flights to Aspen and should have been better prepared with a mass solution or announcement instead of making 100+ people line up for individual solutions. So I hit the customer service line AND called the customer service line AND consulted Bridezilla, who was very used to how conditions affect transportation (she’s a Rocky Mountain Rescue volunteer). The phone agent – yes, this involved another screaming match with the automated voice system, this time in public – pretty much read from the script about how I could try stand-by tomorrow. I said “but those flights are fully booked, and I’m one of 100-120 people in this position”. He said yeah, I was right, we were realistically looking at the 24th. So hotel and no family, in Denver, for 2 days out of 4 with no guarantees? Screw that, I took the number for the Refund line (which I haven’t called yet, but I suspect will be the worst automated system EVER, if the number even works!) and headed for ground transportation. The last bus was leaving in 10 minutes and I got the next-to-last seat: $80. I got in at 3am and got a bit ripped off for the cab ride from the airport but didn’t care one tiny bit – Bridezilla was snowed in, it was my only option. Everyone on the bus was very good-natured and just grateful that there actually was a bus running. We were probably the last one that got through before they shut down the highway between Vail and Aspen due to blizzard conditions. My luggage arrived about 12 hours later by truck, and I’m awfully glad I hauled ass through the airport and got that last bus, driven by a man who just needed a red coat and a fuller beard to be a dead ringer for the jolly old elf himself.

At the moment, my wallet is $97 lighter than it should be, but I’m not complaining. Okay, so it’s eating at me that United’s screw-up with my itinerary caused me to lose $300 worth of business on Monday, but mostly I’m just so glad to be here with everyone. I’ll contact Refunds on Friday and get that ball rolling, and then I’ll have a ball writing a scathingly brilliant customer services letter because I doubt they’ll want to give me $80 back.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to avoid eating lunch in the same restaurants as Paris Hilton, Mariah Carey, Jack Nicholson, and the dozens of other celebs that are currently hitting the local slopes. Why do they have to eat at normal places, ugh.

4 Responses

  1. I hate travelling during the holidays. 😦 Hang in there.

    Celebs just want to be normal, don’t you see? 😛 They’re just millions and millions of dollars richer than the normal plebs that worship them

  2. United may not give you a refund for the $80 but I will bet that they will give you voucher for a future flight of equal value that’s transferrable. In the past, United has been pretty fair in compensating me for their wrongs. (For example, they one “lost” my luggage in favor of golf bags on my puddle hopper flight to Myrtle Beach. I had to attend a business meeting in Jeans, tennies and a sweatshirt as a result. After numerous screaming matches, they upgraded my return flight to first class.) You may want to gripe about your lost business too to up the ante.
    Anyhow, Merry Christmas, dear. Enjoy your time with the family!

  3. How awful, I would have had a breakdown. Kat is right, they’ll probably just offer vouchers. We only used half of two round trip tickets last year, we bought my parents car and drove home instead. They gave us vouchers that we didn’t use in time…I hope you had a good christmas in spite of the travel mishaps.

  4. I’d love a R/T flight voucher for the Aspen-Denver route instead of the $80 refund!! I’m going back there in September for my sister’s wedding and also hope to visit regularly (but NOT in winter) now that altitude sickness doesn’t completely wipe me out.

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