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An Ode To Rootbeer December 17, 2006

Posted by gordonwatts in travel.

I’m in the process of returning from Europe today. Had all gone well, I would be writing this post from Seattle. Not Chicago.

It started in Geneva this morning. The fog was amazing.Inside the terminal I could not see the end of the jetway. When we made it to the runway, 2 hours behind schedule, I couldn’t see the wing-tips. It took only 20 seconds after takeoff to get above the fog — and you could see that it blanketed the whole valley. Impressive.

Not so impressive: my time to make the connection in Frankfurt. One hour. That connection was delayed — I made it as close as to see the united flight rolling back from the jetway.

It went downhill from there. Helpful people directed me from one desk and agent to the next. Each one had a line that was at least 30 minutes long, and each one finished the conversation after a few minutes with “oh, I can’t help you, you need to go over to that line over there.” Finally they put me on a line that was more than 2 hours long.

While standing in that line I had the brilliant idea of doing this over the phone! Duh! United directed me to a San Francisco flight — if I could get on that, getting to Seattle would be no problem. I’d even beat my original arrival time. Awesome! Except I watched that plane being pushed back too. Had I only thought of that possibility 30 minutes earlier. I was drenched in sweat at that point.

The united folks on the phone found a trip via Washington DC. That was awesome. $30 bucks later (about $1.50/minute on my US phone) they told me “sorry — we can’t modify the ticket — you have to get someone there to do it. Go to a united desk.” One problem: all the united desks seemed to be closed. Finally, I discovered they were outside security. You have to go through passport control for that. Guess how long that line was? Almost 40 minutes. By the time I got to the united desk all the seats on the DC flight were gone.

I’m going to make it, but not until after 1am. And you know how much I like O’Hare? So much that I’ll be back here tomorrow! With Paula and Julia as well! Nifty!

All in all, United costumer service was nice and polite, but totally ineffectual. Lufthansa’s was great. Their flight was the original late one. And every single conversation started with “if you have to stay the night we will make sure we put you up in a nice hotel. But lets see if there is something we can do for you now.” And they did: they raised my frequent flyer status enough that I was almost guaranteed a spot on the flight that got me to Chicago.

Writing this posting defiantly makes me feel better. But even better than this was getting a huge rootbeer from McDonald’s in the B wing of terminal 1 here in Chicago. I’ve not had that since I left the state. My Dr. Pepper fix will have to wait for another 24 hours before it is satisfied…



1. Andrew Underwood - December 17, 2006

I was on my way back from Italy earlier this year when I had a 9 hour stopover in Frankfurt. About an hour before my flight to Calgary was set to leave the flippy board showed that it had been delayed 10 hours! I was really tired already (I had an early flight from Milan so I went to the airport the night before just planning to sleep there but turns out your not allowed to sleep in that airport), and it was next to impossible to sleep in Frankfurt airport due to those persistent flight announcements.

My flights with Lufthansa were very nice, but now I despise Air Canada for putting me through that.

2. gordonwatts - December 18, 2006

Ouch! That sound awful. 10 hours — that is as if they lost the plane or something! 😦

3. Andrew Underwood - December 18, 2006

It was some union thing where the pilots only just got in and they had to have time allowed for sleeping. I think it could have been preventable.

4. gordonwatts - December 18, 2006

If that was a USA flight then it could also have been an FAA thing. They have pretty strict rules on how long crews can go on duty before they have to take time off to sleep.

I remember boarding a 777 in Chicago for Europe. It was very late due to a snow storm in Chicago. Finally, they said “well, we have clearence to take off. But we have to be on board in 15 minutes and the doors closed or the pilots FAA time will expire and we’ll hvae to get a new crew.” I’ve never seen that large a plane board that fast. 🙂

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