Thursday, June 10, 2010

Unlike Debbie, I don't want to do Dallas. I want a do-over in Dallas. At Gate 35E. For the DFW to PHL flight at 5:35 pm.

I’ve taken five flights and checked in and out of three hotels in the past two and half weeks. And believe me, if the trips I took had been to exotic and stunningly beautiful places and full of moments of true relaxation and rejuvenation, you wouldn’t be hearing a peep from me.

They were all work related, hectic and mostly made up of some very long days but truth be told, they were also full of some wonderful people who are delightful colleagues and friends.

But this wouldn’t be worth writing about if something didn’t irritate me, right? So here you go.

I’m waiting in Dallas to board my flight to Philadelphia. Wait – let me back up a bit. I had previously flown from Allentown to Philly to Dallas. The 18 minutes in the air from ABE to PHL were the worst flying minutes of my life. The WORST; and I have to admit I’ve flown a fair amount over the past twenty years. The flight was constantly, relentlessly, spectacularly turbulant. It bumped. Jumped. Dropped. And swayed. It was horrible and the weather out the window looked perfect.

It took me about ten seconds to decide NOT to fly back to ABE on my return trip. Instead, I’d get transporation home from the Philly airport. The timing worked, too. Even in a car, I’d be back in Allentown right around the time the Allentown flight was scheduled to depart from Philadelphia. Perfect. Done.

So – back to Dallas. I’m at the gate, waiting to board the flight to Philadelphia, fully aware that I was not going to fly the final bit although I held a boarding pass for that trip in hand. Then the gate attendant announced my favorite thing; that the flight was checked in full and it was unlikely there would be overhead space for the bags that absolutely everyone was wheeling on board. “If you are seated in Zones 4 or 5, please come to the podium and I’ll gate check your bag for you.”

Nice. No fee; they’ll gate check the bag, you pick it up in Philly as you depart, and off you go. No need to visit the baggage claim. I checked my boarding pass, although I had a sinking feeling about what I’d find there: Zone 5. Super. So go ahead – gate check. Perfect. Like a good, obedient, accommodating air passenger, I walked up to the attendant and told her I would gate check my bag. She scanned my Philly boarding pass and – what’s this – a warning screen came up and indicated I had another pass as well – one that got me from PHL to ABE. I explained that my air travel was ending in Philly that evening and couldn’t she please gate check the bag through that far.

No. She couldn’t. Absolutely not. I’m ticketed through to Allentown.

“I know. But I’m not flying into Allentown tonight. I’ll just pick up my bag on the jetway in Philly.”

“No. I can’t gate check you to Philadelphia, ma’am.”

For God’s sake of America. Here I volunteer to gate check a bag and make it easier on everyone managing that overhead space. And by the way, isn’t the point of a gate check – correct me if I’m wrong – that your bag is just checked through to the next stopping point? And that the guys on the ground will haul your bags off the plane and place them on the jetway or at the bottom of the stairs as you depart?

That’s what I thought.

She was adamant. So –I gave up. Told her I’d take my chances storing the roller bag on board.

Boarding time comes. We finally get to Zone 5 – after nearly every single person in the terminal boarded the flight – and she stopped the few of us with roller bags and insisted we gate check them. We’d never find room on board.

Once again, I got the warning screen when she scanned my pass and we had another round of her insisting to me that I was checking through to Allentown and me insisting to her that I was doing nothing of the kind. It ended when I snapped at her – I admit it, I did – and walked away into the plane, wheeling my bag behind me.

The overheads were completely full. Of course they were! I explained the situation to the flight attendants who said they’d get my bag checked to Philly – not to worry. They’d get it done.

A few minutes later, one of the attendants came back to me and sort of incredulously admitted: “She won’t give it to us either. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m so sorry – but we may have to send your bag to ABE.”

At this point, I was tired and too cranky to fight anymore. I thanked the attendant and told her I’d get hold of the bag somehow once I got home. “The gate woman really hates me. But thanks for everything and thanks for trying. Just check it to Allentown. I’ll work it out.”

Then – surprise! – she stopped back again and said they found room. Up front. I could just stop by and pick up my bag on the way out.

Victory! Hurrah! Was that so difficult?

Honestly, if I hadn’t been so aggravated by the gate attendant I would have said something like this to her instead of storming off in a huff, wheeling my bag behind me:

“Hold it, hold it, hold it - just one minute. You’re telling me you can’t gate check a bag to my midway point because of the rules? The rules that say you have to follow my entire itinerary to print out the label? Then explain to me how I was on board a flight on this very airline [US Air, by the way] and witnessed several flight attendants as well as several regular old passengers STANDING while the pilot landed the plane? What about the rules that say you must have you tray table and seat backs UP during takeoff and landing and you must have your seat belt fastened low and tight across your lap?? Then how is it possible that I saw people standing during the landing? Hmmm? What about that?

What’s that? You’re telling me you can’t gate check a bag to Philly because I have a boarding pass to Allentown? Please. Don’t waste my time. Just check the bag, please.”

Don’t believe me? You can read all about the previous standing while landing incident here. You can't make this stuff up.

1 comment:

Valerie Valente said...

Thanks so much for writing this! I love these stories. They make you crazy, you want to scream, you are so aggrevated that you cannot breath......but now you have a great story. Your business travel war story will be told for the next 30 years whenever those of us road warriors sit around and bitch over a glass of wine (tranquilizer) that is no longer covered on our T&E expenses.