I wrote the first part of this post on the flight from Charlotte to Huntsville when I was on my way to be with my dad for his triple by-pass surgery. It is on my mind again today since I finally completed my complaint letter to the airline about the horrible experience.
"I am wedged between a behemoth man and the outer wall of this tiny airplane. I am in the very last row, so my seat doesn't recline. The man beside me must easily weigh more than 350 pounds and he reeks of body odor. If I lean forward towards the window to escape his over-powering stench, I am greeted with the medicinal menthol smell of the cough drops that the woman in front of me is sucking on between her rattling coughs. Although MY seat doesn't recline, hers does and her head is practically in my lap. I feel like some sort of contortionist as I squeeze toward the wall of the plane to avoid being pressed into the smelly stranger beside me. I am thankful that there is no hope for awkward, forced, conversation since the roar of the engine -- which is just on the other side of a little plastic and aluminum -- makes hearing voices other than the ones in my head impossible. This hell is compounded by the knowledge that this was not supposed to be my flight. MY flight left nearly 4 hours ago, probably before the deodorant stopped working on this Goliath here beside me. I know this for sure, because I watched it go.
This morning, I got to the airport in Dallas more than 2 hours before boarding was scheduled to begin for my flight. I went through security like a responsible adult and made it successfully to my departure gate with more than an hour to spare. Unfortunately, US Airways failed. They failed to leave the gate on time. They failed to take off on time. And they failed to make clear -- no, scratch that -- they failed to give ANY INDICATION that boarding for my connecting flight in Charlotte would end 10 minutes prior to departure. They prostrated about how it was "company policy" in all major cities -- a policy that they had failed to maintain in the city that I had just left. And as I (and the other 5 passengers attempting this obviously impossible connection) stood there arguing with the rather rude gate agent, two flight attendants strolled past us and boarded the flight. Yep, the flight that we have just been told that we "missed." So we watched in a sort of horrified awe as our flight pulled away from the gate without us because we arrived less than 2 minutes late....or 8 minutes before scheduled departure. We were informed with great apathy that we had been booked on the next flight out -- in 3 hours and 50 minutes time.
The scene of all of us red-faced, panting, and sweating as we sprinted toward the gate only to be met by an agent with an inflated ego, high on her very limited power, who seemed to take some sick pleasure in telling us that we were too late and who looked down her nose at us like it was OUR FAULT was ridiculous to the point that it could have been a skit on Saturday Night Live. As she is explaining the US Airways policy about boarding procedures, and the 2 flight attendants stroll past us to board the plane, I asked "What about them? If there is time for them to board, then there is time for us to board. We are pretty fast. We just ran the entire length of this airport with our carry-ons dragging behind us and weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic in about 10 minutes flat. I'm pretty sure that we could already be in our seats if you'd quit arguing." She gave me a look of disdain while my fellow travelers nodded in agreement behind me. I seriously thought for a minute that she was going to deny that the 2 women had been there at all, but instead she looked over her glasses at me and droned out "Ma'am, THOSE are not passengers, they're flight attendants who are essential to the success of this flight." She enunciated every word like she was speaking to a child. I leaned in closer to her -- quite purposefully invading her personal space -- and said with all of the malice that I could muster "YES. And WE are customers. We are essential to the success of your COMPANY." This, of course, had a far less dramatic effect than I had hoped for. She told me to feel free to complain to corporate, that there was a website on my ticket and then she walked away like we weren't even there.
Of course, me being me, I went to the "Special Services" counter to deliver a "Special Message" to US Airways. I was met with even MORE rudeness and apathy. Luckily, my husband (whom I had already apprised of the situation) sent me a text literally moments before I went all postal on the chick behind the counter that said simply "Don't get arrested." My fellow disgruntled passengers were there behind me waiting to rip this woman behind the counter a new one about not being allowed to board the flight 8 minutes prior to its departure even though we were only "late" (a debatable fact) because their airline MADE us "late." Obviously there was no way that we were getting on the flight that had just left and we had already been booked on their next flight to Huntsville, so I had actually moved beyond that and now I was pissed about the rude indifference I was receiving from all of the US Airways staff. Seriously, it was so universal that I was convinced that they had held training classes in how to be the least accommodating and most frustrating.
So now, here I sit in a position that will no doubt have lasting effects on my back, next to a man who smells like soured laundry, and behind a woman who must have TB the way she is hacking. If I make it to Huntsville in time to see my dad before his surgery, I am not certain that it would be wise to do so without going through some sort of decontamination procedure. This SUCKS."
Despite their best efforts, I did finally get to Huntsville, and I did get to see my dad briefly before his surgery. I was right about the back ache induced by the strange position that I was forced into on my flight over -- it STILL hurts. Everyone I talked to while I was in Huntsville was sympathetic about the horrible flight over and assured me that it must mean that the return trip would be awesome. Unfortunately, they were wrong. So very, very, wrong. Part Two of this story is coming soon....right now I need some Motrin.