Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thank You for Your Patience

Here's a shock:  A major new study has shown a link between a rise in temperatures and a rise in violence.  I happened to see a blurb about that this morning on the CBS site, but I haven't taken the time to watch the video yet.  Seriously.  Do you need someone to tell you that a rise in temps (temperature)  causes a rise in temps (tempers). Ha. Ha.

Stay with me.... I'm going to tie this all in to my story about flying to Florida this week.

"You still seem to be out of it," Mike said to me Wednesday while we waited for our United Airlines flight from LV to Ft. Myers via Houston.  "What's going on?"  I shook my head because I just wasn't in the mood to talk much.  In addition to being hot and tired, we were traveling, and that stresses me.  Worse, we arrived at the gate to find that our flight was delayed about 20 minutes.  Normally, it irritates me to have to wait, but in this case, we had a very, very short layovr in Houston — 40 minutes — so I was nervous about making the connection.

Fast-forward.... The inbound plane was not too late, and we did leave the gate around 3:30.  I closed my eyes as we started down the runway, bouncing as we gained speed.  We lifted off, and the plane jerked, shuddered and dipped.  Passengers caught their collective breaths.

"Holy crap," the lady in 36C and I (36A) said simultaneously  I dug my nails into Mike's hand as the planed hopped its way upwards.  I could barely breathe.

"Well, that was interesting," my husband said. We were still bouncing around.

"I hate flying," 36C said. "I hate flying."   I was trying not to lose my lunch.

"We have rough air around the airport," Mike said to 36C.  I don't think she cared.  "This was the worst takeoff I've ever had, though."  

"I hate flying," 36C repeated.  

Kudos to the pilot for avoiding a bellyflop on the McCarran runway and for picking up time in the air. We actually landed and were at the gate in Houston only five minutes late.

As we pulled into the gate, flight attendants asked that anyone who was not catching another flight stay seated so that those of us with close connections could get off first.  Gate agents apparently didn't care as they took their time to connect us to the jetway, and by the time they opened the plande doors, everyone was too hot and tired of sitting in the more-than-cramped quarters to allow connecting passengers time to get off first.

Many of us (including 36C) sitting in the last few rows of the plane were all headed to Ft. Myers, and we were happy to see that our departing gate was the exact gate into which we had just pulled.  No running!

"Can't we just stay on this plane?" someone asked the flight attendant.

"No," he replied.  "This plane is going to New Orleans."

"The Ft. Myers flight is delayed two hours," a woman in row 34 said.  She had checked the United website on her phone. Mike looked at me.

"That means we won't get in until 2 am," he said.  

"I don't believe her," I said.  "We'll check with the gate agent."  We got off the plane to find throngs of passengers lining up to board the ontime flight to Ft. Myers.

"Is this flight delayed?" I aked the gate attendant closest to me.

"No," she replied.  "We'll be boarding momentarily." 

She and I apparently have differing definitions of momentarily.

Allow me to go back to the plane situation for a second.  The plane we took from LV to Houston was the same plane we were going to take to Ft. Myers, and the flight numbr wa the same.  Because there was a crew change involved, we had to deplane and reboard.  Ok.  Simple enough. . . except that we are talking about United Airlines.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the gate agent announced, "thank you for your patience.  We have a crew cleaning the cabin, and once the flight crew arrives, we'll be boarding."    The flight status still showed "On Time" departure.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the gate agent announced, "thank you for your patience. We are waiting for the flight crew, and as soon as they arrive, we'll begin boarding. We expect them momentarily."    The flight status showed a 20-minute delay.

"We need to call the rental car agency," I said to Mike.  "They close at 12:30, and we were going to be close if the flight arrived on time."  

"Yep, we better call them then," the man in whose name the reservation was said.  Of course, he mean that I should call them.  I did.  

"Ladies and gentlemen," the gate agent interrupted yet again, "thank you for your patience.  We're still waiting for the flight crew to arrive so  we can begin boarding.  They are in the airport and should arrive momentarily."  The flight status still showed the 20-minute delay.

I'm not going to go through the entire 15-minute frantic conversation I had with Dollar Rent-a-Car agents, but suffice to say that they were quite accommodating and assured me that someone would wait until our flight landed so we could get our car.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the gate agent interrupted yet again, "thank you for your patience.  We're still waiting for the flight crew to arrive so  we can begin boarding.  They are in the airport and should arrive momentarily."  The flight status still showed the 20-minute delay even though we were now 10 minutes past that time.

"The gate agent can't tell me what momentarily means," Mike said to me after approaching the desk about our tardy flight attendants.  I just glared.  Like everyone at Gate E-8, I was hot, thirsty and cranky.  Since it was after 9 PM, all of the concourse cafes and stores were closed, so we had no chance to get water or ice.  United offered us nothing.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the gate agent started her now-ridiculous statement again, "thank you for your patience.  The captain and first officer are here. We're still waiting for the flight crew to arrive so  we can begin boarding.  They are in the airport and should arrive momentarily."  The flight status still showed the 20-minute delay even though we were waaaayyyy past that. 

 The captain got on the loudspeacker at that point and told us that for some unknown reason, someone at United thought that the flight from Las Vegas was very late and informed the pilots and flight attendants that the Houston-Ft. Myers flight was delayed two hours.  When we actually arrived on time, he, the first officer and the flight attendants were having dinner somewhere else in the airport.

"The first officer and I are here now, but we don't know where the flight attendants are. We're trying to locate them now," he said. So much for their arriving momentarily.

The delayed time of the flight continued to inch up, and the gate agent continued to thank us for our patience and tell us that the flight attedants would arrive momentarily. 

 Let me be blunt: She had no idea what momentarily meant.  Passengers grumbled.  In my mind, I was using every single four-letter word I know in Spanish, Italian and English. My blood presure was climbing as my temper was shortening. When the flight attendants sauntered into the gate area an hour past our original flight time, a few passengers clapped.  Most of the rest of us growled. 

"Don't clap for them. They're not even hurrying," one irate person said.

By the time we boarded and backed from the gate, our flight was an hour and thirty minutes late. That, however, was not the end.

"The plane is not moving," Mike said.  The plane had topped about 20 yards from the gate.

"Sh*t. Sh*t Sh*t" The man in 36C (Yes, we were in the same seats.) was not happy.

"Ladies and gentleman, this is Captain United," said our captain whose name I can't remember. "We backed from the gate and a warning light for our nosegear went on.  We're going to have a crew check it out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we know something. It should be 15-20 minutes."  

Those four-letter Spanish, Italian and English words were flying around my head like snowflakes in a blizzard. The man in 36C was a little more vocal than I. Actually, he was a lot more vocal.

"I wonder which hotels are close to Houston International," Mike whispered to me.  We'd both  thought a night in Houston was in our future.  36C pretty much thought the same thing, and if his increased use of certain words was any indication, he was not happy. 

Within five minutes, Captain United was back on to tell us that the crew checking the safety buttons had just forgotten to click off something, and that we were safe to go  "Thank you for your patience," he chipped. "We'll be on our way now."  Some people clapped. 36C mumbled something a little less angry.  I just glared.

(Now, to be honest, I'm glad that the safety features stopped us from flying. Who would want to fly if there were a real problem?  The fact that someone from United forgot to turn off the switch is good and bad.... Good in that it was the only problem, but bad in that it was human error.  Come on, people. Do your job.)

I think the worst parts of all of this, though, were that the airline was less-than-willing to do anything for the passengers and that the flight attendants acted as though we were lucky they arrived.  Once they started in-flight service, they offered us snacks.... for a fee, of course.  It took forever to get drinks.  Once they finished, two attendants stood in the back and talked to an obvious friend who laughed LOUDLY.  Everyone in the last few rows grumbled because the goof's guffawing interrupted reading and sleeping. 

"Who is that?" Mike asked looking toward the galley.

"#3&& if I know," snarled 36C, "but I'd like to (Insert some other four-letter words here.)."

"Don't start anything," I begged.

We finally landed almost 90 minutes late. 

"Thank you for flying United," one of the errant flight attendants said as we disembarked.

"Thank you for your patience," Captain United said.

"I was less-than-patient," I snapped as I walked by.  "This was a bunch of crap."

We ran through the airport to rental car row.  Luckily for us, Dollar's reps were waiting for us even though they were supposed to have closed an hour earlier. We signed the papers are were on our way within 10 minutes.

"Do you want anything to eat?" Mike asked as we drove towards Cape Coral.  We had not eaten since lunch Las Vegas time.

"It's after 2 in the morning," I said.  

"McDonald's drive-through is open," he said.

We ended up with fries and a drink.  I think they helped calm me.  (That's my story & I'm sticking to it.)


  1. Interesting story. I am surprised that the Captain was so forthcoming with the information. Yet, I don't think the snafu was the fault of the crew. Communication definitely needed to improve. I think that you were a bit harsh and hard on the flight attendants. They didn't create the problem; United needs to communicate with the crews a lot better than they did during this episode. I speaking as a former flight attendant and realize that when snafus occur the personnel closest to the passengers often are identified with the problem and receive the brunt of the passengers' frustration.

  2. I understand what you're saying, Kate, and I would usually agree. In this case, though, the flight attendants aggravated the situation by their snotty and snooty attitudes on board (I didn't even touch the tip of that iceberg.). I give kudos to the captain for his truthfulness. While I do understand that the crew thought they were delayed 2 hours and were relaxing, they had an original flight time, so they should have been ready. And, they could have lit a fire under their feet and moved a little faster to get to the gate. It all comes down to customer service (which they didn't have), and they are the face of United.

    BTW.... Four years ago, United offered me a job as a FA.