Friday, April 6, 2012
Right now we are nestled safely and snugly and warmly and lovely in a wonderful, wonderful room in the Radisson in Brisbane, California. From our window, we can see what I will call the San Francisco Bay because I don't know any better. We ate free pizza and Chinese for lunch; we are eating free pressed paninis for dinner. And we're watching cable TV! All because United Airlines is the single most incompetent airline in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE OF ALL TIME FOREVER AND EVER. But we can laugh about it now because of all the free things they had to give us after torturing us all day.
It all started (as it all does) when we got on our 6AM Cincinnati flight. We woke up at 3:30 so that Dan's brother could tote us and all our stuff to Kentucky's Cincinnati airport, and the fun began immediately! Three check-in machines froze before the check-in maven could find our reservation. Of course, only one international bag is free, which is awesome since we had four. Then, nicely, 58 pounds too heavy will incur a $200 fee unless we unpack and reorganize three of our bags. But don't worry, check-in maven is doing us a favor by exempting Joah's bag. She kindly reminded us not to expect free bags when we fly back home with United. HA! I think I let out a maniacal cackle at that hilarious joke she made.
Then we went through security, which was actually fine because some people don't suck at their jobs. They even let me have baby medicine and lanolin. Thanks, guys! Plus, there was a puppy on our plane, and he was awesome. We hustled down the sad, desolate United hallway and sat waiting for our tiny airplane flight. We were nervous because we boarded outside and that doesn't usually bode well for space, but the plane was old and small and the rows were far enough apart for even Dan's legs to fit, and we were actually really excited about it. HA! And then some cargo thing broke, and they deplaned us. And we got off the plane and were wandering around the tarmac because no one told us where to go, but we powered through and found our way back inside where no one continued to tell us where to go until poor, stressed Mark wondered why no one was telling us where to go and started distributing us among agents for rebooking. Mark I liked, because he seemed to understand the pure misery of the company that had stolen his best working years, leaving him with no choice but to stick it out or start over too late in life. Unfortunately, he did not fully book us for our flight to Incheon, Korea, and told us we'd be re-ticketed once we made it to San Francisco. Lo, but that were not true.
We made it to San Francisco (after uneventful flights to and from Chicago), and we started our hilarious descent into madness, both figurative and literal. We checked with the United agent at the gate to see if he could point us toward re-ticketing. He couldn't figure out why he should help us, his company's customer, so he mumbled something about how we weren't in the international terminal and probably the flight was Asiana and go this way and something about an escalator and please leave my counter. So we tried to find the international terminal, but the sign didn't say Asiana, so instead we went toward "All Other Airlines". Before we knew it, we were (literally) past the point of no return, standing at a little gate that said "once you start moving through this gate, you must continue out," and, though we had not started through the gate, a security agent pushed us out and said, "yeah, you'll have to go through security again, at this point, so go up this escalator and right and left and turn around and please leave my counter."
So, we did the prescribed calisthenics, but we ended up back at the domestic United counter because we still had no re-tickets, nor did we know for sure, even, who was hosting our flight. The United girl tried to send us away to some unidentified place in the international terminal, but we asked if she could please tell us where to go as we'd been wandering aimlessly for a time. She used some manager's code to find out that our flight was indeed Asiana, and she told us to find their counter and they'd get us going. I mean, all this so far while we're trying to make a connection.
On to Asiana, and, at this point we've explained three times that we're supposed to be re-ticketed and we only have an itinerary and we don't know what flight we're on, and everyone acts like we've made this policy up, as if we could have imagined something so completely convoluted. We have an exceedingly unfriendly lady telling us that we missed our flight and their counter is closed and please leave my counter. But then I was mean and told her she needed to call the United agent and we aren't just walking away to nowhere again. So she begrudgingly called (or pretended to call, I bet!) United and then told us to walk down to their counter. HA! It was awesome, but, by then I was eating candy, so I was starting to feel better.
On to United again, and, probably two hours after deplaning and missing our flight and making our pilgrimage around the entirety of the San Francisco airport and struggling to find even a single United employee who cared more about helping us than dispensing us from his counter, and we go to stand in line when a manager shouts that we must be premier members to stand in that line! and that is apparently her only job is to tell people not to stand in the premier line, and we try to explain to her our dilemma and she listens long enough for us to say, "We are United customers, and..." before she cuts us off and showers us with patronizations and ushers us to yet another United counter marked "Additional Services."
And there, at Additional Services, is where our hell was finally extinguished when we met Rosalie Aguilando, the loveliest lady ever I met. She disarmed us immediately by, shockingly, listening to what had happened and caring enough to file through our stack of boarding passes and itinerary sheets. She discovered what had happened and commiserated with us about Asiana being jerks and how hard could it have been for even a single person to listen to what we were trying to say! She even acknowledged our infant who had been traveling on airplanes and napping on laps and being carted around for hours by his irate parents. I loved Rosalie with a fervor usually reserved for only my closest family members. She was magically able to re-book us for tomorrow (at 11AM and with good seats). She proved that Mark's (all the way from 6AM and Cincinnati) re-ticketing intentions weren't asinine and, in fact, were some sort of United policy. Fancy that, United! She went out of her way to get us food vouchers and even toiletry packs. She recommended an airport restaurant, assuring us that their food was great (and it was). She smiled and laughed. In general, she was just so sweet and helpful that she almost made me forget that United was a worthless, worthless company, and, though I do hope with all the hatred I can muster that United goes out of business in the most shameful and permanent way, I want Rosalie to do well and land on her feet and work for Southwest or something. I do kind of worry she'll get in trouble for helping us so thoroughly. HA! That's how much United sucks.
But, after that, we changed our baby's diaper, fed and napped him, and had a good time walking around the San Francisco airport. We met a hilarious Chinese-Filipino woman at the CNBC store who wanted either our baby or our surrogacy, which sounds creepier than the innocent flattery that it was. And then we all took a family nap in the nicest bed that's buoyed our bodies in years. Now we're watching weird Food Network primetime while our baby sleeps through what he thinks is his night, but what will soon be turned upside down by the land of his birth and its upside down time zone.