On the Noxiousness of United Airlines

I speak from much experience when I say: To a first approximation, I loathe all airlines. A more noxious and deadening combination of superciliousness, arbitrariness, synchronized loathing, and naked contempt for customers you would be hard-pressure to find anywhere else than maybe a SoCal DMV.

And yet, I fly. But I recently had an example that nearly made me swear off all flying for good. I was on my way to San Diego from Calgary AB. The United flight took me through Los Angeles, an airport which can only exist to make airports on the FAA third-world warning list look good. We left Calgary late, which meant my connection through LA was going to be tight. We arrived late and, of course, our gate was taken, which happens all too often, which I used to think was a sign airports were busy, and I’ve since decided is just passive-aggressive behavior on the part of ramp attendants and tug operators.

I had to run to make my connecting flight, which was the last one out. I got off the plane and ran across the terminal, through the parking lot, and to the other terminal. There was a massive lineup, so I begged the people at the front of the security line to let me jump the queue, for which I was promptly drive-by scolded by the TSA guy, who shouted from six inches away at the rest of the line, “No jumping the queue!”, before letting me jump the queue. I made it through security, ran to my gate, arriving ten minutes before scheduled departure.

But the gate was closed. So I said to the United guy, “Can I get on?”

“No, the door is closed,” he said, contempt oozing from him.

“But I have a ticket,” I said, “and the plane is still here with the jetway attached.”

He didn’t even really look up. “You don’t have a ticket. We let everyone on.”

“I have a ticket”, I said. And I showed it to him.

He looked at the ticket skeptically, like I was a corner philatelist trying to pass off an 1856 British Guiana magenta with a Superman logo on it. He finally nodded a little, conceding it was real. “Oh, right, we knocked you off this flight when you didn’t show up.” “But you said I didn’t have a ticket,” I said, “and I do, and the plane’s here.”

He almost cheerfully said, “We can’t do it”.

“But the plane is here,” I said. “It’s only now departure time. You guys closed the doors early.”

“You were late. It’s not my fault. You’ll have to stay the night and fly out tomorrow.” He smirked right through it all. You could see he had zero sympathy, that he was happy to have this problem, and was delighted he could torture me a little at 11pm at night before going home for the weekend.

Long story short, I found my own way home: I rented a car. But I was pissed. I was pissed at his attitude. I was pissed that he showed zero interest in helping me. Pissed that he demonstrably took pleasure in my unhappiness. Pissed that he lied about my ticket and wasted my time arguing about it.

Should he have opened the door and let me on? It’s easy for me to say, “Sure”, but I get that sometimes it’s just not done. But it was the last flight out, the plane was still there, the jetway was still attached, and he wouldn’t even try. He wouldn’t even pretend to try. He just didn’t care, not one bit.

I wish I could say, “So now I no longer fly United”, but I can’t say that, because I do fly United. Still. Despite that. But I have even more disgust than usual for these contemptible bastards who are supposed to be there to help, and who are mostly just there to torture people who pay their salary in a job that they hate.

Hat-tip to Mike whose rant here got me in a mood to unburden myself a little.

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