17 September 2007

Maui is the New Bermuda Triangle.

I’m thinking of a word. 8 Letters. Synonymous with “United Airlines.”


I was originally supposed to fly to Baltimore and move my stuff with my Dad and brother to my apartment in NY on Sunday morning. However, my flight was canceled in Maui, so I decided to fly directly to NY. It took a total of 42 hours between the time I arrived at the airport in Maui and the time I arrived at my new front door.

I’m thinking of a 6 letter word to describe my trip here.


The whole mess began when our flight to the mainland from Maui was canceled on Saturday afternoon. Now, I completely understand that travel plans get messed up from time to time. But to begin with, the flight cancellation was due to a United eff-up to begin with. This cancellation launched a domino effect of fuck-ups that resulted in United paying for the lodging of 300 passengers not one, but two nights in a row.

No one really ever gave us a reason for the cancellation, because they couldn;t decide on a good story. But when the pilot finally told us the truth the next day, he said that the initial problem was that someone overbooked our flight’s pilots according to the TSA’s flying time-off requirements and we didn’t have anyone that could legally fly us out of Hawaii to the mainland. Solution? Fly an entire Boeing 777 to a smaller airport on a different island. The airport we flew into:

  1. Was a 10-minute flight away.
  2. Had a total of 5 gates.
  3. Is not enclosed in any way.
  4. Looks like a Pizza Hut parking lot.

When we arrived (after nearly skidding off the runway) we were told to get our bags and go to the airport curb and someone would provide instructions. What happened when we got to the curb was someone in a Tommy Bahama shirt checked our name off a list and then just left us all standing—IN THE RAIN—with no idea what was going on. FOR AN HOUR. Luckily, my newlywed friends, Robbie and Jessica were stranded with me. As we stood huddled in a massive group, I told Robbie that I couldn’t live under this United Airlines dictatorship and that we needed to organize a coup. He replied that although it would be nice to stage an uprising, there was no one there to rise up against. The United people just disappeared. They had no idea what was going on either or how to handle a group of 300 stranded passengers. So they just left us there.

Finally a bus showed up and everyone stormed it. Half of us got on that bus, which was headed to an unknown hotel. A few minutes later another bus showed up and took the other half of the plane to another hotel. After awhile of just sitting in the parking lot, a flustered United agent got on the bus and said that she had meal vouchers for everyone but that:

1. The meal voucher was only good for $10 towards the hotel restaurant’s $40 buffet and

2. Her printer was broken so we would have to sit and wait on the bus for the printer to get fixed.

We all yelled to fuck the vouchers and just get us to the hotel.

Since the hotel buffet was out of the question, Robbie, Jess and I walked to town and got Nachos and beer at a dive restaurant called “Lulu’s.” At Lulu’s you can write whatever you want on a $1 bill and staple it to the restaurant walls/tables/fixtures. We opted for this:

We had been instructed to be at the hotel curb at 5:30am the next morning so that the bus could depart promptly at 6 am. None of us thought that would give us enough time to check in for an 8am departure, but like I said--dictatorship. So to add fuel to the fire, the bus did not show up UNTIL 6am. That got us to the airport, which was completely and totally unequipped to handle us, an hour and 15 minutes before we were scheduled to take off. 300 people, all queuing in a line at once, all who have to rebook connections. Compund that with the Hawaiian work ethic of “let me smoke some doja and move at a glacial pace…and BE AN IDIOT,” and you have a recipe for an hour and forty-five minute flight delay. By the time the plane ended up taking off, all of the connections we had just stood for two hours in line to book were now null and void because when we arrived in Chicago, the airport was done for the day. I’ll also mention that they ran out of food on the plane and we had no opportunities to buy our own food in the morning before leaving. So Robbie and Jessica lived on ‘Nilla wafers they bought the night before. I lived on trail mix that I had packed. Oh, and sleeping pills.

In addition, I will also remark that Robbie, Jessica and I stayed in relatively good spirits throughout the ordeal. There just wans't much you could do about the situation except laugh and make snide comments. There were some people there with real problems stuck in this situation though:

1. An 95-year old wheelchair-bound woman with Alzheimers.
2. A Make-A-Wish foundation recipient.
3. A couple who had just flown to Maui to get married and were returning because he was shipping out to Iraq the next day.

Luckily, people on the mainland (and in a major city) are competent. When we landed in Chicago (about 10:30 pm), the United customer service team had water bottles and snack boxes ready for us when we got off the plane. Then everyone got in a new line, which was much more efficient than anything we had experienced so far, booked connections for the following morning, got assigned to a Chicago hotel to crash at for 5 hours, and a $3 meal voucher. Yes. You read that correctly. THREE DOLLARS.

Do you know what I was NOT able to buy with a $3 voucher? A bottle of fucking water. I used my $3 meal voucher and $1.25 cash to buy a $4.25 bottle of FIJI water for breakfast the next morning.

Things you cannot afford to buy with just your $3 meal voucher at Chicago O’Hare International Airport:

-A bottle of water
-A plain croissant
-A scone (HURTING food item. I wouldn’t even want it if it were free!)
-A Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks
-The Egg McMuffin combo meal from McDonalds
-A fruit “medley”

I arrived at LaGuardia at 10:15am this morning, hydrated from my $4.25 bottle of water. I retrieved one of my bags, which had arrived on the 6am flight. My other piece of luggage—the one with all my clothes in it—is lost.

I opted to splurge on a taxi to the city since I had been traveling already for 40 hours. Since airlifiting wasn’t an option, I wanted the next possible fastest route “home” (an apartment I have only actually seen for 5 minutes).

The taxi line was at least 20 minutes long, so the Town Car guys were soliciting people right and left for flat rate rides to midtown. For $35 dollars I got a 15 minute ride to my door by a Thai curse-word yelling, red-light running, cut-off-any-car-at-all-costs aggressive driver. God, I love New York.


J said...

I have some things to add:
1: I never received 1 food voucher.
2: The people who were complaining to everyone in sight irritated the shit out of me... We were all in the same boat.
3: Finally, its kind of sweet that they lost your suitcase. Now it will be delivered to your door.

Rachel said...

scones really are gross! Although i've had some great scones in england when i was younger...Americanized version on the other hand--suckfest.

Robbie said...

I can't believe they lost your suitcase, they seemed so competent.

Hope life in NYC is good.