July 21, 2007

Power & Success Meets the Friendly Skies (Part 2)


I finally get to the correct electronic kiosk, and put in all of my pertinent information. That's when I get the news that, "Your bag cannot be checked in at this time." WHAT???!!! So I ask a completely disinterested counter attendent what this message means. This attendant advises me that it's too late, and that I've missed my flight.

I'm completely bewildered at this point. I tell the unsympathetic attendant that this cannot be possible, because I checked in at home hours and hours before the flight. All I needed to do was turn in this one piece of luggage. He reiterates that it is too late to turn in baggage. "The cut-off time for baggage is 45 minutes before the flight. It is now 30 minutes before the flight," and with that he unceremoniously walks away.

So, I turn in vain to yet another check-in agent, and tell her my same sob story. She tries in vain to get me on the flight, but has no authority to override "the system." Then, she looks at her watch and realizes it is time for her break, so she gets the attention of two very serious looking women that have more "flash" on their badges. They turn out to be check-in managers. These managers are stoic as I share the confusion about the lines and the error made on the part of the airline. Halfway through my story one of the women just walks away. (This must be a part of their training to help psychologically torment customers.)

Now, I'm upset and my stomach tied in knots. "I have an important engagement that I cannot miss," I tell the agent. I imagine she must hear this at least 100 times a day, because she almost loses her stone cold face to a slight rolling of the eyes. At this point, I decide to call my travel agent, who tries to provide me with a glimmer of hope and alternate flight options. No can do. She tells me that United has oversold almost all of their flights for this particular day.

POWER LESSON #1: If you ever run into problems with check-in or gate agents, call your travel agent (even if the person you are really calling is your dog). Agents will treat you better knowing that their conduct can impact the opinion of a travel agent.
So with my travel agent on the phone I say to the agent, "My travel agent wants to know if the following flights have long standby lists?" I give her the long list of flights as her fingernails go click, click, click on the keyboard. It turns out that there are over 40 people on the waiting list.

After several minutes (that seem to last hours), the attendant hands me a boarding ticket with handwritten instructions. She tells me that I am on standby for the next three flights. However, if I cannot get on any of those flights then I will definitely be able to fly out the following morning. Fly out the next day??!! I am completely perplexed. How is this acceptable. My blood pressure is skyrocketing, and it takes everything in my power to NOT reach over the counter and strangle her.

Go to Part 3 of the story. Missed Part 1? Catch it here.

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