My flight back to DC was scheduled to leave LAX at 9:20 on Monday morning. With an hour-long layover in Cleveland and accounting for the time difference, that would put me home at 6:50. It was going to be a long day and I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible, so I made sure to be at the airport by 8:15, nice and early to get my departure arrangements all squared away and have nothing to do but sip some coffee and wait for my flight.
When I got to the terminal, the line for the check-in at my airline was outrageous. Remembering that I’m smarter than those sheep who would wait around on a long line when there is an easier way, I headed over to the electronic check-in. After entering in my flight information and identification, I was told that my check-in would take special assistance and to see a counter clerk immediately. Fuck.
I stopped the first airline employee I saw, who happened to be standing right behind me, why I would need special assistance for a routine electronic check-in. The first words out of her mouth were “Are you on the 282 to Cleveland?” I was, and knew right away that I was in for a doozy if that was the first thing she thought to ask. “That flight has been cancelled. You’ll need to be rebooked”. Cancelled? What? Completely cancelled? How can you just cancel a whole flight?
Infuriated, but refusing to be humbled, I truged past the counters for two competetors’ airlines, through a doorway and into another section of the terminal to join the end of the line. Standing there with a stupid grin on his face and a fistful of baggage tags was an airline employee. I took my place behind a gray haired woman, and the Tag Holder asked me if I needed one. I snatched it out of his hand and demanded to know why the flight was cancelled. His words, and I quote: “Um...I dunno. They really haven’t said anything yet. I think it might be mechanical.”
I said to him that I think it’s very clever how airlines wonder how such a phenomenon as “Air Rage” happens while they are busy treating their customers like this. He says “well, there’s some things we can’t control. It’s not something we could have prevented or fixed.” Snow is something that can neither be prevented nor fixed, and that ain’t falling on LAX in August. The guiltless victim kept talking but I stopped looking at him after he reminded me that it wasn’t his fault or the fault of the airline. I tried to engage Gray Haired Lady in some fellow assraped-by-the-man bonding, but she wasn’t having it.
I stood in line simmering with rage for an hour and a half. Not only did the entire flight have to be rebooked, but the passengers all other flights leaving within the next hour or so were on line to check in. On top of the wait, everyone that had to go through the airport seemed to think that walking either directly in front of me or directly behind me was the only way to bypass the line. There was a large Persian family behind me that the ever-helpful Idiot Tag Holder tried to speak Spanish to when they showed signs of difficulty with the language. Their nine-year-old daughter kept trying to sit on her wheely suitcase, pushing it back into my legs on every failed attempt and then using the shoulder strap of my bag to hoist herself back up (then she and her father kept looking at me with a mix of confusion and anger when I would shake her off). Gray Haired Lady tried to smile at me a few times, but I did not smile back. She had her chance to be friendly to me. The wait did give me ample time to formulate my theory as to why the next time I hear the words “Air” and “Rage” in the same sentence, bitches be getting kicked.
After being bumped back in line a few times to accommodate those who were waiting for flights that were still scheduled, I finally was next. A meek voice whispered, “next please”, which I should have recognized as a kiss of death or a stroke of luck immediately (usually those employees who are confident enough not to take shit from anyone will loudly announce their availability). I stepped up to her counter, and placed my e-ticket printout and ID in front of her. She looks at them, looks confused for a second, and then smiles weakly and asks me what flight I’m on. I growled, “the nine-twenty”. She looks at her watch, realizes that it is now quarter to ten, blinks, and asks, “oh, did you miss your flight?”
“No,” I answered, “you
missed my flight. I was on the flight through Cleveland that got cancelled.” She winced, informed me that she just started her shift and didn’t know how crazy things had gotten and started clackety-clacking away on the keyboard, looking for a new flight for me. She makes a strained face or two, shakes her head a few times, winces again, and then says “um...yeah...uh, do you have to leave today?” I promptly reminded her that it is 9:45 on a Monday morning, and that “If I didn’t have to leave today, do you think I’d be standing here right now?” Typing away again, she offers, “um...well...I could get you to Dulles
.” I told her that that was completely unacceptable, that I found it difficult to believe that between that time and the end of the day there were no other flights between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. She offered me a flight on another airline that would have me stop over in Chicago, which I was willing to take, but she was since it was with a “less reliable” airline, that I would get stuck in Chicago for the night.
This is about when I really started to lose it. “You’re telling me that you cancelled my flight and now you can’t get me to leave on the day that I’m scheduled to leave and can’t get me to the airport that I’ve been booked to travel to? I’ve waited on line for an hour and a half to find out that you cannot fulfill your promises and you probably aren’t even considering compensating me for it, are you?” She looked at me blankly again and muttered something along the lines of “well...no...I didn’t think so...we were just going to...um...what kind of compensation were you looking for?”
My body both locked at the joints and began quivering at the same time, and as I stood there glaring at her, my widening eyes welled up with tears. This seemed to shock the clerk, who looked at me as if I had just peeled my face off, started repeating “ohh, one second, one second. I’ll get you on a flight in one second.” A phone call and help from another attendant later, she was able to book me on a direct flight to National that left at one in the afternoon, arriving at 10:45. I said I’d rather take my chances in Chicago and get there two hours earlier, but she said that the seat she booked me on was in first class.
Now that’s more like it.
I regained my composure, thanked her, took my ticket and the voucher for a free lunch at the airport restaurant that she tossed in to the deal for good measure and was on my way. After a day full of sipping complimentary Chardonnay and watching bad romantic comedies from my plush leather first class seat, I was home.