Eagerly ready to head to DC for Computers in Libraries, I leaped out of bed and quickly got ready and carpooled with another librarian to Kansas City International to catch our 6 am flight to DCâ€¦. Okay that’s a cheesy start.
I’m documenting this travel experience to DC as part of my CILDC blogging, simply to remember the crazy turns — because it could frankly be turned into a novelâ€¦or comedy? And also use it to reflect and learn from.
We got to the airport about 430, I checked in, so I could check a suitcase, passed through security, and starting waiting for our boarding at 5:30. They started preboarding, and then nothing. 6 am approached, and suddenly there was announcement that “there was a an ‘alarm’ on the aircraft that we can’t stop, so standby while we figure it out.” About 20 minutes later, they started rescheduling connecting flights for people, and then sent everyone who had checked bags out of security and back to the ticketing counter to get tickets on a frontier flight to DC at 740.
This is where everything broke down for awhile, and it is the first critcism I have for US Airways. A group of us showed up at the ticketing counter, and all the agents just looked at us stupidly. No one knew what to do or what was going on. No one from our gate communicated with the ticketing agents about the plan, apparently. A couple of agents started trying to help a couple of passengers, but were having issues. One older lady was stressing out, I offered her a hug, and she took it — seemed to help calm her down.
Back at the gate (ranch?), several people with carryon luggage were issued Frontier tickets, and sent over to the Frontier terminal. At some point the rest of the carryon luggage crew was sent to the US Airways ticketing couner as well.
Back at the ticketing counter, I finally had a chance to snag someone who looked like he might know something and explained the situation. There was confusion about how to book our flights on Frontier, how to get our checked luggage, etc. This guy took off, and finally snagged a supervisor, Kren. Once Kren came over to the ticketing counter, she took control of the agents, and started getting things to happen. I was issued a Frontier ticket, and then decided to wait for my friend to get her new ticket too.
That’s when this got frankly hysterical.
Lesson 1: I realized, laughing, smiling, and trying to be cheery regardless of the circumstances, made the whole situation much more bearable, and tolerable, and helped those around at least continue to bear through this all. And I kept that up.
Why did it get hysterical? THE FRONTIER FLIGHT WAS DELAYED 90 minutes due to mechanical issues. Are you kidding me, was the reaction?
AND the US Airways plane had been cleared and was ready to go. Everyone was sent back to the gate. I had to be reissued another US Airways boarding pass, because my old one had been tossed after I got my new ticket on Frontier. That hiccupped, but the amazing Kren helped me out and got it reissued.
I made it back through security (AGAIN) [and got pretty upset because the two drinks I’d bought inside security and hadn’t opened yet, had to be tossed out], got on the plane, and waited while several others trickled on. As others trickled on, I learned that they had been ones who were issued tickets and sent over to Frontier. They were treated EXTREMELY rudely apparently, and told their tickets weren’t valid, and it was US Airways problem and they couldn’t help. These people were sent back to the US Airways gates and finally boarded the plane as well.
Lesson 2: I don’t care who you are, rivals or not, the customer should always be helped, especially in stresful travel situations. Through this whole experience (and there’s still more to tell and actually I’m writing this right now still sitting in KC at this point without a resolution so far), I’ve seen examples of poor, clueless, and superior customer service. And the ones who gave the poor customer service (Frontier) have lost me as a customer, and I’m going to remember the kindness and attentiveness of certain US Airways staff (especially Kren).
Everyone was sitting on the plane, ready to back away from the gate, and the pilot came on and explained what had originally happened (computer issues, basically, it sounded like). We wait a bit longer. Next thing we know the pilot gets back on the radio to say we’re leaking hydraulic fluid from the nose. Oh great. He didn’t immediate deplane us.
10-15 minutes passed. Then they decided to deplane us and sent us back to the ticketing counter to get on the Frontier flight. This time the agents “appeared” more ready for us. However, chaos again suddenly rued the day, as it came out, Frontier wasn’t an option as the US Airways system wasn’t talking to the Frontier system correctly, and tickets weren’t being issued correctly.
NEW ADDITION (9:22): Just remembered: one of the passengers mentioned she needed to get her stroller off the plane, that had been curbside at the plane checked as she boarded, for her 5-year old daughter. No luggage crew was available to help get it out of there, so finally the pilot of the plane and one of the crew went and got it for her. That’s GREAT customer service there — it wasn’t their job, yet I guess they had the credentials to get to the needed area to get this stroller. Thanks to whoever this was who did that. That’s going above and beyond the call of duty.
Meanwhile, half the plane had been held back at the gate, saying the new plan was to try to get another plane from the hangar and do some parts switcheroo from one plane to another. I’m sure I’ll have a full story at the end of this post (everything started getting blurry at this point — so tired).
Kren — saving the day again — explained that they were going to try to get another plane, apologized profusely for the rude Frontier staff, and sent us back to the US Airways gate again.
Lesson 3: At this point, people stopped being strangers. I introduced myself to a couple of women I’d kept getting in lines with, and we laughed together. Laughter and smiling and staying positive was really helping bear this frankly godawful situation at this point.
I made it back to the gate, went through security a THIRD time, and then started waiting. Got thirsty — but the convenience section of the gate area was closed. Great.
Shortly after that, one of the gate agents brought a few sprites and cokes to the gate area. Bless her, whoever she was. She quickly ran out.
Then, the flight attendants for our flight, brought in a couple of carts from a plane or something, that had beverages and snacks. So thankful for that.
At this point, we’re still waiting for a plane to be delivered to the gate. It’s 9:10am. I’ve been at KCI since about 4:30am. Very tired. I’ll update this post when I know more. If I have so far gotten anything mixed up or incorrect, please forgive my tiredness.
UPDATE 10:48AM: On plane, cruising at 37,000 feet. Never been so happy to be on a plane in all my years of traveling. Here’s hoping the rest of this flight is uneventful!