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Friday, November 4, 2011

US Scareways and the City of Brotherly Meh

We arrived at the airport around 11:15 for our 2:35 flight to Philly. We walked in the front door of LAS and that’s where the problems started. The check in kiosk right inside the door was hard to use because it would not take my card. After a few tries, I moved to another machine and checked my wife and I in and printed out boarding passes. We then headed over to check our bag at the US Airways desk. Some older blond lady, named Michelle, started barking at all of us to use the kiosks to check in. I held up my boarding passes and bag receipt and she dismissed that, saying simply, “Use the kiosk to check in.” I said, “But we…” “USE THE KIOSK TO CHECK IN” This burned my ass. I walked over to the kiosk and started to go through the motions. It was the exact same process I just did.

As Michelle barked at a group of foreign travelers, not well versed in English, repeatedly telling them to “USE THE KIOSK” I became a little incensed. “What if we used the kiosk over there to check in?”

“Well, you need to use this one for your bag.” She sniped.

“What if it printed me a receipt?” I sniped back.

“You need to use this one.” She chirped.


“Because THAT one (pointing towards door) doesn’t print the sticker on THAT side of the counter (pointing at the counter).”

“Why didn’t you say THAT, first?” I said and then asked why the hell do they let people check in over there.

Then, as she walked away I said, “Someone needs to learn some customer service skills.”

After that issue, we moved into the security line, which did not require a backscatter search, simply a metal detector search. Honestly, what’s the point of having backscatter machines at only certain airports? I would figure Vegas would be a bigger hub for travel than Pittsburgh. In any case, we were through. Now, we play the waiting game.

After winning back $20 from an Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade slot machine near our departure gate we were informed that our flight was delayed. This reduced our already slim connection time from 30 minutes.

We boarded and departed around 3:07. This was after we taxied all the way to the other side of the airport. Now, we were in the air with a four and a half hour flight. We didn’t have the option of choosing two seats together. It was three or nothing. I was on the aisle and my wife was in the middle. Originally, there was supposed to be this older lady in the window seat but she claimed she did not want to sit next to the bathroom, which our seats were in front of, and made another guy in her row move. So, my wife was stuck next to a 61 year old grizzled Vietnam Vet retiree from New Jersey who had a case of Tourette’s and a gaping wound on his right arm which shared space with my wife’s left.

Of course then it became a four hour conversation about everything from the country to the construction company he worked for which also employed Franco Harris in the 70s. He said Franco had a very high pitched voice and was pretty worthless because he knew he was going to be making a lot of money in the NFL. He had a lot of opinions and a couple of off color remarks about hookers in Vegas. “Oh, that’s just grandpa.”

The flight crew was a bit cold and unfeeling and while they did pass out two rounds of complimentary drinks, of which Grizzled Vet had four bottles of vodka to go with his two cans of cranberry soda, there were no snacks unless you were willing to pay $5.00 for a bag of peanuts.

Also, while the captain was able to communicate to us the score of Game 7 of the World Series, no one had any information about connecting flights, whether they were on time or not. Apparently, the tower could only get ESPN and not a schedule of other flights.

Around 10:10PM, I walked back to the flight attendants to ask them about the other flights and they repeated that they did not have any information about the anything else other than the fact that we were still 30 minutes out and there would be a representative on the ground waiting to discuss our options. “Uh oh.” My wife and I began to make plans to either wait it out or get a rental car, at the airline’s expense, and drive the five and a half hours to Pittsburgh.

As we sat and wondered, worrying about our chances of making it from our landing gate to our departure gate inside the ever shrinking window of time, we received another update from the World Series game. I became even more angry at the lack of empathy or “owning the fire” as the customer service text books will tell you.

We landed right around 10:39, giving us about five minutes to deplane and race to the gate. By a stroke of luck, our landing gate had changed from a different terminal all together to seven gates over. Things were looking up a little. The flight crew came on and said that the ground was aware of our lateness and that there would be someone there to help. In the meantime, she asked passengers that did not have a connecting flight or a shortened connection time to stay out of the aisle and let the rest of us go. At that point, everyone stood up. So much for the City of Brotherly Love.

I was a bit of a prick to some folks who just meandered out in the aisle, enforcing the idea that I now had three minutes to run seven gates. Eventually, we got off and there was a Pamplona themed running of the passengers to the various gates. As I rounded the corner towards Gate 8, I saw the trailing line of people that gave me some hope. We were going to make it. My wife was nowhere in sight. Apparently, she stayed behind to talk with the representative at the other gate. I would do what I could to hold up the flight, but she better get her butt moving.

I got to the desk and noticed some of the people from our previous flight standing in line. They didn’t look happy. I looked out the window and saw no plane sitting at the gate. My heart sank. “Did we miss it?” I asked. One guy who was there with his family said, “It isn’t here yet.”

Unbelievable. I worried. I became unruly towards other passengers in my way. I RAN! I never run anymore. All for nothing because the flight scheduled for an 10:45 departure was going to be another two hours late. One of the other passengers said, “Oh, you didn’t know. It’s kind of an understood thing. The US Airways flight from Philly to Pittsburgh is never on time.”

At this point, my wife came walking up the hall, looking distraught that I was kind of just standing there. I told her the news and she was visibly upset. And to make matters worse, all of the nearby shops had closed down for the night. We hadn’t eaten in almost 12 hours and here we were stuck in Philly for another two.

It was the lesser of two evils I guess. Still, had the damn flight crew been more concerned about their passengers who were travelling, instead of those who were baseball fans then maybe we could have been more cordial to the other folks lollygagging in the aisle. They stood there, yanking on their stuck luggage that had become lodged in the overhead bins because the flight attendants slam them in there in order to get the lid closed. Not to mention half of the people who had luggage stowed in the overheads were miles away from their seats because you sort of just look for open space because there is never room for three pieces of luggage up top.

In all the airports I’ve been in over the years, Philly ranks at the very bottom. It’s dilapidated, crumbling, dirty and the staff just don’t really care. I attempted to plug in my wife’s laptop and let some friends know we were alive but stuck. After locating an open outlet, finding it with no power and trying several others at a different gate, I was able to finally charge up my battery that had been depleted from usage on the plane.

On the flights to Atlanta and Vegas, the Delta gates had various stands in between the rows of seats with outlets available. Once again, Delta gets it. Most people travel with electronic devices and need to plug in once in awhile during layovers.

I will never fly US Airways again, never. Their planes reminded me of old emergency rooms or the elementary school nurse’s office. The old and worn material covering the seats looked uncomfortable and somewhat icky. The flight crew was drab and zombielike in there demeanor. The amount of “warm and fuzzy” customer service experiences have diminished in the 20 years since my first flight on a plane, which was with US Air back in the early 90s.

Everyone raves about Southwest but I’d rather go Delta and I’d rather have a nonstop flight and never have to go through Philly International Airport ever again.

Next up, I'll give you my assessment of Las Vegas itself and why I'll never order room service from the Mirage again.

1 comment:

Janelle said...

I found out about their lovely nickname after a delayed flight and bad trip when I was in high school. I don't remember much of it because I was a teenager and did homework on the flight and left the worrying to my mom, but she was really, really not happy.

I flew in February with AirTran and didn't have a problem. They weren't terribly fancy, but aside from flight attendants who looked understandably bored, we really didn't have any problems. Their gates in Atlanta are really up on things and have actual charging stations to use, which was great for weary college kids heading to Mexico.

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