I just spent over 10 hours trapped inside a United plane at the Newark airport.
The list of reasons for the delay was, well, magnificent:
1) Food was not stocked on board
2) Needed de-icing
3) Needed de-icing again
4) Lost fuel from waiting for takeoff
5) Lost our captain
6) No new captain (stuck in traffic)
7) Lost our crew while waiting for new captain
8) Got new crew
9) Still no new captain (still stuck in traffic)
10) Got new captain
11) Lost new crew while waiting for new captain
I wish I could write comedy that well.
During the 10 hours, we got off the plane only once.
Wait, you may say, they have to let you off the plane after so many hours. Well, not really.
They tell you that you can leave. But if you do, they add, you need to remove all your luggage. Translation: If this plane is ready to go, we will abandon you like a three-legged mule.
Result: You don’t dare leave the plane.
Remember that guy United dragged off the plane not too long ago? We were longing to be him.
But United added to the experience by offering no WIFI, no water, and no food. The food part was especially ironic given that the lack of food on the plane was the initial reason for the delay. Turns out, they weren’t going to give it to us anyway. Eventually, I walked to the back of the plane and snuck a glass of water from the flight attendant. I traded away one of my children for it.
But it was all okay, because United kept me informed viatext, telling me in a series of texts that the flight would:
Depart at 3:30 pm (wrong)
Depart at 7:45 pm (wrong)
Depart at 8:45 pm (wrong)
Depart at 9:35 pm (wrong)
Depart at 10:35 pm (wrong)
Depart at 12:55 am (wrong)
Depart at 11:59 pm (wrong) (an odd shift back in time, as well)
Depart at 12:30 am (wrong)
Depart at 12:59 am (wrong)
Depart at 3:49 am (wrong)
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a stunning 0 for 10. A monkey taking an algebra exam could do no worse.
In fact, their updates were so consistently wrong that I started texting back to update THEM, replying to each of their updates with:
Update: We don’t have a pilot.
Update: Crew just left.
Update: You literally have no idea what’s going on.
And after ten hours on board, they finally cancelled the flight at 1:30 am.
But like a good firework show, United saved the best for last. They told us all that we would have to go to the United service desk to reschedule.
And that’s where the bad math kicked in.
Number of employees at service desk: 4
Number of people waiting for service desk: 400
So the same people who got off the plane at 1:30 a.m. had the added joy of standing in line until 5:00 am (And beyond. Line still had 225 people in it when I left at 5:00a.m.).
The good news is that I finally got a new flight by connecting to United on Twitter. The bad news is that the flight is not until Saturday. Which means I need a hotel. So I’m out a few hundred more dollars.
United will tell you it’s all because of the weather. And that’s true.
But it’s sort of like building your next house out of cardboard and blaming the rain when it disintegrates.
I now get the United slogan – “Fly the Friendly Skies.” The skies are friendly. It’s their planes that suck donkey ass.
So next time you have to fly, don’t fly the friendly skies.
Fly the friendly airplane.