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Our Domestic Airline Adventure becomes International for us all .. but in different countries and on different continents … thanks United Airlines!!!

In Uncategorized on 7 July, 2010 at 09:20

Our International Adventure – Day 2

The night before we were also told someone from ACIS would call between 9-9:30 am the next morning; this call didn’t come during this time period because the ACIS office does not open until 10am. Rather, I had to call them and leave a message asking about our progress and further instructions. I did not realize at the time but not being at the airport significantly earlier than our 11:30 arrival was a huge mistake and a  waste of time as well. 

After contacting ACIS and speaking with Alexa who had emailed me our new flight plan, we left the hotel around 11am. Arriving at the airport at 11:30 am and immediately proceeding to the United help desk and requesting to speak with the Service Director. We were emailed flight reservations by ACIS through Amy’s Blackberry (see chart below).  Wait – don’t get excited YET!  You should know at this point that flights were so scarce that the group had to be split in two / seemingly three groups in order to be able to make flights due to seating shortages: the Schlandts, Anne, Mollie and Rachel were to fly through Frankfurt to Paris and Ben, Jamie, Savannah and Amy were to fly into and out of Toronto. A United service manager is apparently an empty title that comes with little-to-no training or authority. Ismal [I do apologize for misspelling his name] was spoken to rudely by his subordinates and he allowed it, so clearly there is an issue or two within the hierarchy of the ticketing agent system itself.

  Frankfurt Group Toronto Group
Members Teresa, Anne, Rachel, Mollie and Meredith Amy, Ben, Jamie and Sav
Flight Out of Dulles Lufthansa 419 at 5:45 UA7663V at 3:03 pm
Flight Departs for Paris Lufthansa 4212  to Paris UA8252V at 8:35 pm
Time of landing in Paris 10am Paris time 9:40 am

Not ideal but we’ll take what we can get …

When we arrived at the United desk we were greeted by Franz Jean-Jacques who from that email out of all 9 of us he could only find Jamie’s reservation.  The others with Jamie’s group on a flight to and out of Toronto were kicked out of the system. It was thus another adventure to try to reschedule these flights.  Franz almost finished these and told us what we needed to get from Lufthansa in order for him to find the other five’s reservations in the system.  Then, despite his service manager offering him overtime to finish, he left for his break. 

When Fabian came to take over for Franz thirty or so minutes later, we had to retell this fiasco from the ground up to get him up to speed so he would know how to finish doing what Franz had left.    By now it was almost 2 o’clock and the flight to Toronto left at 3:05 which meant they had to check-in, pass through security and change terminals very soon. The problem with that group doing that was Lufthansa’s computers had malfunctioned and they were doing EVERYTHING on one computer in the back room.  I could not leave for Toronto not knowing if the Frankfurt groups’ tickets were in order, so I told Fabian to exchange MY Toronto ticket and Mollie’s Frankfurt one so she could go on the earlier flight and I on the later thus being able to verify that everything for the 2nd flight was in good order.

Well, the Lord truly works in mysterious ways because what Fabian said he did was keep me on a flight to Toronto albeit an hour later and he moved Mollie from the Lufthansa group to the Toronto group but on that same later flight with me.  [sorry Mollie] He also put Mollie & Amy on a different flight out of Toronto to Paris – what a lame-o listener Fabian was!  So now the Toronto group consisted of Ben, Jamie, Savannah flying at 3:05 and Mollie and Amy who thought they left at 4:40.  Ben’s group was to take an Air Canada flight at 20:35 and Mollie and I were to take a 19:05 Air France flight while the rest of the group was scheduled to leave Dulles for Frankfurt through Lufthansa at 5:45 then jump over to Paris.  Lost yet?  Confused?   Why are Mollie & Amy on a 16:40 with a 19:05 flight out while Ben et al are on an earlier flight to Toronto with a later departure?  Good question.  But we are on our way to Paris, right?  Well, kinda. 

So, let’s recap what Fabian told us:

  Frankfurt Group Toronto Group 1 Toronto Group 2
Members Teresa, Anne, Rachel and Meredith Ben, Jamie & Savannah Amy & Mollie
Flight Out of Dulles 17:45 to Frankfurt 15:05 to Toronto AC 16:40 to Toronto
Flight Departs for Paris Leaves Frankfurt at 20:35 Air Canada to Paris AC880 19:05 Air France to Paris
Time of landing in Paris 9:40 am Paris time 10:35 Paris time 10:45 Paris time

 

The seemingly joint arrival in Paris looks good, right?  This notion, however, is founded upon the premise that the flights out of Toronto to Paris were legit and in order … decidedly bad move on my part trusting this because they were not.  

Amongst the problems with the Toronto flights was this:  despite what Fabian had told them, Mollie and Amy were in fact on the same flight as Ben and the girls.  They missed getting on this flight because they didn’t ‘hurry’ to the gate because they were supposed to be on the 16:40.  When they realized this error, the gate had just slammed shut for the final boarding procedures to begin. Crushed hopes .. however. Amy fell to her knees in desperation.

When Larry Vand.. from Wisconsin (a United employee) exited the gate, he listened to the ever-lengthened tale of woe and scheduled Mollie & Amy first on stand-by for the next flight to Toronto, that 16:40 flight they thought they were on to begin with.  He told them that their Air France flight was already in the system as delayed so more than likely they would make that connection even with customs and check-in at the Air France gate.  Larry was refreshingly helpful. After getting the standby tickets, Amy and Mollie darted yet again to the next waiting area where their Toronto flight would board. Even with forty minutes to spare they refused to leave the front of the non-existent stand-by line. They stood at the front in desperation for what seemed to be the last chance for Paris.

While waiting, Amy received a call from Alexa (ACIS) stating that because there was probably no chance of making the connector flight in Toronto for Paris due to the closeness of the landing and arrival time AND as United had booked them on an Air France flight out of Toronto, ACIS felt that United would therefore put us on a different Air France flight out of Dulles.  So, they wanted us to get out of the stand-by line and to go get back into the customer service line to attempt transferring to a “newly found” direct flight to Paris from Dulles leaving that night at 10pm.   Sigh.

After telling the gate attendants that they would not be going to Toronto and that they could board the other two stand-by passengers, Mollie & Amy hesitantly proceeded to the customer service line [which was very near] to attempt to get the Paris flight.  While there they receive yet another phone call from ACIS; Alexa then said that there was a 20:35 Air Canada to Paris from Toronto and if they missed their flight there would be reservations for this flight for them.    If they did not catch the Air France flight, their directive was to call ACIS and let them know and there would be reservations for them for the next flight out to Paris. So, Amy & Mollie returned to the gate where the Toronto flight was boarding and asked if they could in fact board that plane.  The gate attendant said they had already taken us out of it; Amy asked if that meant they couldn’t put them back in it.  They could, they did, Mollie & Amy boarded and took off for Toronto.

Mollie & Amy were on a plane things appeared to be “looking up.” Once they arrived in Toronto they had 30 minutes to go through customs, check in, go through security, transfer terminals, find the Air France ticket counter and make an attempt for Paris. Arriving at the air port there were three different instructions given to them on how exactly to go through customs and where it was. Thus there was more confusion, in turn, more valuable time wasted. They made it through customs without issues and they were on their way to make the flight to…where were they going again… PARIS. How could anyone forget? Once receiving many different versions of where the Air France INTERNATIONAL check in counter was they proceeded to the terminal 3 on the other side of the entire airport. While on the way they noticed a sign stating the flight was running one full hour behind, you would think things are turning around slightly.

When they arrived at the proper counter area, the line to check in for Paris was a minimum of 250 people. By this point they were so fed up/tired/hungry/bitchy/desperate to make it to Paris, they stealthily skipped into the FRONT of the line to check-in. After many stops and starts they were at a counter ready to check in with a worker that had – wait for it – a smile on her face. This was very welcomed and reassuring until they noticed the “Attendant in Training” badge underneath her name. After she heard a bit of the last 48 hours, sympathy is all she could offer them because the tickets that were issued for them in Washington were STANDBY tickets and all of the 250+ people in line were attempting to get on the very same flight – AND THEY WERE ALL IN FRONT OF US.  In brief, there was no possible way they were getting on that flight. No problem, right?  They have a “backup plan,” so they called ACIS per instructions and asked about the second flight to Paris.

Scott, the lucky man on-call, informed us that the “backup” Paris flight was for tomorrow at 20:35 pm not tonight. What a difference a single word can make.  Amy was beside herself.  He said we could try to transfer onto this flight tonight but it looked over-sold already.  So they ran to the other terminal for Air Canada [from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1] to see. We were in fact too late to board even if there were spots because we arrived with only 55 minutes before the flight took off – you had to have a full hour. [ Insert yet another grunt of disgust here.]  They called Scott again and he informed them to get the Air Canada desk to reissue valid tickets for tomorrow night. At the Air Canada desk they were informed that they needed to go to the United desk because United issued the tickets and it was their problem. He said // she said // he said // she said … Mollie and Amy, feeling very dejected, proceeded to United counter J only to find NO UNITED EMPLOYEES. The desks looked as though sagebrush was about to come rolling by carried by the wind of silence.  

Amy used the information phone to call United Customer Service while Mollie roamed around in search of anyone wearing any small piece of United identification.  While roaming, she ran into Jamie and Savannah with Ben not far behind.  What we did not realize is that the Air Canada flight we ‘missed’ was the EXACT SAME ONE THAT Ben, Sav and Jamie were scheduled for.  Come to find out Ben & Sav too had standy-by tickets; Jamie’s was legit.  Thus Air Canada came and removed Ben and Sav from the flight because they had paying customers for those seats, not transfers from United that they will get paid for some-day.  So, Jamie had to get off to – unaccompanied minor and all.   Thus they were all reunited in lovely Toronto.

After their reunion, as luck would have it,  another United flight was cancelled so some CSAs came to ticket area J to help these passengers.  Mollie saw them and received a cold reception from a male CSA who said she was not ‘priority’ like the passengers from the canceled flights were.  Anne-Marie approached the group and Mollie began telling her our sordid little tale.  She said she couldn’t issue us real tickets because she was not ‘qualified’ to do this … Mollie, Ben & Sav had been yelling at AM and the relocated passengers as well telling them how horribly we had all been treated over the past two days. AM took Mollie & Ben into a back office and began helping them. 

In the meantime …  Amy was on the phone with the customer service agent who had gotten Mollie and Amy transferred to a Torontoà Montreal; Montreal à Paris ride for the next day.  She thought everyone else was already on their flight to Paris, right?  Then Amy became aware of the reunion when she saw them ALL walking down the terminal toward the infamous ‘desk J’…  After the reunion of the group, Mollie found Anne-Marie, praise the Lord. 

Mollie told Anne-Marie the whole, pitiful story and Anne-Marie went to working on getting all the others, now reunited, transferred to this same flight itinerary, the flight from Montreal to Paris suddenly went from having 30 free seats to 0 free seats in an instant.  Apparently [in airline lingo that none of us understand] someone was in Mollie’s profile and when Anne-Marie came out of it, an entire block of seats had been reserved.  There were no more seats on this flight … Anne Marie gave us the name of her Customer Service Manager, Cynthia Posadas, who would help us in the morning.  Anything Anne-Marie did would have to be redone in the morning by her because Anne Marie is not a certified ticket issuer .. yet more airline lingo that we don’t ‘get’ but that kinda makes sense. 

Regardless, we would spend another day of our *^$^&*%@4! ‘vacation’ in another *^$^&*%@4! airport that was not in *^$^&*%@4! France!  [Ben’s words edited by Amy to maintain what’s left of our integrity.] Of course we let ACIS know ALL this in no uncertain terms … certainly they were doing what they could do but to no avail because the airlines were in control.  United had their money and could care less what ACIS said. We, however, were caught in the middle of this play-ground battle.   UGH!

It took another 2 hours to confirm scheduling everyone else for the 20:35 for Paris the next evening [PRAYER] and to get a hotel room, transport and food courtesy of United (via Anne-Marie).  We almost had to go ‘white trash’ on a lady from that cancelled flight who did not understand why we were being given such ‘priority’ by Anne Marie .. she’s really luck she did not belabor that point.  So we hopped a shuttle to the rather posh hotel in Toronto, met a sassy desk manager named David, ate for the first time that day and then crashed … albeit for just a little while.

Stay tuned for Day 3 of this …. Adventure??? =(

Can you believe it isn’t over yet???