I know everyone is tired of hearing about the problems that seem to be a part of our (mine and MD’s) flying life these days, but, once again, here we are: screwed by the airlines. At this precise moment we should be somewhere over the Atlantic about an hour away from landing in London; instead, we’re cooling our heels in the Hilton LAX Hotel, thanks to weather (which can’t be avoided) and total airline employee incompetence and indifference. Here’s what happened. It’s a cautionary tale that shows even if you do everything right, with the airlines you can still get shafted. We now have to add Continental to our growing list of airlines that provide less than stellar service.
We were scheduled to fly out of LAX to Newark on a Continental flight leaving at 9:45 last night. We were to arrive in Newark at about 5:30 this morning, then make our way to the Virgin Atlantic gate and catch an 8:20 AM Virgin flight to London. That was the plan. MD is one of those who, if the airline rules are to be there 3 hours before an international flight, wants to be there 4 hours before. Due to her frenzied pace of getting it all together, her constant exhortations for me to hurry, and an unaccountable and mysterious absence of traffic on the 101 and 405, we got there five hours before departure.
Of course, no one was there, we checked in in about three minutes, carted our two bags to be checked to the TSA station, dropped them off and headed to the gate. We are members of Priority Pass, (a great deal, by the way, for those who travel a lot and don’t want to spend the money on a half-dozen different airline VIP lounges) so we planned to hit the Continental President’s Lounge as soon as we grabbed a bite to eat. After roaming through the terminal, looking at all the less-than-appealing offerings, we settled on a place with that had decent looking chicken wraps, ordered a couple and ate them, sans wrap, of course. We then wandered at a leisurely pace to the President’s Lounge, figuring we had plenty of time to relax and – for me – to catch up on all the comments that have been stacking up while I’ve been getting my own stuff together for this trip. Little did we know the frenzied maelstrom we were going to be tossed into in very short order.
As we checked into the lounge the very nice, but as it later turned out, not entirely competent, woman manning the desk told us that our plane was delayed for at least two hours because of bad weather in – where else?- Texas. She told us that we shouldn’t have to worry, though, because we should make all our connections. We found a place to sit and started to wait it out. I began to calculate the times involved and realized that if -and it would be a big IF at that- but if our plane arrived in Newark only a couple of hours late, we would be hard pushed to get to Virgin and get aboard. If it were a little late – a much more likely scenario, given all our recent experiences – we would miss the Virgin flight.
MD went up to check it all out. The woman – who was not a thinker – had it dawn on her that, Oh, yes, you might not make that flight – and put us on standby for a flight that was leaving an hour earlier than the delayed time of our originally scheduled flight. But, she warned us, there might not be room.
I called the American Express Concierge service – the people we booked our trip with – told the very nice, very competent lady what the situation was. She sprang into action and got us two seats on the Virgin flight out of LAX directly into London. Problem was, the flight left in a little over an hour, we had already checked our bags, and the Virgin terminal was on the totally opposite side of LAX from where we were in the Continental terminal. The AMEX lady said that the Continental lady in the lounge should be able to get our bags transferred for us and that we should get her to do it and head for Virgin. The very nice lady at the desk decompensated with this request and actually started to quiver. She told us we should go to Continental Baggage Service and ask them to get our bags ourselves. We realized we would get nowhere very fast dealing with her, so we took off and headed for the baggage service counter, which meant exiting the secure area.
There was a long line already formed baggage service, so up we went to the Continental ticketing area, where another long line was forming, we were able to attract the attention of someone who looked supervisory. We quickly told him our plight; he told us he couldn’t transfer our bags, but that he would get them for us, and took off. After about five minutes – which seemed an eternity as the clock was ticking and our 8:50 PM flight was now only about 50 minutes away. He finally came back and told us our bags would be on Carousel 6 down in baggage claim. We raced down to Carousel 6 only to find no bags. We waited and waited while bag after bag came out, none of which were ours. When we were down to about 30 minutes before our flight, I made the command decision that we should abandon our bags, hope they would ultimately find us, and head for Virgin.
We ran out to the curb and hailed a taxi and told the driver where we needed to go. He told us it would be $17.50 (for a ride of less than a mile just to the other side of the LAX airport), we said fine, got in and took off. With traffic it took us about 10 minutes to get there, we leaped out, gave the guy a $20, and ran into the terminal only to find the Virgin desk closed. We couldn’t get through security to the gate because we had no boarding passes. We asked a TSA agent who happened to be standing there if there was anyone at Virgin he could find for us. He told us that since this was their last flight, all the agents had left. As we stood there, we heard them make the last boarding call for our flight.
We walked back across the entire LAX complex – which, in case you’ve never been there, is like an enormous horseshoe with the Virgin terminal (#2) on one side and the Continental terminal (#6) on the opposite – to the Continental terminal, went to Carousel 6, and, sure enough, there were our bags, for which we were thankful. A day late and a dollar short, but at least we had our bags.
We called the AMEX people back and got rebooked onto the same Virgin flight that we missed (leaving LAX at 8:50 PM directly into London), but a day later. The agent got us a hotel room at the Hilton LAX Hotel, we caught a shuttle, went there and checked in. We had to cancel the first night in the London hotel and do all the other stuff that has to be done in such situations, then hit the sack.
Today we have to check out in about an hour (at 1 PM, and that’s with a delayed check out) and hang around until the flight tonight. I guess we’ll sit in the hotel lobby until 4 hours before the flight, then head to Virgin and hang out in the Virgin lounge, which is supposed to be great.
I should have plenty of time to catch up on the comments that have been stacking up. I’ll keep everyone posted on our further adventures.
If anyone out there is a Mac aficionado, I need help. I’m unskilled in the use of iPhoto. I found the photo of the Continental jet that is at the top of this post and pulled it into iPhoto. I tried to crop it so that it would be a little smaller and not take so much time to download. Every time I cropped it and hit ‘Done’ it would revert to the original size. I finally just exported it to Desktop in a reduced size, but with the same overall width to height relationship, which is what you see at the top. Not wanting to give up so easily, I then tried cropping it once again, and clicking the buttons across the top to see if I could find anything that looked like the intuitive thing to do with it to save my cropped version. Under the ‘Share’ pull down menu I found ‘Desktop.’ I assume clicking that would send the cropped photo to the desktop, so I clicked. When I checked, I discovered that I had made my desktop into a giant photo of a Continental jet. Talk about adding insult to injury.
So, if anyone can tell me how to a) crop a photo and keep it cropped; and b) how to restore my destop to the regular Mac blue and ditch the jet I would appreciate it.
More airline woes: it's Continental Airlines this time