Sunday, June 22, 2008

Last Plane To Clarkesville (actually Charlottesville)

This week I made another one of my quick trips across the country. Leaving from Los Angeles on Wednesday to see my sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Rotella, in Charlottesville, Virginia for a day of discussion about putting and how to putt less frequently. Call me crazy if you will - but Dr. Bob is the king. He works with the best golfers in the world including major winners like Trevor Immelman (Master), Padriag Herrington (British Open) and Rocco Mediate (almost beat Tiger at this recent US Open) along with others like Ernie Els, Davis Love and Tom Kite. Oh yeah, and schmuck amateur golfers like me.

My trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Washington (Dulles) was pretty uneventful until the landing which was in a thunderstorm. The co-pilot (that's who stereotypically lands) put that United Airlines 757 down pretty hard but no harm no fowl right? Well when we landed the plane was met by NO gated agent and the connecting flight on a commuter turbo prop plane was in an entirely different terminal and 11 passengers from LA had no less than 21 minutes to catch our flight.

We all waited patiently as this boat-like vehicle took us from the domestic United terminal to the commuter terminal only to then run like Orenthal J. Simpson in those old Hertz TV ads (I actually think he might have flown in those ads) to the gate to meet a middle-aged woman at the gate.

We all thought that we were in the clear as the door was open and the small plane was waiting. But NOOOOOOO.... This woman wasn't going to let us make the connection as she "closed out" the flight 30 second earlier and she was unwilling to go out and waive at the pilot as she admitted that there were many empty seats on the plane. The 11 of use pleaded with her to let us on the flight as she acted as if she legitimately didn't speak English while the door closed, the props spun up and the plane left for our connection in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Two very easy fixes could have been had assuming the airline cared to not have the 11 of us miss our flight. First, an agent meeting the LA flight could have called the other gate and held the plan an extra 30 seconds. Secondly, the woman at the gate could have done even a modicum of work to simply waive at the pilot who could have reopened the doors and loaded the plane up. The result was a wait of over four additional hours for which I opted to rent a car and drive myself and one of the other passengers 90 miles to our destination. It saved me about an hour with my golf guru which to me was worth the $350 the rental car cost me.

In a world where United Airlines thinks nothing of charging for a checked bag (not for first class but what are they thinking) - its time they look to actually taking care of their passengers more than their bottom line. Charge more for the tickets if you must but don't screw over your most loyal customers.

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