Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How United Airlines Made Me Cry

4:00AM in Dulles Airport.
Courtesy of United Airlines.

Last week, I blogged about the heinous travels from Cairo to Orlando that our family endured.  If you missed it, you can catch up by reading it right here.

But what I'm about to write about will make that travel ordeal look like puppy dogs and rainbows.

Last Thursday, we packed up the kids and the luggage, checked out of our timeshare condo, and headed to Orlando International Airport.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:30PM.  We were to fly on UNITED AIRLINES from Orlando to Dulles (Washington, DC) to Pittsburgh.  Our travels were to supposed look like this:

*Fly out of Orlando at 6:30PM; arrive at Dulles at 9:00PM.  Flight out of Dulles at 10:00PM.  Arrive in Pittsburgh at 11:00PM.

*Be picked up at airport by fab hubby's parents, collect luggage, and head to their house.  Crash out for the rest of the night.


Here's what really happened.  Curtesy of the one and only UNITED AIRLINES.

*On the way to the Orlando Airport  check on flight.  Flight has been delayed by one hour.  Realize that we won't be able to make it to our connecting flight in time.  Panic sets in (at least for me; fab hubby is always fabulously relaxed).

*Wait in-line at UNITED AIRLINES check-in for a monstrous amount of time.  Fab hubby asks about our connecting flight, since we're arriving in Dulles at the same time our Pittsburgh flight is leaving.  Counter dude says "Don't worry; they'll send you on the next flight out of Dulles to Pittsburgh.  It leaves after midnight."

*Realize we won't arrive in Pittsburgh until 2:00AM.  I panic.  Fab hubby doesn't.  Just gotta get through the night; says he'll call his parents to update.  We check three bags - my military gear (for my Annual Training at Fort Carson), a large suitcase (mine and the hubby's clothes), and a medium suitcase (the kiddo's clothes).

*Board plane to Dulles.  They take our rolling carry-on suitcase and make it a checked bag, telling us there is no room on the flight for it.  THE ONLY BAG WE CAN ATTACH THE ENORMOUS BRITAX CAR SEAT TO SO THAT IT CAN BE ROLLED THROUGH THE AIRPORT INSTEAD OF CARRIED.  Not awesome.

*Fight from Orlando to Dulles relatively boring.  Toddler (who's become an awesome traveler) sleeps.  Kids watch TV.  Fab hubby snoozes.  I read a trashy magazine.

*Arrive in Dulles at 10:50PM.  See that the Pittsburgh flight has been rescheduled for 11:15PM.  SCORE!  We think we might make it. Fab hubby is dragging the ginormous car seat thru the airport.  Toddler in stroller.  Kids complaining about their heavy back-packs. Of course, I panic when we have to take the slowest shuttle in the world to get to the right terminal.  Run through terminal; ride a train; run through terminal again.

*Arrive at gate at 11:20PM.  BUT the plane is still there!  So excited!

*Realize that the gate isn't actually labeled as having a flight to Pittsburgh.  Fab hubby asks someone in a UNITED AIRLINES uniform if this is the flight to Pittsburgh.  Her answer?  "I'm just trying to get home; you have to check the screens to see if it is."  Fab hubby says "Our boarding passes say this is the right gate."  She says: "I don't care what your ticket says.  You have to check the screen."  Yay for customer service UNITED AIRLINES.

*Hubby has to walk four gates away to find updated gate info.  Flight at gate is going to South Carolina.  UGGG.  Can't find any info on Pittsburgh flight.  Did we miss it?

*Hubby goes to Information Desk to find out about the Pittsburgh flight.  I watch as the UNITED AIRLINES employee who was so incredibly rude to Jason actually BOARDS the plane at the gate we thought was ours.  She obviously knew where the plane was going; why she didn't tell us is beyond me.  Now I'm burning mad.

*Fab hubby gets an update:  UNITED AIRLINES cancelled the Pittsburgh flight.  No other information available.

*Fab hubby gets in the UNITED AIRLINES customer service line.  It's the longest line I've ever seen. Now it's midnight; the baby is sleeping, Abby has crawled into the car seat and fallen asleep; Owen is doing the best he can in the worst, most uncomfortable chairs in the world.

*Two hours later, fab hubby emerges from the line.  He's raging mad.  UNITED AIRLINES cancelled the Pittsburgh flight (and four other flights; hence the uber long line) AND won't rebook us on the next flight.  In fact, they won't even rebook us to Pittsburgh until 48 HOURS later.  Their consolation prize to us?  They offered us a 10% discount at a hotel adjoining the airport.  WOW.  Just, wow.  Everyone around us is swearing -- UNITED AIRLINES is helping no one.

*It's now 2:00AM. I'm exhausted. Jason wants to rent a car and drive to Ohio.  It's only 5 hours away.  Ok.  BUT WAIT.  Our checked luggage!  And our carry-on bag!!  We wake the kids and drag them and the car seat back through the entire airport, including the train and the super slow shuttle, to baggage check.

*Somewhere after the train but before the super slow shuttle, I have a breakdown.  We're dragging all this stuff through the airport.  The kids are so tired and upset.  Not sure we can get our luggage - and I need it for my military training in three days.  Not even sure we can get a rental car at this time of the morning.  And I know that UNITED AIRLINES will refuse to reimburse us for it -- how much will this cost?  I feel the burning behind my eyes.  I look down; rub my face; please no.  But the tears start.  I can't help it.  I sniffle, trying to hold it back.  Pull it together, somehow.

*Because...GUESS WHAT'S NOT AT BAGGAGE CLAIM.  That's right!  Our luggage.  We do find the carry-on.  Line to UNITED AIRLINES baggage claim info is second-longest line I've ever seen.  Fab hubby gets in-line.  Haven't we been through enough??

*I spy a UNITED AIRLINES dude coming out of oversized luggage area.  I plead my case:  I need this luggage for my military training.  This guy is actually helpful.  He goes and finds our luggage for us!  Finally, finally.  Someone who's helpful.  I will forever be grateful to him.

*However, he can't find our large suitcase -- and has no idea where it is.  Fab hubby stays in line to baggage customer service.  UNITED AIRLINES tells him...it was sent to RICHMOND, VIRGINIA.  Why?  They tell him they have no idea.  What do we do?  We actually have to file a lost luggage claim.  Wow. Just wow.

*At 4:30AM we get a rental car.  Drive to Ohio.  It takes us nearly seven hours.  The fab hubby and I were so exhausted, we couldn't drive straight-through.  We had to keep trading off who was driving.  But we made it.

I wish our story had a happy ending.  But it's now six days later and UNITED AIRLINES has not returned our suitcase back to us.  They were supposedly going to fed-ex it to us on Monday, but it never happened.  Fab hubby called them today.  They are 'looking for it.'  It's probably time to file against them for a financial claim.  I'm still raging mad.  They did give me a $200 clothing allowance, since there was no way they were going to get my clothes to me before I left for Colorado.

That's right!  I'm currently in Colorado Springs working at the ER at Ft. Carson for my annual training. And it's awesome.  I've missed the ER!

But dealing with the lost luggage stuff - so not cool.  And every time I think about how UNITED AIRLINES treated us in the airports - I just get mad all over.  Worst experience.  Ever.

Updates to follow later about the suitcase, should it ever materialize.  Or if we have to file a claim against them - I'll let you know all about it.  But in the meantime, I recommend to everyone -- do not fly UNITED AIRLINES.  If you are cost-constructing your government travel, tell whoever is setting it up --- you'll fly any other airline except UNITED AIRLINES.  For instance, US Airways called us every day updating us about our lost luggage and stroller - they even gave us a free stroller to use and toiletries.  Yay US Airways!  All UNITED AIRLINES gave us was a 10% coupon off inflated hotel rack-rates.  Useless.

Even beyond all of this -- I probably could have got over it, if ONLY they were at all polite.  But every UNITED AIRLINES employee (except for the wonderful guy who found our luggage) was rude.

It was the most exhausting experience.

As for my flights from Pittsburgh to Ft. Carson?  Totally awesome, except for a bit of turbulence that nearly made me lose my lunch.  But my bag made it WITH me.  Thanks, American Airlines!

Yes!  It made it to Colorado -- WITH me!
Hoping this may be my last photo as a 1st Lieutenant.
Captain's promotion boards announcements due late August!




    So sad that my once favorite airline has turned into such a customer non-service unfriendly airline.

    Here's keeping my fingers and toes crossed that they find your bag. Otherwise, sock it to 'em!

  2. I am sooo sorry you had to go through this. It makes me ill thinking of how far United has fallen in how little time. Only 15 short years ago they were super amazing, I flew them every weekend for work (although I do still have an awful story or 2 even from that time, but when kids aren't involved it's much easier to laugh than cry). I didn't know much about USAir, we always used to avoid them and now they are our Lufthansa code-share on our homeward trip next week. I'll be thinking of you!

  3. I'm so thankful only Delta flies out of Manila AND we made sure all our domestic flights were Delta. Worth the $150 we paid to cost construct. At the time, we were worried about miles...

  4. So, so sorry for your ordeal. Traveling is bad enough without EVERYTHING going wrong. Glad you're finally where you need to be and with much of your gear. Enjoy your ER time, and good luck with promotions :-).

  5. Horrible, Horrible, HORRIBLE! I am not looking forward to traveling on home leave this summer...

  6. Unlike Jill, I find it totally believable because (drumroll, please) United did the same thing to me! When I was six months pregnant! I think we got the same lady-who-withholds-flight-info, because I got the same answer ("I get off in half an hour so you have to go to someone else for help"), only this time she was in Miami. It turns out I was already re-booked automatically (the system rolled me over to the next flight somehow), so all she would have had to do was print my new tickets for me, but instead I ended up standing in line for two hours at the customer service desk. WHEN I WAS SIX MONTHS PREGNANT. (This was in March.) Then at 2:00 a.m. the customer service agent announces he is no longer helping people, we are responsible for using the phones to re-book our own flights, and oh by the way, they will not find hotels for us, we have to find them ourselves.

    - Heather (currently in Bogota, don't know where we're headed next!)

  7. UNBELIEVABLE!!! What a freaking nightmare. Just saw your update that they found your bag, but wow - sooo late!!!!

    Loved this post, but sorry you experienced it. Was fun to read in retrospect knowing you had found luggage.

  8. So, so sad. I'm so sorry y'all had to go through all of that. And on top of the Cairo - Orlando ordeal. I so, so hope that your return to Cairo is easy.

  9. You need a medal of honor!!! OH. MY. GOODNESS that sounds like an absolute nightmare on so many levels!

  10. Being in United Airline for making a trip is great but there should be appropriate facilities for travellers. airport parking deals