A surreal day with United

I flew yesterday from San Juan, through Newark to Chicago and had something of a weird day.

San Juan to Newark

Boarding for the flight was fine, although it does have a very tight turnaround time so everything seemed a little rushed and we arrived at departure time just as the last person sat down.

The crew then identified three empty seats on the plane and told the gate agent that there were other staff standby passengers at the gate they wanted to board to fill the seats. The gate agent was having none of this and told the purser that he was closing the door.

This set off a three way argument between the gate agent, the purser and the Captain who had exited the cockpit at the sound of raised voices. The argument went on for 15 minutes in full hearing of the First Class cabin. Threats to ‘write each other up’ were traded and in the end it was decided when the Captain refused to close the door until the staff passengers were boarded.

One upgrade was done and the crew (wearing their Continental name tags), and one of their mothers boarded and we left – 25 minutes late.

This was really an unedifying argument, forcing me to wonder whether the airline is run for the benefit of passengers or crew.

Newark to Chicago

With various time changes on my flights I ended up on the United Express last flight of the day to Chicago. This operates from Terminal A – a location where I spent more time than I care to recall when United used to operate it’s Chicago flights from London, via Newark.

After the efficient shuttle service – the guy checking boarding passes were advising passengers that the facilities in Terminal A were spartan and that he might be better off staying in Terminal C to eat. He also explained that you cannot take Duty Free to Terminal A from Terminal C.

So, boarding was delayed – primarily because they could find the gate agent. He was chatting to the crew on the plane! About 15 mins before departure we boarded and I stowed my two bags. About 10 minutes later a woman boards who is adamant that she must have her bag over her seat. Bear in mind this is a plane with a two row First Class cabin. It’s not a long way to Row 1 from her seat at 2D. At this point she tells me that I have to place my briefcase under my seat. I explain that was not going to happen and that there was plenty of room for her oversized bag. So she just grabs it out the bin and stuffs in to the other side, leaving half of the bag hanging out. Weird! She appeared to be some form of Career Advisor; I pity her clients.

So, a very strange day with United.