May 28, 2011

Different Names for the Same Thing / A Cautionary Tale

I went to Boston a couple weeks ago. I booked my round-trip flight with United, but the outgoing flight was operated by Continental. The reservation information was very clear about this. The picture by the flight number was Continental's logo. The printout of the reservation said "Operated by Continental."

As it turned out, the return flight was also operated by Continental. The reservation information was not clear about this. It was a fun airport surprise. The airline logo didn't print (so lazy), and the printout said "United flight number ____." Very tiny beneath that, it said "Flight operated by Continental."

I missed it. I went to the terminal that housed United. I waited in line for a very long time to check in. (Strictly speaking, first I waited in line for a long time at the U.S. Airways counter because I was fiddling with my new headphones and not paying close attention to the signs. Then I waited in line a somewhat long time to check in at United.) And there it was, an aggressive little message on the check-in screen telling me my flight was operated by Continental.

I was in the wrong terminal. Fine. I marched up to a couple United employees who were chitchatting. When they got done pretending not to see me, I explained my predicament and asked how to get to Continental.

"Aw yeah. Just go up the escalator and wait there. If there's not a golf cart, it will come. Just wait."

The escalator led to a very small circular platform connected to a hallway that led to the parking garage. Sure enough, there was a golf cart sitting there. No driver. I frantically tried to signal the chatting employees from my little round balcony to let them know that someone had abandoned his or her post. They paid no attention. I gave up. I waited. After a couple minutes, a guy came up the escalator, pointed at me, smiled, and asked, "Continental?" I nodded. He threw my bag in the back. A guy in giant headphones who had followed the driver up the escalator climbed in without a word. We were all set, only the golf cart was facing the wrong way. After an Austin Powers-esque 23 point turn, we were on our way. Through the parking lot. Going the wrong way down a one-way ramp. Squeezing between cement posts intended to keep vehicles out of areas. Running down slow-walking airport employees. And finally, there we were at Continental.

Dear United,
Please make the operator of your flights clearer. Thanks a bunch.
Katie Jane

May 6, 2011

Big Break

Friday evening two weeks ago, a tornado hit the Saint Louis airport. It also tore down two major highways and damaged dozens of houses. Thanks for nothing, Earth Day.

Property damage was bad, though there wasn't a single fatality. But here's the thing about surprise events on Friday evenings: news stations don't have their crack reporters on duty. As I watched live coverage, there was a palpable air of "This is my big break!!" from almost every reporter. 

People who I expect will probably never make it:
-Guy in the studio, gently twirling back and forth on a desk chair, as his co-anchor gravely updated the audience on the airport closure. He gazed into the middle distance, smiling placidly as we heard about how the windows were blown out of the airport and a shuttle had landed on the roof. 
-Woman in a station research room, who began her findings with, "Christina posted on her Facebook page..."
-Fellow out in one of the areas that sustained the most damage, who frantically reported, "As you can see behind me—" here I have to pause to tell you that we could see nothing behind him, as it was nighttime and quite dark—"there has been TERRIBLE damage. Some people are calling it a a uh waarpath, some people are saying it's the worst destruction they've seen ever. I talked to some of the hostages—RESCUE WORKERS—I mean, uhhhhh..."
When he finished expounding upon the scene and the view shifted back to the studio, someone in the studio tried to ask him a question. After a while, his voice boomed out. Unfortunately, he was asking anxiously, "What's happening in my ear!?"

I suppose tragedy brings out the best in some, the craziest in others.