Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hit the Road, Chick (Updated Aug. 26)

Poker Chick is exhausted. Four flights in five days for work. The state of air travel these days is so beyond abhorrent, it's not even funny. In general, she's tired of walking through airport security barefoot. She's tired of being talked to by strange people next to her and offered half-eaten sandwiches and half-drunk bloody mary's. Note to travelers: Poker Chick isn't really sleeping. She just doesn't really care to hear more about cousin Flo's wedding or the massive bachelor party you're planning at age 50. Yeah, you're cool. Now leave Poker Chick alone.
NYC - Chicago
8am Monday. At the airport by 6:15 am, only to find out that both the 7am and the 8am flights have been cancelled. The airport is in a state of chaos. Poker Chick has two options: leave at 4pm (waaay too late), or get on the hour-long line to try and get another ticket, or standy on another flight. Poker Chick calls her travel agent three separate times while online and Blackberries 3 different colleagues. Finally, she finds out a better option than five standby flights on United she stands no chance of getting on (100+people waiting): a couple of American flights. She puts a seat on hold and finally makes it to the United counter. They need to "endorse" the ticket to another airline so she doesn't have to pay an additional full fare (yikes!!). Success!! Oh wait, it's not a ticket, just a voucher. She needs to wait on the American line (2+ hours) for an American ticket.

9:30am. Poker chick has been standing on some sort of line for 3 hours. She's hungry, tired, dizzy, and needs to pee. The situation sucks!! Finally she makes it to the American counter. Her travel agent just reserved a seat for ther on the 10:15. No, they say. She's only on standby.

10:00am. Poker Chick checks her voicemail at work. Message at 8:01am from an automated voice ("This is United with an important message. Your flight itinerary has changed due to a [cancellation] ....)

WTF, people?

Chicago - Philadelphia
The flight is delayed for 2 hours. Fortunately, Poker Chick gets a heads'-up this time. The flight actually does take off 2 hours late. 30 minutes past landing time, everyone aboard is wondering why we've been circling Philadelphia for the past 45 minutes at the same altitude.....

Philadelphia - Phoenix
United flight with no information otherwise. Check in at the United counter at 6:45 am, only to get the message that it's a US Air codeshare, and the US Air terminal is outside and a little walk away. Perhaps that information might have been helpful a bit sooner. Also, a special shoutout to the three burly men that spent 10 minutes watching Poker Chick struggle with an overhead bin mid-flight. Not only was her laptop not in that bin after all, but it was one of their suitcases that didn't really fit and gave her such a hard time closing it again. A little help here, a$$holes?!

On a pleasant note, the flight arrived only 6 minutes late. Another pleasant note, this facility is currently ordering dinner for us from the Cheesecake Factory. Mmm.....

Phoenix - New Jersey
Well here's the nail-biting finale. Poker Chick's flight was scheduled to leave for Newark at 4pm Phoenix time. However a glance at the "arrival" screen showed that the plane due to land at her gate at 3:15 was delayed until 5:30. Therefore her flight must be delayed at least 2 hours, even though they weren't saying so. Poker Chick proved to be right when she interrogated a gate agent who was forced to admit the truth. How did this help? Well, it allowed Poker Chick to leave her teeny tiny airport terminal and get a halfway decent dinner in the meantime. (Chili's. Decent burger. But positively gourmet compared to the two-day old sandwiches she left behind). Though she had to go back to security to make her flight, there was no line at that time. How did she know this would happen? A little chit-chat with the security guy on her way out taught her that there were no late night flights, so everyone would have already gone through security by 5pm. (They were right, by the way. She's never gotten through those x-ray things so fast). Finally at the gate, she noticed it was 5:20 and the plane still hadn't arrived. So she opened her computer and updated this here blog (another tip from security guy: wireless signal best at gate 6). She looked around her and saw hundreds of frustrated passengers. They had been waiting for hours only to keep getting more delayed. Finally, the plane arrived and everyone boarded at 6pm. Poker Chick boarded the plane feeling like a champ. Everyone else was hungry and cranky, but not her! Her brilliant travel skills got her a hot meal, inside information, priority baggage handling, and a window seat with no one next to her. She enjoyed a comfortable flight filled with arm space, naps, and toblerone. But then she got brought down to earth. After landing she watched passenger after passenger headed home with relief. It was past 2am. Everyone was exhausted. And this is when Poker Chick learned that her car wasn't showing up.

So, the moral of the story? You could be a superhero for all they care. At the end of the day, the airlines always get the last laugh. There's no winning at this game, people. Don't even try.

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