The travels of Mr Chatfield.
June 15th, 2011
Dear Le Curse, Please don’t botch up my 30 hour trip home to Melbourne. ~ Jason.
Dear Jason, I just sprinkled some volcanic ash in your flight path. You’re welcome. ~ Le Curse.
June 9th, 2011
June 8th, 2011
June 8th, 2011
Air travel is not meant to be this chaotic, awkward or utterly frustrating.
When you save up your money and spend it on a plane ticket, you come to expect a few basic things.
1.) You’ll be able to board the plane and ride it to your destination.
2.) You’ll be able to do that at time you specified, when you paid for your ticket.
3.) You’ll actually be treated like a human.
It seems over the last 10 years, air travel has devolved from something special and exciting- a privilege even, to something that causes more stress and angst than driving a semi-trailer through a peak hour traffic jam.
I was due to fly to New York today.
Today - not tomorrow, not next week - today.
I saved up. I paid for my ticket. I even got to the airport early in case there were any problems or delays at the check-in queue/security.
On arriving at O’Hare airport, I was met with what could only be described as a chaotic scrambled herd of human cows each darting their eyes around to figure out what the fuck they were meant to do.
The “streamlining” of domestic air travel has led to more stupidity than ingenuity. One has to now be able to check themselves in, check their own baggage, and ensure everything is tagged and checked correctly.
Qantas have been trailing this in airports in Australia, and it’s a fucking disaster.
Trusting everyday people to do the things that require specialist employees, and expecting that they won’t turn into babbling, angry idiots in the process is the biggest mistake in retail history.
The new Self-check out supermarkets are full of these same people. It’s not helpful, it’s not time-saving, it’s frustrating, and it’s blatantly obvious that you’re cutting corners to save money at the expense of your customers’ time.
The same applies to airlines.
But back to today.
I arrived early, lined up in the steaming cattle queue to check in. Various United attendants were busy yelling different, baffling instructions at the queue simultaneously, ensuring maximum confusion.
What they were trying to do was tell people how to check themselves in. There were dozens of these attendants.
I’m not a retail genius, nor a customer service expert, but I’m pretty sure if you put those very attendants at the check-in counter to do the job they’re making the customers do, the lines at every airport in the country would be cut in half.
After waiting 50 minutes in the queue, I was directed by another attendant to check in my bags at the self-check-in counter.
Upon entering my details, the computer came up with an unknown error. “See attendant”. It said.
The irony nearly killed me.
I approached an attendant who was busy yelling gibberish at the frightened queue.
I told her what the nice computer told me to do and she said I needed to talk to another attendant. (Of course I did.)
I found another attendant and asked her what I was meant to do. She quickly looked at the machine and told me it was a computer error and I’d have to re-book.
“Re-book?” I asked.
“Yeah - go see someone at that desk over there. See that line?” She blared.
“You mean the one that’s about a kilometre long?”
“Yeah - go see them and they’ll re-book you.”
“So wait, because your computer isn’t working, I not only have to forfeit my flight that I paid money for, but I have to book another one.”
“Do I have to pay for it? Or does the credit roll over from the flight I’ve already paid for?”
“Yes sir - it will cost you around $75.”
After another 40 minute wait, I’m then told that I’m on a waiting list about 100 people long for the next dozen or so flights to New York.
I would have to spend the next however many hours walking from gate to gate with 100 other people waiting to see if anyone didn’t show up for their flight. If any seats become available then I can get to New York. This costs $75.
They call out your name if you win this lottery. They call it out at the gate at the last minute, just before the plane takes off, so you’ve got to be standing by, ready to jump on the plane.
I didn’t make it on to the 4:00pm at the other concourse, So I walked to the gate of the next flight with a similarly unamused group of potential lottery-winners.
The next gate was in the original concourse, B, where we all waited around anxiously wondering if this flight would be ours. Gate B12 was shoulder-to-shoulder with these people.
One woman raced to the gate and banged on the glass of the boarding gate window screaming “Please!!” in desperation. The rest looked on listlessly, looking at the screen for where the next flight to New York would be taking off from.
B12 closed, so we all shuffled on to B8 for the 6:00pm flight, waiting for the next hour to see if our names were the lucky ones.
And so, I wait here in O’Hare airport, wondering if I’ll ever leave Illinois.