Thursday, December 21, 2006

What I Did(n't) Do During Winter Break

I hate Denver. It's all Denver's fault.

Early Wednesday morning found Stacy, the girls, and I up and ready to drive to Baltimore for our trip to Utah for Christmas. Being the experienced traveler that she is, Stacy decided to call United Airlines to confirm our flight reservations before we left the house. That's when we found out that our flights were cancelled. Yay.

Turns out that Denver was expecting 10 to 20" of snow that day. Also turns out that our flight routed through Denver. Bad combination. After talking to a United rep from India for about half an hour, Stacy was no longer in shape to deal with the situation. I took over and dealt with the rude agent for another 30 minutes. We got nowhere. Denver was closed and there were no other flights they could put us on.

We happened to book our flight through Travelocity, roaming gnome and traveling guarentee and all that. I gave them a call and got routed, guess where? That's right, India. The gentleman on the other line was a little nicer, but no more helpful. After an hour of getting even further nowhere, he transferred me to United.

Woo hoo.

This time I got someone that could actually use a computer and look up other flights. There were no flights available that day, but he could split us up and still get us to Utah the next day. Stacy and the girls were on the same flight out of Baltimore and through Denver, hopefully with clear runways by then, and I was out of Dulles with a layover in San Francisco of all places.

Since driving to Baltimore sucks and she would be able to sleep in a couple of hours, Stacy decided to book a room in an airport hotel. We let Vicki go to one more day of school and then headed up to the BWI Red Roof Inn. As we drove, I called Jon to see if he could pick me up the next morning for the drive into Dulles, that way we wouldn't have to pay long term parking fees.

Naturally, the change in traveling plans had to be shared with all of our family, so we spent the drive up making phone calls. Midway through one of the calls, Stacy got a message from United. Her flight had been cancelled again. Denver was getting pounded by a once-in-five-years storm and there was no flying in or out of the area.

At this point, Stacy was just about falling apart and I was quietly seething at United's ineptitude at rescheduling and rerouting flights. We stopped at a Ruby Tuesdays near the hotel for dinner and some decidedly unrelaxing hold time with Travelocity. The roaming gnome's rep couldn't get a hold of anyone at United, she kept getting disconnected after holding. Her solution? Telling me that I would have to call United instead.

We cancelled Stacy's hotel reservation and headed back down to VA. Stacy couldn't get anyone at United to answer. It seems they were having issues routing calls to agents all night.

How convenient.

We decided to stop by Washington/Dulles Airport to clear up the issue with a real person at a desk. The six other people in front of me in line were there for the same reason. As I stood there, the four United reps helping people finished up with their current customers and then two of them inexplicably left.

I don't care what your personal issues are. When you work in a customer service oriented industry, you damn well make sure your customers are taken care of before loafing off somewhere. Queue time was ridiculous, but after about an hour, I got up to the counter. The lady behind it was obviously stressed and bedraggled. I was apparently her last customer and the rest of the people in line were out of luck unless someone in baggage claim was willing to help.

The lady was mostly accomidating, but couldn't really help. This time there were literally no flights out until after Christmas. Naturally, this screwed up our holiday plans royally. There was no way I could get to go since I have to work again on the 27th. I decided to book Stacy out on the 28th since her return date was still January 4th. At least she'd have time with her family and friends. This time she and the girls would be flying out of Dulles, but still going through Denver. Hopefully the weather would be clear by then.

Stacy did some extra phonework this morning and found flights out on the 26th instead, but there was still nothing before Christmas. So now Stacy and the girls will be flying out of Dulles on the 26th, stopping over in San Francisco, and then flying on to Utah. It'll be a long flight for Stacy with all three girls and no one to help her, but I am hoping that the time in Utah will be theraputic.

Fun Little Side Note Dept.
Stacy proactively shipped all of our Christmas gifts to her father so we could have a nice Christmas morning in Utah. The only decoration we put up here was an artificial tree and a wreath on the front door. We are normally in the running for best decorated house, so it was hard for us. Now, decorationless and presentless, we faced a Christmas morning here in VA. Stacy and I found a babysitter today and spent another couple hundred dollars making another Christmas here at home. The kids will have two Christmas mornings now, lucky them.