United Airlines is the bane of my travel existence. I used to be a Continental kinda guy, a big wig at Cleveland Hopkins Airport – one of the airline’s hubs. I got upgrades, preferential seating all that good stuff that comes with flitting about the sky for a hundred thousand or so miles a year will bring. Sort of like hardship pay for all the time I spent with my butt in those blue upholstered seats.
Then all that changed one fateful day when the friendly skies over Cleveland darkened, ominously grumbling, then erupting with a boom as United Airlines swooped in like a lumbering albatross diving into a squadron of squid indiscriminately splashing and gnashing with its thick hooked bill.
Gone were those heady days of being treated like a human – a big fish in a little pond getting first dibs at the crumbs and perks tossed in my direction. Today I am but just a dead eyed anchovy greased with olive oil and wedged into a tin.
Nowadays – if I have the audacity to accept an upgrade within an itinerary I can expect the rest of my subsequent flights to be fed into a jet engine and incinerated on the tarmac. Eighteen hour flight from Singapore – how about we make your reservation disappear so that you have to beg for a seat at the gate – here ya go – a middle seat within the buoyancy bladder deep in the belly of the plane – hope ya don’t plan on going pee!
Oh you like those frequent flier miles? Tell ya what – we’re gonna take them away from you for no apparent reason other than we arbitrarily changed your ticket status after we accidently deleted your trip for the fifth time this year! You don’t mind spending a couple hours listening to the opening measures of Rhapsody in Blue do ya? Imagine Al Pacino shouting Boohya! right here.
But – every now and then even the most frustrating fiasco has a serendipitous silver lining.
A couple years back United was late in getting us to Newark for a mid-December overseas flight and we missed our connection with Air France (the only major airline with worse customer service on the planet). Because of this we ended up taking a later flight missing the rest of our connectors and spending an unscheduled night in Frankfurt.
As is the policy when the missed flight is the airlines fault they put us up in a hotel and got us booked out the nest morning. As we checked in to the Steigenberger Hotel we asked if there was anything to do that evening. “Well, there is the Christmas Market,” was the reply. Sara and I figured it would be a little folksy kinda thing. But instead we found city block after city block of food and festivities – a whole section of the town was a yuletide wonderland fueled by sausage and chocolate.
So this time when we found ourselves connecting through Frankfurt on our way home from Kazakhstan we built in an extra day so that we could hit the market again.
So thanks United – if you weren’t such a mess we would never have known the joy that is a five sausage sampler plate with sauerkraut and potatoes while a brightly lit carrousel spins in holiday cheer over our shoulders.
Keep up the bad work – as long as it is sprinkled with fortuitous happenstance every now and then I’ll resist taking out a restraining order.