I already was miffed with United for the not-so-non-stop Flight 315 from La Guardia to Denver and onto Seattle.
When I checked into my flight yesterday, I learned that Flight 315 was delayed by one hour. That turned into two hours; then, three hours. Worried, I checked with the gate person to make sure that all was okay to fly from the Denver to Seattle leg. The gate agent informed me that, “No, you definitely won’t make that connection.”
The gateperson graciously gave me a seat on Flight 409 from La Guardia to Denver and switched my Seattle leg so I would make the connection with minutes to spare. They even gave me an exit row.
We boarded. I made friends with my seatmates. I even told the guy in Seat 9B that I was getting really lucky with my seat assignments and that “I had good seat karma.” The captain told us to belt up, the flight attendant shut the door and we got ready to fly.
I surreptitiously popped a Xanex. I’m a nervous flier and a little bit of anti-anxiety drug keeps me from running down the length of the plane, shouting at the top of my lungs, “What are you people doing in this tin can flying 700 miles per hour? Don’t you know that this is crazy and unsafe? Surfing the wind in this tube is dangerous!”
The pilot made his announcement that the door was closed and we’d be taking off. Then, there was a pounding in the closed little exit door window. All of us in the exit row looked at eachother nervously. Someone in row 10 said, “Well, you guys are the exit row. You’re supposed to know how to operate that thing.”
Finally, a flight attendant came. There was some gesturing and then, he opened the door. And in popped a nervous little man in a United uniform, who started yelling at me to “Get off the plane! You never should have been given this seat! Get off the plane!”
I looked around. Surely, he couldn’t be talking to … me? Out of all these people, he’s yelling at … me? Why me?
“You’re not Premier! You’re not Premier! You never should have been given this seat. Get off the plane. Now! Go!”
My seatmate said, “I don’t think you need to do that. You have a ticket. You have a boarding pass. I don’t think you have to go.”
I looked at the gate agent and said, “Do I HAVE to give you my seat?”
While I’m still not sure if I had to give up my seat, my preference not to get arrested got the better of me. I got my bags and followed the gate agent up the gangplank. Standing at the top of the gangplank was the man that I was being kicked off the flight for. I looked at him and said, “Are you really kicking me off this flight?” He stood silently, accepting that his Premier status gave him the right to arrive 45 minutes late for a flight and still demand that he get a seat.
Meanwhile, the United gatekeepers tried to put me on a flight to Chicago. Given that Chicago was boxed in with snow and storms, this was either dumb or just an attempt to to placate me long enough for the gate agent to make his escape.
After many more hours in various airports, I finally got home to Seattle. Over the course of the night, passangers watching the original drama with the Premier Member and my seat came up to me and commiserated. Their opinions ranged from, “Sucks for you. That’s what you get when you don’t fly enough.” to “Wow! That was so cool! I’ve never seen them actually pull a plane back for anyone. I wonder what that guy does!” Most passengers agreed that United was one of the worst carriers in the industry.
I have to say that I agree.