I had my first post-SHARES travel experience today on United, and it was not pretty—though it ended well.
In what has become a routine for me of late, I was scheduled to fly from Columbia, SC to Philadelphia via Washington Dulles early this morning. The new “EasyUpdate” flight status alert feature must have a few kinks in it, because I was not notified in advance that the flight was running three-hours behind schedule due to a crew delay (the flight from Dulles had arrived three hours late last night so the outbound this morning was delayed to meet the mandatory crew rest requirement).
The delay came as a surprise to others as well, as the lines were extraordinarily long at the United counters at little Columbia Metropolitan Airport. I waited patiently in line—for nearly an hour—observing the staff scratching their heads trying to figure out how to do rebooking (I observed that each reservation, including mine, necessitated a call to the United help desk to resolve).
Many passengers were facing missed connections in Washington Dulles, but thankfully I had a nice alternative option—a non-stop flight on US Airways to Philadelphia. But “pushing me over” to US Airways would prove to be a challenge to the kind agent and her colleague attempting to help me out. She fretted, “In FastAir [the old Apollo-based flight reservation system] I could have this done in 30 seconds.” Instead, it took 30 minutes, but I think the agent now knows how to rebook passengers on other airlines.
The flight back to Philadelphia was uneventful except for the fact that upon arrival I made a dash for the SEPTA train into Central Philadelphia and arrived on the track at 08:39:15, literally seconds after it had pulled out (I watched it depart while running down the steps to the track). But I am still home earlier than I would have been via Washington Dulles, even if I did miss out on a free lunch in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. And that means I’m back in time for classes today.
Time for class.