Reports of my death have been slightly exaggerated…
O.K., here’s a long overdue update for the 3 of you who still read my blog. (Hi Mom!)
The Big Easy Is Not So Easy To Get Out Of
Went to New Orleans for an ABA meeting last week. It was pretty interesting; I’d never been before. Spent virtually all of my time either in the French Quarter or at the airport so you might not want to consider my impressions as necessarily reflective on New Orleans as a whole. My general thoughts though:
- Never seen strippers just hanging out in front of their shops in bikinis and lingerie beckoning passing men to come inside before.
- Surprising number of young teens on Bourbon Street considering it seems to be mostly bars and aforementioned strip clubs.
- Some really good food. We ate at NOLA (Emeril’s place) and at Napolean House (for two) and really enjoyed them.
- Nice folks – my cab driver on the way back to the airport on Saturday was very friendly and had a lot of interesting things to say about the city and how things have gone since Katrina.
On Saturday it was time to leave and I had an 0600 flight. Yes, that’s 6 AM. I checked in via United Airline’s website the night before and upgraded to First Class all the way thru (New Orleans to Denver, Denver to L.A., L.A. to Honolulu). 6AM is early? That’s what I thought when I woke up…at 0615. Ooops. Missed the flight to Denver.
As I scrambled to get dressed and throw the last couple of things in my bag I called United Airlines customer service. I was routed to their call center in India (o.k., maybe it’s in Pakistan). The friendly but-not-terribly-helpful fellow who answered established that I was still at the hotel and suggested that I get on the 6:58AM flight to L.A. instead. That’s 30 minutes from now. And I’m still at the hotel. I get the feeling this fellow hasn’t travelled in the U.S. much. Having established that on a dead sprint I’ll be lucky to even get near the gate before the plane takes off the fellow then proceeds to try and sign me up for a mileage credit card. Gotta go. Kthanksbye.
My very helpful cab driver makes great time and gets me to Louis Armstrong Airport…at 5 minutes after 7AM. Not his fault at all, there simply was no way I was going to make the 0658 anyhow. So I go to the United ticket counter to see what they can do and discover…
…that the 0658 was apparently CANCELLED and they sent all 200 of their passengers to the ticket counter to make other arrangements. The four UAL counter folks were busily trying to help them, but it was a slow process. And it was more than TWO HOURS later that I finally got to the counter myself.
During those two hours I called UAL’s 800 number three more times. On one of those calls a helpful Indian (or Bangladeshi?) woman suggested she could rebook me on another flight that would get me home…on Monday. No, thank you.
Having started to suspect that I was going to have to make other arrangements I called UAL again and asked them to please not cancel my L.A. to HNL flight. I figured I could probably get myself to Los Angeles in time for the 5PM flight to Honolulu. The not-very-helpful Indian (or was he from Kazakhstan?) service fellow said that not cancelling my reservation would be considered a change and that I should cancel and rebook. Excuse me? How is NOT cancelling an existing reservation a change? It’s a DON’T CHANGE. He just kept repeating that it would be considered a change because I missed the New Orleans to Denver leg of the trip. In frustration I finally just hung up on him.
When I finally got to the counter I greeted Mr. Davis who was clearly a bit frazzled. We were both having bad days – he having spent the last two hours dealing with irate refugees from the 0658 flight. I mentioned my plight and asked him if I got to L.A. by 5PM would my reservation still be there? He was skeptical I could get to L.A. on time but assured me that if I showed up for the flight my reservation would be good. Not a change.
I thanked him, walked down the terminal to the American Airlines counter, plopped my Discover card on the counter and bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles on a flight that was boarding in 15 minutes. I got stuck in a middle seat, but at least I got to L.A. in plenty of time for my 5PM flight and, as it turns out, Mr. Davis was good to his word. My seat (including my upgrade to first class) was still waiting for me.
Post-Mortem: I was pretty irritated with United Airlines on Saturday. It certainly was NOT their fault I missed the 0600 flight. I’m the one who overslept and there’s nothing about that which was UAL’s fault. Totally on me. And their airport personnel in New Orleans were o.k. They weren’t great, BUT…considering that they were dealing with a whole planeload of angry passengers I’ll cut them some slack. Their telephone service however, was catastrophically bad.
1. Endless automated attendant. When you call them you get stuck in a routine of “If you’d like to be hung up on without speaking to somebody, press 2” and the only way I was really able to break out of that was either repeatedly saying “Can I speak to somebody?” until the auto-attendant said “Would you like to speak to an agent?” or by going thru the Mileage Plus section which still took WAY too many keypresses to finally get a human.
2. Clearly off-shored support people who knew nothing except what was on their script. Aside from suggesting I try to catch flights that were leaving long before I could even get to the airport or insisting that NOT cancelling an existing reservation was a change they made not a single helpful suggestion the entire time I was on the phone with them. They were passably friendly but not much else. The guy standing behind me in line at the airport was just as helpful but even friendlier. I would have gotten just as far if I had saved the battery on my mobile phone and talked with him the whole time instead.
United’s ground people in Los Angeles were sort of brusque and their in-air people were fine. Next time I go to book a trip though, you can get that United will NOT be high on my list of choices.
Will everybody please relax about H1N1 (“Swine Flu”). It’s not the plague. The global death toll from it numbers in the hundreds. More people have died in plane crashes this year than due to Swine Flu. In Mexico approximately 5% of the people who have contracted it have died. The other 95% will be just fine…as long as they don’t drink the water.
SIX people have died from it in the United States. Six. Almost twice that many people drown in the United States EVERY DAY. Lesson: If you’re going to keep your kids home from school so they won’t catch Swine Flu…send them to swimming lessons.
H1N1 is just a flu folks. Common sense health advice prevails – wash your hands, eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, get enough rest/sleep, don’t smoke, exercise, if you drink alcohol do so in moderation, avoid people who sneeze on/near you. If you get sick, see your doctor and do what they tell you to do.
Yes, I’m going to Kona next week(!) to do the Hawaii Ironman 70.3 triathlon. I’m nervous about it, but lately have gotten in some good quality training so I’m optimistic I’ll survive.
The Word Book
The Outlook book continues to sell well and I have just gotten the Word book back from the editor. I have to make a review pass through it with some corrections and then it heads off to the next stage. With any luck it will be in print by the end of July!
That said I’d better get back to the review!