Sunday, May 18, 2008
Why Business Travel sucks
Well - you have a bad day, what do you do? You 'go on the internets and complain' Today I was flying out of Dulles International to Europe - which I do frequently. Always leaving on a Saturday, which the last half dozen times or so hasn't been so bad. Living only about 15 miles from the airport, you don't expect to spend a ton of time getting through the airport, but I had being rushed, so I always plan conservative. Yesterday was an example why... Economy parking at Dulles requires taking a bus to the terminal, which can take any varying amout of time to show up. So I normally plan an extra 30mins if I have to park vs being dropped off. When I arrived at the lots, relativly quiet, but they looked aweful full. Usually within 5-10 lanes you can find something. But I kept driving, and driving, and driving with nothing open. I went through Green... nothing. I went through Gold... nothing. I went through Purple... nothing. And I don't mean 'nothing nice' I mean.. nothing AT ALL. I'm starting to be concerned I'll have to park in a more expensive lot just to find a spot! One area of the lot was closed off from what looked like paving/sealing work, but it should not have filled ALL the other lots. After almost 30mins of circling to find not a SINGLE SPOT open, I headed over to Blue, which is the front most lot. Lots of passes and finding nothing, eventually, I get to the farthest north corner of the lot, and not only is there one spot finally, but several - about 5 I can see. 5 parking spots - I'm amazed by seeing a whopping 5 parking spots. How nuts is that? I've never seen this place so crazy. So we wait for the bus, which takes about 10mins and then there is no room on the bus for luggage - its all full. That always makes for interesting bits, but that was minor. I get to the terminal to check-in. I'm premier with united so you get separate check-in so I don't worry about how long this will take. However this flight is a co-chair flight and some you check in at United, some the other carrier. I had not checked ahead and just went to the United check-in. It was eirely empty. Normally the united economy area is a mad-house, but it was quiet. I walk right up - to find I need to check in at Lufthansa. Ok, no biggie, I head over there. Oh - this is where everyone is at! It's a complete madhouse. Literally the line queues outside their check-in area, and through another airline's area, and back out into the walkway. I check with an agent to see if my status gets me into another line; he confers with another agent, and they say yes and put me in the business class line. Perfect - there are only 3 people in front of me. There are 4 agents working first class, business, and a bag drop off. I'll skip all the frustration and get right to the point. How long should it take to check-in customers, and at what point do you take them aside and deal with them so you don't hold up everyone? How many guests do you think they could check in in 15mins? 30mins?45mins? Try 2 couples in.. 45mins! Literally - zero exaggeration - 45mins in line and they served TWO couples. TWO. Given the first couple was already at the counter when I got there, that means in 45mins I moved forward 1 person. So what did Luftasana do about this? Nothing. We weren't allowed to cut into the other business class line - which had spurts of speed, but then there would be long periods where NONE of the lines for First or Business were moving. I watched people in the first class line wait over 30mins to get through about 5 people. It was surreal. You'd think, ok, once they get through this guy, it's gotta speeed up and you just need to be patient. They'd have one delay, the guy would go away, 10mins later come back, and you'd think you're set... and then boom he's back on the phone and everything stops again. You think its not worth trying to get to the end of another line of 10+ people as it can't possibly stay this slow... but oh.. it did. Finally one of the agents (this is after 40mins) starts taking some people from our line which knocked 1 of the 2 left out in front of me. Mr. Sloth finally managed to finish his second couple in 45mins and finally the second agent who let us cut his line finally took me at about 50mins. Checked me in right in.. and that ordeal was over. On most days I'm from home, to the gate in about an hour. So far today, it's been over 2:15 and I'm not even to security yet. Then security - ah.. well they've done pretty good with security at Dulles where it's quick to move through. They have a premium passenger line - which premier people are entitled to. But since the co-chair flight is operated by Luftansa, the ticket is theirs not United's. I get to the first check, and the airport checker tries to kick me out of the line because something isn't marked on my ticket. I explain I'm United Premier, this is a united flight. I even pull out my card, show her that and where it's on the ticket as a united flight! She's persistent about some code and I'm starting to get pissed - this is pretty freaking simple! Then finally she lets me go. Move through the rest of the process without issue, but then I gotta goto B-gates.. which after all this means you get to walk about another mile to your gate. Finally at the gate, before I can even sit down, they are starting to board. It's a good thing I left 2.5 hrs before my flight! They start boarding first class, and they have these queues setup and the lady tells some economy folks to line up in this queue and wait. So people start queueing, and I join in. Apparently today's lesson is - never follow me today. Because as one agent finished checking first, the lady who told everyone to queue up, proceeds to start boarding the queue right next to ours (which is also economy, just another line). But the agent in front of us insists that we wait, while his coworker literally right behind him checks dozens of people through! Finally the sloth figures out what is happening 20 inches away from his head and boards us as well after 3-4 minutes of pointless waiting. Lucky for me (is that possible today?) I wasn't one of the approx 10 people I saw in my cabin alone that had double-booked seats and had to be shuffled around. The flight was on a A330 which I had a window seat, which is nice so they don't ram you with the carts, but kind of makes you stuck depending on what the person next to you is doing. They had a different flight entertainment system which actually let you pause, FF, etc your movies and don't have to watch the films according to the fixed schedule. Awesome! To bad they didn't have a single film I wanted to watch. I passed the time listening to podcasts and playing a little on the DS. I slept for about 15mins out of the 8hr flight. Arriving in Frankfort, I had about 2hrs until my flight was scheduled to board. But you can't sleep really because there is no one there to ensure you wake up in time! So you smell, you just go into zombie mode waiting for your flight. Which today - is also delayed. Boarding time comes and goes. Finally about 45mins after our scheduled boarding time, we board. I am in the next to last row on the aisle.. or so I thought. Get there and someone is in my seat. Turns out its a family with two kids under 5 and they are spread all over the plane (they didn't figure this out before they sat down and spread out in the wrong seats???). So now I wait in the back until the plane fully boards and I switch seats with one of the father's tickets so they can all sit together. Window seat, no one next to me.. so not a bad trade off. Karma right? But these smaller A320 planes are pretty tight on the legroom. Combined with a guy in full recline in front of me.. ugh. Then I had to goto the bathroom, but this is a short hop, I'm not on the aisle, etc.. so you figure you can just wait. Well then coming in for the landing, tons of turbulence and it was probably only the second time ever I felt nauseous on a plane. Then it was on to get my luggage which came up fast - woohoo and the train ride to the city. Finally, almost 16.5hrs after leaving home.. I'm finally able to lie down and rest. And we do this by choice???