The hellish side of travel

No Love for United Airways

No Love for United Airways

I don’t know whether the seventh level of hell it was to get out of Newark Liberty airport was due to a United Airways check in clerk’s screw up or the way I had booked my tickets but either way, I am extremely reluctant to fly through that airport ever again.

I had used my Aeroplan points to book two return tickets from Halifax to Newark (New  York). The airline we were given was United Airlines on the way down and for the return journey, it was United to Boston and changing to Air Canada for the hop to Halifax. The flight to Newark that we were booked on was delayed several hours but they got us on an earlier flight. Coming back it was a different matter. Was it me? Was I making bad decisions? Were the travel Gods punishing me for some unknown slight?

Talk about one bad decision and/or screw up after another, it was one thing after another until I was in tears several times. I couldn’t check in online. It just didn’t work and it hadn’t worked trying to get here earlier in the week either. I have no idea why. We couldn’t check in online before we left as a result. We grabbed a take-out from the café a few doors from the hotel and walked around to Port Authority bus terminal to try to find somewhere to sit and eat but nothing was there. Not one bench or chair to be had in the terminal where the shops were. Perhaps there were some by the bus bays but we didn’t need to go through that labyrinth as the airport bus picks up on the street. The wrong street where we went first. We went to where it dropped us off on 42nd St. though I wasn’t sure it would pick up there and when I asked someone, found out we had to go back to 41st street. We stood on the sidewalk and ate our snacks and then dragged ourselves back through the terminal to the other street and luckily the airport bus was right there and boarding.

We put our bags in the hold and got comfy. When we got to the airport we attempted to get out at the wrong terminal. Fine. Climb back on and get to the right one. Check in was another nightmare. The kiosks wouldn’t take my reference number so one of the United staff checked us in but then we still had to put the details into a keyosk right in front of her. She doesn’t actually give out the boarding passes, just the luggage sticker.

I think she did something wrong. She seemed to have checked G. through to Halifax but not me. I kept asking why. She kept saying it was a different ticket, yes… but why didn’t mine get checked through? We were booked the same way. Kept getting the same answer. When we navigated the touch screen check in, again, mine only gave me paperwork to Boston, not through to Halifax unlike G.s process. I couldn’t seem to get the woman to understand and she kept assuring me it was ok, I was checked through to Halifax but all the paperwork said otherwise. It just didn’t make sense that he would get two boarding passes and a luggage receipt to Halifax and I only got one boarding pass and a receipt for the luggage to Boston. It was futile trying to get any further explanations or answers so I walked away in tears of frustration, worried about whether I should collect my bag in Boston and how do I then get a boarding pass?

We went through a pain in the arse at security, having to actually stand by our trays until they went through the conveyor. I was scanned and then had to be body searched/patted down anyway even though I didn’t hear any beeps in the machine. I probably looked ultra-stressed and that probably ticked an alarm box or something.   G. didn’t have that indignity. We finally got through all that and got ourselves back together and sat at the first café we found. Guess what? They had lots of different kinds of tea but no normal plain orange pekoe so I suffered Earl Grey instead. It just felt like I didn’t make one decision that ended well today and it was so frustrating!! I’m in tears again and G. is saying don’t let it get to you. Well, clearly it has already.

We got to the gate and there was another assistance desk so I asked there about the confusion. The man said I was only checked in to Boston and would have to retrieve my luggage there and re-check in. We had suspected that might be the case but it’s good to know so I didn’t leave my luggage behind in Boston. If I’d trusted that witch that checked us in, that’s what I would have done.

One good thing, our seats were near the front of the plane and they had buckets of leg room, a ‘United Plus’ type of thing. One bad thing, we weren’t sitting together. The United clerk checked us in, and we were clearly traveling together,  and when we went through the keyosk check in process for my ticket, it seemed like the seat beside me was empty. We tried to change his seat to one next to mine. Guess what? They’d have charged 14 dollars. As it was they charged 25 to check the bags. Nickel and diming you to death, right? To top it all off, the person that did sit beside me changed her seat just before takeoff so he could have changed and sat with me had he known but by then I was just zoning out to try to take the stress levels down a bit so I didn’t try to get over to him to tell him and he hadn’t looked back to notice until we were almost ready to land. It was only a 30 minute flight so it wasn’t really that big a deal but why didn’t she just put us together in the first place?

I did go and get my bags which came off the plane without going missing. From there we had to figure out where we had to be, which was Terminal B.  It was quite a hike to get there, long hallways and a dash across a parking garage level for some strange reason. Maybe it’s a short cut.  But there were the Air Canada desks with a one-“stall” security check beside them. It felt like AC was hidden away in a back room secret closet!

Over to the AC desk, and I explained my problem. The desk gal checked my details and said I was indeed already checked in to the flight and we were already sitting together.  She didn’t know why I wasn’t issued a boarding pass back in Newark like G. was.  I told her I had had such a horrible day to that point but that when I saw the Air Canada desk, I knew everything was going to be OK! She laughed and agreed with me, of course! I have a boarding pass in my hot little hand and have rechecked the bag so I didn’t have to mess around with it. These planes are so small that they make you put the bag in the hold at the gate anyway. Might as well check it to start with. We went down the hallway a bit to find a restaurant and got some hot food inside us and lots of cold fluids.

Since I had been traveling with a laptop and didn’t want to check that in the baggage, I had it in a shopping bag. The bag was heavy paper and the handles were sort of a twine kind of thing. The laptop was a bit heavy for the bag and one of the handles slipped off. I had a feeling that would happen but never mind. There’s free Wi-Fi in Logan so we logged on and I made sure my nephew had the flight details for picking us up tonight with the rental car.

Feeling much better now, we headed back to security which was much less of a hassle even though we still had to take off shoes and belts etc. That’s standard stuff these days. The security area led right straight to and area with three gates. That was all, and the gates were right there, no further walking needed.  There is nothing on this side of security except a little concession stand, not even duty free shops. There was a small duty free place outside security and I noticed when we boarded that there was someone there to hand out your duty free purchases at the gate. They do that in Halifax, too, even though the duty free is already inside security at Stanfield Airport in Halifax. .

The flight is about an hour and 20 minutes so it was  fairly quick and easy. I was never so glad to get to the end of a travel day in my life. Even that long delay and subsequent rerouting through Toronto back in January wasn’t as bad as this, stress wise. I know others have had far worse experiences trying to get places but this, for me, was my worst to date.

Luggage Gods still kind, but the Travel Gods must have been off duty or else they have a grudge against United who have been notorious of late anyway so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

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3 thoughts on “The hellish side of travel

  1. Nancy Johnston says:

    Although you talked a bit about this, it was quite worse than I realized!! Lucky you’ve never had to go through something like this earlier on in your travels!

  2. Tvor says:

    I know lots of people have gone through far worse hassle and stress but it’s the worst one yet for me.Even the delays in Manchester in January weren’t that bad though sitting on a plane on the runway for 5 hours wasn’t pleasant but once i knew i’d missed the plane, i knew i’d get rerouted one way or another. It wasn’t confusing, i understood what was going on and things were pretty straight forward. Didn’t have to worry about bags either. This time was awful.

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