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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2009-09-28 19:56
Subject: [travel] The skies, they are not so friendly
Security: Public
Tags:calendula, conventions, omaha, travel, work
Such a day. Oy. In Omaha now, working the Day Jobbe from the head office, but a journey it was.

When calendula_witch and I got back from Potlatch Foolscap yesterday evening, I went to double check my departure time and print my boarding pass, and my flight had disappeared from my account on the United Airlines Web site. Two hours of phone calling ensued. Airline reservations. Travel agent. Airline customer service. Airline Internet support. Travel agent. Airline customer service. Lather, rinse, repeat, beat with sticks.

The long and the short of it is that due to a recent TSA rule change, United Airlines did something in their database that trimmed the "Jr" off my full name, which (as anyone who has a book of mine can see on the copyright page) is "Joseph E. Lake, Jr." So a ticket issued in that name, which matches my photo ID and my frequent flyer card, is no longer valid for my frequent flyer account in the United Airlines system. This, they have explained to me twice, is because I "must have changed my name in the system."

Um, no.

So far, this remains unresolved. (Though I did get on my flight.) I've been told repeatedly nothing can be done, that this is my problem. I have pointed out repeatedly that I didn't create this problem and I have no power to fix it. So far, the airline remains unimpressed with my position.

United Airlines' customer service philosophy can best be described as "poisoning the well." In ten years as a high status frequent flyer on American Airlines, I never had as much trouble as I've had since switching to United last spring. I'm a hairsbreadth away from switching back to American. United has better planes, and better routes (at least for my needs), but their customer service is so abysmal it's not worth the freaking trouble.

So I get to Omaha, and lo and behold the Hertz Gold counter, which is designed to be a fast transaction where you pick up the keys to your waiting, reserved car, is being used as a walk-up booking service by the two people in line in front of me. The clerk is happy to help. There is no other clerk. There is an entire counter full of clerks just inside the airport whose job it is to do this, but no, this is not good enough for the people in front of me, who have gone rather out of their way to tie up what is supposed to be the express lane. This is the equivalent of going through the 12 item lane at the supermarket with $250 worth of produce in your cart while the adjacent full service lanes are open. So I spend ten minutes waiting to spend fifteen seconds retrieving the keys with my name on them I can see over the clerk's shoulder.

Then I get out on the highway, and I-680 is closed down due to what I later learn is a fertilizer spill. Meanwhile, I have to keep cycling my iPhone in and out of airplane mode to reboot the radio because the AT&T voice and data network keeps locking up and going into la-la land. I know AT&T likes to say they have the least dropped calls, but I'm pretty sure that's because their network doesn't seem to be able to connect the damned calls in the first place.

However, having broken the air travel, car rental, Interstate highway and cellular telephone infrastructures with the mighty powers of my mind, I managed to get through the rest of the day without significant further mishap, culminating in a nice dinner with garyomaha and elusivem.

Tomorrow, more work.

Originally published at jlake.com.

Post A Comment | 25 Comments | | Flag | Link






User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2009-09-29 03:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
United completely effed my vacation by screwing up my booking *twice.*
Which I discovered each time I went to the airport (that is, *both* times).
I NEVER had a problem booking before my one time i tried to cash in my flyer points.
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calendula_witch: Miata copper
User: calendula_witch
Date: 2009-09-29 03:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Miata copper
1. I think you also broke my trunk light. ;-)

2. That was Foolscap we were at, and a lovely con it was.

3. See what happens when we part? Try to hold it together for another week or so, we'll fix that... :-)
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Elizabeth Coleman
User: criada
Date: 2009-09-29 05:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You traveled through time!
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shelly_rae: Red clay hands
User: shelly_rae
Date: 2009-09-29 07:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Red clay hands
Important question. It's not raining...convertible top up or down?
Anon
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Jay Lake: writing-genre
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-29 11:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:writing-genre
Down, of course!

(Unless I want to talk to the passenger much... :p)
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shelly_rae
User: shelly_rae
Date: 2009-09-30 02:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yay!
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calendula_witch: Miata plate
User: calendula_witch
Date: 2009-09-29 15:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Miata plate
Meself, I went with top up, cause 10 hours of freeway driving is a bit much with top down. :-)
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shelly_rae
User: shelly_rae
Date: 2009-09-30 02:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
OK for ten hours on the freeway we'll let you have the top up. But if you're noodling around town?
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calendula_witch: Miata copper
User: calendula_witch
Date: 2009-09-30 05:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Miata copper
Oh, down, unless it's a tiny short drive and I don't want to mess with it. :-) I mean, it *is* a convertible.
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Jay Lake: calendula_plates
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-30 12:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:calendula_plates
I put her top down every chance I get.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-29 11:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
1. I am MADE OF FAIL.

2. Erm, yes. Thank you. Corrected.

3. Hell yes!

4. Love you.
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calendula_witch: arms
User: calendula_witch
Date: 2009-09-29 15:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:arms
:-)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-30 12:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Love you
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ygolonac
User: ygolonac
Date: 2009-09-29 04:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Regarding United customer service:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

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Peter Hollo
User: frogworth
Date: 2009-09-29 04:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
O Mr Lake, please don't say that :( All of that! Any of that! I shall be visiting your fine country in 4 and a bit weeks, and travelling by planes, trains and automobiles (not United Airlines though), and I will no doubt by cycling my bloody iPhone in and out of airplane mode.

I'll email you our dates soon. Hopefully you will be around SF and/or Portland when we are!
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dinogrl: bill the cat takin a dump
User: dinogrl
Date: 2009-09-29 06:34 (UTC)
Subject: United Breaks Authors
Keyword:bill the cat takin a dump
United sucks.
American sucks.
Flying is unfriendly these days.
Can't wait to see what Quantas is like these days.
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2009-09-29 10:44 (UTC)
Subject: Re: United Breaks Authors
We're with Air France/KLM; they're close to the best alliance in Europe. British Airways have decided to jump the shark by charging extra for folks who want to sit together. Lufthansa would be a good alternative if I could get their frequent flyer system to recognize my existence.

The American carriers ... I try not to use them, except when there's no alternative (typically for domestic connections within the USA).
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Lisa Deutsch Harrigan
User: lisa_marli
Date: 2009-09-29 08:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
But, But, You've always been a Junior. Just ask your dad!
Little Harold is Harold F Harrigan III, just trying putting that into the computers. They really have a hard time.
My husband was so glad he and his dad decided Not to do the Sr/Jr thing. But there are still some credit records on my husband's credit report that belong to his dad. :)
Good luck straightening out the Ending of Your Name.
PS We usually fly South West. Their itineraries suck, but the price is right, the Customer Service is decent, and no charge for the first piece of luggage.
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Lawrence M. Schoen
User: klingonguy
Date: 2009-09-29 11:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Maybe next time you'll remember not to do these sorts of things on Yom Kippur.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-29 11:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Being a goy, I am atonement deaf.
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2009-09-29 12:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That's it! The folks at United were all fasting and in a mood.
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Lawrence M. Schoen
User: klingonguy
Date: 2009-09-29 14:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That's the fun answer.

Though, it is possible that folks were understaffed.
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threeoutside
User: threeoutside
Date: 2009-09-29 12:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"having broken the air travel, car rental, Interstate highway and cellular telephone infrastructures with the mighty powers of my mind" - I think you deserve four gold medals right there.

See you soon???
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cathshaffer
User: cathshaffer
Date: 2009-09-29 12:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Delta has the best safety record. They use a really interesting system called Smart Signal that can predict mechanical failures months before anything shows up on the dials and whatnot, and it shows in their safety record. Unfortunately, Delta is not very convenient for my location.

I don't fly United anymore. Have had unrelated bad experiences with them, their planes are cheap and shoddy-looking, and their Detroit terminal looks like a downtown bus station. Ugh.
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ruralwriter
User: ruralwriter
Date: 2009-09-30 01:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
When I heard about the TSA thing, I realized, Oh, yeah; I do all my flying under my middle name...because that was fine 15 years ago. I called and Delta changed my FF account pronto for my upcoming flight and sent me a brand new card. And I'm no longer an elite flyer. I was...pleasantly surprised. Were they as helpful when I tried to book travel and give them my money? No.
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