United and Lemonade–Stranded in Chicago

Expedia: Not for Steemians

Yeah, well…I’m still not home. I overnighted in Chicago after a major foul-up with a connecting flight. You flown out of O’Hare lately? Holy mother. What a mess.

Picture this: I land in Terminal 5 just before eight p.m., along with approximately 250 other people who flew over from Warsaw on Polish airlines LOT. Do you have any idea how long of a line forms with 250 people and only four customs agents? I was through the line and cleared of being an international terrorist by 8:20.

Now it was time to go down and wait for a bus to take passengers from Terminal 5 to the domestic terminals, since the ATS people-mover system is down for construction. There I stand in another line for ten or fifteen minutes waiting on that ride. By now, it’s 8:30. The bus comes, but guess what? To drive from Terminal 5 to the other terminals means you have to enter real traffic, on real roads, with real bottlenecks cause by real stupid people. But I digress. Time from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1, where Gate E5 is located? Ten minutes. We’ve now been on the ground almost an hour, and my next flight starts boarding at nine.

Keep in mind, there is no signage anywhere indicating that Terminal 1 no longer has TSA security checks after a certain hour. Nope. You just walk up to your gate all happy that you’re on time for your flight—but guess what? A grumpy TSA agent tells you that you have to go to Terminal 2, because that’s where security is located that time of night, and makes it clear she thinks you’re an idiot for not knowing this already.

At that point you have two options: catch a bus that circles the entire airport, including Terminal 5, to get you back around to Terminal 2, or you can walk. If you know me, you already know I have problems walking. I fell twice at Steemfest. Hard. Not to mention the fact that autonomic dysfunction makes it impossible to cool off once I overheat, or the fact that my heart rate was nearing 200 by the time I cleared security. Not because I was nervous, or even mad. But because I’d just walked further than I walked the whole time I was in Krakow, at about twice the pace. Yeeowch!

But guess what? By then it’s twenty after nine. And guess who still has to go back to Terminal 2 because that’s where Gate E5 is? Yep. Moi. And there was just no way in hell I could make it. So my plane flew off to Charlotte without me, while my ride from Charlotte home had already reached the airport and parked to wait for my arrival.

Enter United Airlines Customer Service, in particular, the Lead on B-side whose name I’m almost certain may be Nelly. She took one look at me and knew I was dying. First thing she does? Offer water. I needed it. Desperately. Now, I won’t go into every single detail about how she got me sorted, but let’s just say she needs a commendation. A big one. I hope her supervisor sees this.

This still left me with a problem in Charlotte. My ride home from there had come and gone by that time, and since I live almost four hours from the Charlotte-Douglas airport, it wasn’t like @tawmink and @catherine813 could just pop back down and get me. So I supposed that a one-way rental car from Charlotte could work just beautifully—but since the missed flight wasn’t my fault, I should not have to keep paying for a way home that had already been well-planned, organized, and paid for in full.

Who to blame? Well, Expedia The Travel Experts should have never booked that connecting flight, since the terminal sprawl at O’Hare is apparently a known issue, as well as the ATS shutdown and TSA shutdown in Terminal 1. It’s not my job to know these things. It’s theirs. And they failed miserably.

Instead of trying to accommodate me for the profound inconvenience or help me not be stranded in Charlotte, I was told by a nitwit Expedia Customer Service person that they would not spring for cost of the rental car, as she continuously forced me to re-explain where I was and why, since the first ten explanations didn’t stick. Not gonna lie—I let her have it. Right there in Chicago O’Hare. Those of you who know me probably feel very sorry for her. You should. No—I take that back. Don’t. Because she gets paid to sort problems for people, and she didn’t sort squat for me.

I finally got her supervisor on the line, a reasonable-sounding fellow named Frank. Did he get me sorted? Nope. He proceeded to pass the buck to United, who heard the whole conversation because I had him on speaker at the United counter the whole time. The United agent agreed that there’s a “legal window” for which tickets can be sold for connecting flights, and one and a half hours fell within it. However, we’d just demonstrated that under most conditions, this doesn’t work for International travelers coming into Chicago O’Hare who have to go through Customs, Security, and three terminals to catch their flight.

In the interest of customer service, one would think that Expedia would not strand a middle-aged woman with a disability four hours from home with no recourse. One would think. But Frank insisted that the impossible connection was not their fault, therefore Expedia had no intention of paying for a rental car. He claimed his hands were tied, that rental is a “pay later” situation and he could not do it even though he wanted to. So does this mean that Expedia never covers the cost of a rental car even if they take blame for botched travel plans? Even worse, does this also mean that even though Expedia knows a problem exists with that connection, they will happily continue to strand passengers in Chicago and expect United Airlines to clean up their mess?

I asked Frank this very question, and he assured me he opened a case on the matter—E#6719457—but how much confidence do we have that any Expedia stuffed-shirt is going to make changes to their policy, given the fact that it’s a “legal window,” and “tickets can’t be purchased outside it?” Let’s just put it this way—if I were you, I’d stay as far away from Expedia as possible. It’s clear that customer health, safety, and satisfaction is the last concern on their agenda, and that they’ll happily strand their customers anywhere around the globe as long as there’s a way to pass the buck to another agency.

United Showed ‘Em How It’s Done

In the meanwhile, I did meet another phenomenal United Airlines representative who answered some questions for me and provided very useful information. He’d seen the whole Expedia debacle, so I’m sure he quailed a bit when I approached his window. But he gave no sign of horror at seeing me approach and we ended up having a lovely conversation. Everyone who worked the United counter last night on B-side needs a raise. Between Nelly and Seth M., I at least survived the night in Chicago and have a flight leaving for Charlotte very shortly.

This still doesn’t solve my being stranded once I get there. The fault for that, in my opinion, lies squarely on Expedia, who sold me tickets for a connecting flight that’s impossible to make because of known airport conditions. So everyone, how about a resteem to let all of our blockchain friends know how Expedia is likely to treat them? Also to give folks a heads-up how to prepare for connecting flights at O’Hare, and to fly United every chance they get? I would certainly appreciate it.

Oh—and the lemonade? Well, despite the lemons Expedia handed me, we managed to squeeze some pretty sweet lemonade at O’Hare last night. Let’s just say we might have a United employee joining us at Steemfest next year, wherever in the world @roelandp decides to hold it, because after Krakow, I’d follow him anywhere.

Steem on! (Just not with Expedia….)

Thank you, Nelly!