On Monday afternoon, I boarded a USAirways jet in Boston to fly to Las Vegas and I must say that nearly every moment in the care of this airline, especially the trip home, felt like I had handed myself over to the care of a dominatrix, not exactly my fetish of choice. The flight out went fine but waiting in Phoenix for three hours past my flight time, three hours waiting to get on a 45 minute flight was truly miserable but, as it was a weather related event, it was beyond the control of the airline.
Most of the individual employees of USAirways treated me very nicely and they seem like most people, hard working, nice and helpful. My problems are with what feels like an institutional incompetence at USAirways and their inability to have treated me and the X-Dog any better than one might treat cargo.
On Thursday, I checked out of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas where I was treated to one of the best experiences that a blind man with dog can enjoy at a hotel anywhere. I’ll write an article here about that experience later when I have some very interesting news to announce about that hotel an an upcoming event to be held there.
I arrived at the Las Vegas airport a bit after 5 pm on Thursday. The very nice people at the airport brought me through security (why TSA need to take apart everything in my gear bag just because they can’t recognize a Humanware braille display boggles my mind but, alas, AT companies are probably too fucking cheap to take the steps to be added to the automatically approved device list) and delivered me into the hands of USAirways. In the nearly six hours until I actually got onto a plane, no one from USAirways even asked once if I might want to use a restroom, if I might be hungry or thirsty or, more importantly, if the big dog sitting with me might need to go to the relief area or if he may need some water. We were plopped at the gate and ignored entirely for hours. When, later, a few different USAirways people said how much they enjoyed seeing the pretty dog in their gate area all day, I wondered even further if these folks who like looking at my dog had enough empathy to even wonder if the dog was comfortable. What jerks, they liked having the dog there but didn’t even think of asking if he needed anything.
When USAirways announced that my flight would not leave Vegas until 10:45, a time that to my mind would make it impossible for me to make my connecting flight to Boston, I approached the desk and said, “I’m certain that I will miss my Boston flight, can you please put me on a flight tomorrow?”
USAirways person responds, “We think the Boston flight will also be late so you’ll make it home tonight.”
“If there is any chance I will get stuck in Phoenix, I want to stay here in Vegas where I can stay at a friend’s house and be comfortable.” I stated.
“If you insist on changing your flight, we’ll need to charge you $750 to fly to Boston tomorrow.”
“Seven hundred and fifty dollars?” I asked, “How sure are you that I’ll be in Boston tonight?”
“You’ll be home tonight Mr Hofstader.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
So, I plunked my ass down in a seat at the gate and waited. I waited until they insisted I get on a plane to Phoenix where, when I arrived, I was told that my Boston flight had left. It was now after midnight local time, I was exhausted and could have been happily sleeping for hours if USAirways had not forced me to go to Phoenix, a city where I didn’t want to spend the night.
Then, a very nice USAirways employee told me that they would, in my case, pay for a hotel even though they claimed my predicament was caused by weather. I said, “NO, this wasn’t a weather problem, I specifically told the USAirways people in Vegas that I didn’t want to board a plane to a place if they couldn’t guarantee my connection and that forcing me to take the flight to Phoenix wasn’t related to weather but, rather, institutional incompetence. They forced a passenger and his dog onto a plane to a city to which they didn’t want to go.
The nice lady who got me my hotel room then typed some stuff into the computer that told the baggage people to find my bag and bring it to me so I can have my stuff for the night and a nice escort brought me to the baggage area. At this point things started to get really weird.
A woman from USAirways baggage handling in Phoenix told me that, after midnight, one could not request a baggage transfer. I told her that if they can bring me to the wrong city, they can certainly find my bag as the plane had only landed fifteen mints earlier and it was an USAirways employee upstairs who had told me that I could get my bag. When I explained that my dog food was in my suitcase, they deigned to get it for me. The woman who put in the request said it would take no more than a half hour so, when, an hour and a half later, they finally had my bag, I was really pretty angry.
Let’s take an aside here, if I order a new device from Apple, an iPhone perhaps, I can track it every step of the way from China to my house. When I order anything to be delivered by UPS, I can go to the web site and learn where my package is. FedEX, Airborne, DHL and all of the others can tell me with excellent precision where, anywhere on Earth my package is but USAirways can’t find a single bag taken by their own employees off of an airplane fifteen minutes earlier. How, in 2013, it is not tracked by barcode or RFID or other sort of readable tag boggles the mind and further demonstrates the systemic incompetence of USAirways as an organization..
Meanwhile, as I sat and waited for my stuff in a city I didn’t want to go to, not a single person asked if the dog might need some water or a walk to the relief area so, when the X-Dog took a big shit on the floor of the Phoenix airport, I was reluctant to correct him for doing so. If you’ve held a dog captive and insisted he go on a plane to the wrong city, he might shit on your floor.
Yesterday morning, at 8:53 PDT, I left Phoenix only four hours after I was supposed to be in Boston. I had a whopping two hours of sleep in the hotel and I was miserable all of the way home. Today, after a full night’s sleep, at my advanced age, I’m still hurting badly from the physical issues of not sleeping added to my dehydration from going so many hours in the desert airports without a single USAirways person asking if, in all of that time, I may want someone to bring me to a restaurant to get something to eat or drink or the same for my dog.
My proposed solution, if a blind person with a dog comes to an airport and their flight is to be delayed more than an hour or so, let us sit in the first class lounge where one of your employees might be helpful. Leaving a man and his dog alone with no one to help them to get food or water, to take a leak or do anything else for six hours is just torturing us and, as I said at the start, that’s not my sort of kink.