Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Belgium Travel Saga

Since I last blogged, I've visited San Francisco and had some delicious crab, had an epic flight down to Argentina (that didn't seem so epic after the trip I'm about to tell you of), got a little food poisoning, hung out in Chino Hill, CA for a while and then did Redlands.

This brings us to time to head to Europe. Jamie drew the very short straw and had to drop me off at the airport and then drive my car solo back up to Canada. I joined 4 of my Canada team mates at LAX to start the trip to Brussels. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until we were all boarded up on the plane. So theoretically our ticket said LAX-BRU, but in actual fact in included a stop over in Washington, DC. Apparently, there is a difference between a non-stop and direct flight. And we were on what was considered a direct flight...even though we had to change planes in Washington... And then there was a mechanical - ok it seemed like we should still have enough time, although a few people on the plane were freaking out. They got the mechanical all fixed up and we were waiting to be Ok-ed to go....oh wait and then there is another mechanical. Now we're getting a little bit stressed, but online it looks like there are other flights to Brussels from Washington so it should be ok.

That was significantly over optimistic.

Here is Leah Guloien's letter to United with a few of my edits.

I am writing because I had the worst experience travelling with your airline recently. I felt like I was mistreated and the customer service was despicable. It all started when the airplane had a mechanical on the tarmac in LA, while on flight UA950. We sat there for 1.5 hours which made me miss my connecting flight in Washington to Brussels. I then had to wait in a line for over 3 hours (We were told to call the help line- they told us they couldn't do anything, so we kept waiting in line patiently. Finally at the front we tried to convince them they should deal with us all together but that didn't seem to make sense to them. It ended up with a nun taking Jo's passport away, Leah K being dealt with by someone else that would royally mess up her ticket. The best part was that no one had any idea how to work the United program, what to do with us, what they were allowed to do or where to send us) to find out there were no other flights so I had to spend the night in WA and get on a flight the next day (we were going to go to London but then they told us that there were strikes in London and if we went there and couldn't get a flight we were completely on our own), the same time as the one I was supposed to be on the previous day (All of us had raced Redlands the day before so were pretty tired, so the saving grace was getting a nice room and shower at the Westin overnight, and having a good meal. We got to go walk around an outdoor mall and relax a little [ and get driven around in a large blacked out Suburban]) But that relaxation all ended ...When I went to check in the following day, they told me I had already used my flight (we got to the airport, told them we were going to need help, they said we had to use the machine, we tried and of course it didn't work. Then it turned out there was one person out of approximately 10 that was an agent and could do anything. Leah K and I had gone to the Premier Access line thinking we'd be stealth...and spent 2 hours there waiting to get a ticket, - Leah K's reaction when they asked us how we got to Washington was priceless " uhhhh on a plane?!" apparently Leah G also got asked the same question in the other check in line, "well its your airline". Rhae, Jo, and Leah G got issued some sort of illegal blue ticket to get them through security, while Leah K and I sat on the weigh scales still waiting for our lady to get off the phone and give us tickets, which two hours later she did...Leah literally got her ticket out in the nonsecure area 10 minutes before boarding and once again I had to wait around until the very last minute, which almost made me miss my flight AGAIN. I was then held up before entering onto the plane because I didn't have a "paper" ticket, (Leah K and I got on ok because I guess we had real tickets ( and got upgraded to the extra 6 inches of leg room), but the magic blue ticket turned out to be not so good) which the customer service person at the United counter never provided with me. Everyone I dealt with made me feel like I had done something wrong, when really no one had a clue what they were doing and they clearly didn't care. They were confused how I ended up in WA???? when it is your flight?? I was denied an upgrade to first class and once again treated like a criminal when I even made this suggestion. I am very disappointed in the airline and I will be sure to tell my family friends of how poorly I was treated. I hope your company takes this into account and makes changes so others do not have such an unpleasant experience. Leah Guloien

It really was impressive how little the United people knew about their computer program and even their own flights. Even though we came on a United flight, missed a United flight and got rebooked by United they had no idea what the hell we were doing in Washington, and totally thought we were trying to screw with them......

Miraculously, we made it to Belgium after ("forever" - Jo) about 48 hours later. And somehow all our bikes and luggage actually made it!

Everyone's favourite moments

Leah K - being asked how I got to Washington and being stunned, replying ummmm on a plane?? (leah doesn't get mad very easily but she was angry!)

Jo - chasing the nun through the airport to try and get my pass port back and then being blocked out of the back office (She's probably on the Washington Dulles wanted liste now - especially after she tried to sneak up to first class)

Rhae - breaking my Pan Am travel day record of 36 hours

And the conversation about non-stop vs direct:

Rhae - I though I was on a direct flight
Agent - Yes direct, not non-stop
Rhae- what is the difference?
Agent - A direct flight can stop
Rhae- Ok so we stop and then continue?
Agent - No you are going straight to Brussels but you get off in Washington and change to a bigger plane
Rhae - so it's a connection
Agent - no, its direct
Rhae- so a direct flight is a flight with a connection issued as one ticket

Leah G - (leaving her wallet on the airport shuttle was not her favourite moment) Joanie heading back in economy with me after she tried to sneak up to first class - and changing her clothes and putting sunglasses on

I think all my favourite parts have been included, but another good moment was going through customs in Brussels. The only conversation the customs guy and I had was about where exactly Hay River was in Canada - he guessed British Columbia.

We can all laugh about it now though, so that's good at least. Ohhhhh and since they thought we had flown to Belgium to first time, we scored double air miles.


  1. Planes allow you to take you to Dar es Salaam by Cheap Flights to Dar Es Salaam, unlike the chicken wings I stapled to my back before eating them.