United in our Anger. Welcome to Vegas.

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Monday, December 19, 2011

And back to the flying. What a horrendous company United Airlines it.

It's a busy day at San Francisco airport but I think we’ve been in busier so it shouldn’t be too much hassle. It’s only an internal flight and we booked these ages ago. Thankfully we checked our flight information last night and it appears that not only has the type of plane changed to one much smaller, but the time has changed – have we been informed by any of this? No.

Tramping to the airport using the BART our bags are now quite a bit heavier but they are manageable. I quickly get warm though even though it’s barely breaking 8 degrees Celsius. At the airport we queue in the Continental queue as this is who I have booked our tickets with. When standing in the queue a Continental representative asks us where we are flying and then confirms we are in the right queue.

When we get to the front of the queue we approach the person behind the check in desk who then just walks away without saying anything. The check in is apparently automated and so we scan in our document and are informed that I have to pick up the phone to speak to a customer services representative. I pick it up, I hear nothing but static.

We try the process again and get nowhere so I get the attention of the same representative that said we were in the right queue. He checks all our details on the system before telling us that the flight is being run by United and so we will have to go into the other queue. He points towards where we should go and then leaves us and so we rudely have to jump in front of people who have been queuing for 40 minutes. After a few minutes we get the attention of a United rep that checks us in and then charges us $25 a bag for checked luggage. I have checked through our paperwork and remember my booking on the phone and nowhere does it state clearly that baggage fees need to be added. Had we known about this when I was booking I would have flown with someone else who would therefore have been cheaper. It is my fault for not reading the very small print but I still think it is wrong. This is the first time this has happened and we have flown with some very low budget airlines on the trip so far. It is probably in very small print but it is a very underhand way of managing your business. It will set us back about $150 for the three flights we have in the States. My fault though I guess. Didn’t make me feel better about it.

He checks us in but out booking doesn’t appear to have allocated seating. When I booked these months ago I selected seats on the plane and we were one of the first people to book. The plane was half full at the time. I was now informed that seats would be allocated at the gate.

Ah well. Moving on to something positive. The security was quick, efficient and well managed – this is not handled by United.

We got to the Gate and stood waiting, we were due to board in a few minutes. The screens say the plane is on time, no delays…boarding in 5 minutes….4 minutes….3 minutes etc. Very accurate, very modern. And then we don’t board. The screens then say the gate is closed. There is nobody on the desk by the gate. Many passengers look confused, unsure what is going on and there is nobody to explain it.

After 20 minutes a tannoy suggests that the flight is delayed and is due to leave at 12.05pm. The screens still show the gate closed and the flight leaving 20 minutes before. No-one on the desk still. When someone appears I ask her politely what is going on and she informs me she had gone on her lunch. Great. Very useful. So when is the flight due then? It says on the screens she replies. No it doesn’t. It says the plane has effectively left on the screens. "I don’t know I’ve been on my lunch" she lets me know. Excellent work.

We are then allocated seats. Not next to each other. Not happy Martin.

I take our boarding passes to customer services and say I have a couple of points to make on their service and ask them why we don’t have pre-booked seats like I had booked. The guy behind the desk tells me that when you book through travel agents the bookings aren’t always carried through. They only have to make sure we have a seat on the flight. I tell him that we didn’t book through a travel agent. We booked through Continental (partner to United) and he shrugs it off with some buzz words. He says it isn’t a problem, taps a few buttons, makes out like he has saved us and very quickly we are seated together – and so why wasn’t this done at first?

And then…

I ask why nobody is telling anyone what is going on? Why aren’t the screens showing the flight being delayed? Why is there nobody on the desk?

The rude patronizing lady behind the desk said “maybe they have been on their lunch – they are entitled to it you know?”

“I know they are, and we are entitled to some form of service – get someone to cover them, don’t just leave the gate empty with no information. People just need information to make them feel at ease”

“Well the flight has been delayed for a while sir”

“Where does it say that? The gate doesn’t say that”

“Its been delayed…..(she picks up a phone, acts like she’s calling someone and then pulls a number out of thin air) since 9.21am…we’ve been having some weather this morning as you can see”

I look out the window to glorious blue skies all around. I have never seen such a perfect day’s weather for flying.

“If it’s been delayed since 9.21am, why have the screens been showing it on time right up until and after the flight has gone?, we have only been told over the tannoy 10 minutes after the flight is meant to have left that it is delayed” I respond getting slightly frustrated by the bullshit coming my way. All I want is someone to do their job, apologise for the horrendously poor service and to get the boards to say the right thing.

“Sir. Sorry but I don’t think I could talk quick enough for you to make you happy. The flight is due at 12.05pm and will be called shortly”. She says to me and Kate with a snide little smile on her face. Rude woman. Bear in mind that all the gaps in our conversation have been to date filled with buzz words and technical mumbo jumbo from her partner in crime who also doesn’t seem to know what day it is.

“But you’re not sorry are you?” Kate chirps in as we walk away.

“Excuse me?” The patronizing woman responds to Kate

“You’re not sorry at all, are you?” Kate responds

“Well maybe I’m not” were the passing comment.

What a joke this company is. That was meant to be customer service.

At 12.05 we boarded the flight. We left about 15 minutes later and the flight was pretty good. The single stewardess serving the 44 seater flight was lovely and provided the drinks, and the flight was smooth. I have been panicking about the little flight for a while and it was probably one of my best. We flew over the desert plains and eventually circled around to land in McCarron International at Vegas. Standing in the middle of the dessert, Vegas is a sight to behold from the air; a grid network of houses for miles in each direction all surrounding this high rise central strip with specks of fake green providing some daytime colour to the browns and greys. What a place.

The rest of the day to be honest Is a Vegas blur. After checking in at the Tropicana (our large club room overlooks the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay hotels), we were a little like rabbits caught in the headlights. All the tables and slots are daunting to the newbie and we strolled around the interiors of The Excalibur, New York New York and Tropicana (our hotel) just to feel a bit more at ease. We ended up grabbing something (everything) to eat at the Excalibur buffet. The buffet cost $20 each and is in true American style, big. Getting there just after 5pm, it wasn’t too busy but seemed to be picking up when we left just after 6. In that hour salad (what a waste of precious stomach space!), Chinese food, pizza, pasta barbecue ribs, chocolate gateau, tiramisu, cheesecake etc were all inhaled. The deserts were fantastic – wish we had seen them earlier and just missed out on the mains.

We plodded our way back to the hotel after a stroll up the strip to see some more of the local hotels. Kate put herself to bed relatively early while I sat at the slots for a couple of hours, enjoying a couple of complimentary beers while slowly draining $20. If I was here 'properly’ I think I would put money aside especially for the gambling but because we are travelling I have budgeted a paupers salary to allow us to play a little over the 4 nights but not anything extravagant. We are here to see the sights, get a taste and see what all the fuss is about. After just sitting watching some blackjack and roulette with the relative high rollers compared to myself I am keen to return. The little thrill experienced by a mini win even though I had lost $20 was surprisingly good and I didn’t feel like I’d lost all that much anyways because of the comp drinks balancing my losses.

I am already growing to Vegas. I was expecting it to be tackier than it is and I am surprised by the quality. It is very busy here but you expect it to be, and there are all sorts here. Couples, singles, families.  It seems a bit weird seeing kids getting dragged around Casinos the week of Christmas but each to their own – I don’t think I would do it if I had kids. Seems a little selfish – this is an adult’s playground.
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