Sunday, November 12, 2006

They f... you at the drive thru

Got back from India this morning (about 2:15am Sunnyvale time), after a 24 hour (door-to-door) trip home that turned into 36 hours. And why? Is Joe Pesci said it best -

"Don't ever go up to the drive-thru, ok? Always walk up to the counter. You know why? Ok, ok, ok, ok. They fuck you at the drive-thru, ok? They fuck you at the drive-thru. They know you gonna be miles away before you find out you got fucked, ok? They know you're not gonna turn around and go back. So, they don't care."

The flight from Bangalore to London was delayed in taking off, but the captain promised to try to make up for lost time. Then we sat on the tarmac at Heathrow, waiting our chance to dart across the runways and make it to Terminal 4 . It's supposed to take 75 minutes to get from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1 (further rant on LHR and terminal changing later) and I have 20 minutes to make the flight. The lead flight attendant comes on and says "For our passengers carrying on to SFO, don't worry - please meet the agent at the bottom of the stairs, where they'll have a bus waiting to take you directly to your gate." Sounds great. Since they had a bus for us, not just a little car, and I was just a few rows behind business class, I stayed calm, and waited the few minutes to get off. I'm on the top of the stairs, when the regular bus to the arrival gate pulls off, and the agent at the bottom of the stairs, with a sign saying "Passengers to San Francisco", starts walking 2 people over to second bus waiting on the side. No worries, she's just taking them over in groups or something. Heck no - 2 people get on the bus, and off it goes. Get down to the bottom of the stairs and the agent w/ the little sign says "You've missed your connection - see the flight connections agent inside to get re-routed."

Why come on the intercom and tell us not to worry, if you're going to have the bus take off in 2 minutes, when 90% of the people connecting to SFO aren't on it? It's like there's 2 sets of people at BA - those that are trying to make things run smoothly, and those that are just doing their time. What am I going to do, come back and complain to the person? Once I'm off the plane, I'm gone. So - bus idea, great. Bus needs to leave in X minutes to keep the other flight on time, fine - just don't come tell everyone to relax, and make them suddenly expect that things are OK. I was already sure I was doomed, so getting my hopes up was unfair.

About 20 folks from my flight missed their connections (JFK and SFO being the major 2). I was near the front of the this group (but still about 25 people back in the line), so 2 hours later, when I finally made it to an agent, I did still have a slim hope of making it out of London to the states that day. No more direct flights to SFO, but I could either fly through JFK or Vancouver, and then Vegas, to SFO. I got the Vancouver route (figured it'd be less busy / risky than JFK), and the guy next to me got JFK. Even got an upgrade from normal Economy (World Traveler in BA terms) to Economy Plus (World Traveler Plus). Not business class, but it was better a bit better than economy, so I didn't complain. But, I didn't get told that if I my bags didn't make it, or if I chose to have my bags sent the next day, that in Vancouver I had a chance to catch a direct flight to SFO, and cut almost 5 hours off my schedule.

Nice thing about LHR is that they have a few smoking sections, so I had a few cigarettes, in between phoning Nava, emailing her my updated itinerary from a crap pay-per-use Internet connection with sticky keys, so I it took me 5 minutes to type a 5 line email. Why didn't I switch to another one? This was the third one I tried - first two just took my money and refused to connect, and the others were all full. Flight to Vancouver was OK - arrived on time, and then had to wait a few minutes to park. Rush off the plane, through immigration, and down to baggage claim. Bags start to roll-off as I hear my name paged, so I go over to the BA baggage office to be told my bags didn't make it. Bad news is I now have no car keys to drive my car home, but I they did save me 30 minutes of waiting and not having my bags turn up. BA baggage folks give me a form to get through customs (since I don't have my luggage now), so it's out thru customs, and into the US Departures clearing.

Get to US Departures (poorly signed, so I had to stop 3 times and study all the small signs to find my way), and find out that I need a boarding pass (Vancouver to Vegas is on Alaska, Vegas to SFO is on US Airways), so get sent back out front. Alaskan ticket counter is the furthest away from US Departures, but has no line, so I get my boarding pass, fill out the US customs form, and back in. US Departures guy ask how I'm returning from an overseas trip w/ no luggage, and then sympathizes with my delayed baggage story. Get through that, and then security (for the 3rd time that day), and head to my gate. It's 7:25 - plane is supposed to board at 7:35. Hit the rest room, and wait. 7:35 rolls around and no boarding. 7:45 rolls up, and suddenly people are walking out. Yep - plane just landed, so we'll be leaving late.

If I had known that, and had known that there was a 7:40 direct to SFO (at the other end of the terminal), I would have had time to try stand-by on it, and still get back to this gate in time. Plane takes off 15 minutes late to Vegas, but has a good tail wind, so we make up the time en route, and land on time. And then wait - first to let another plane out of the "alley", and then more for them to find us ground staff to park the plane. Rush off, and then find that I have to go from Terminal D, where Alaskan is, to Terminal B, where US Airways is. Wait 10 minutes for the train (and then 2 arrive), rush up to check in, and am told no exit seats, but I can upgrade to 1st class for $50. Pay that, and head off to security for the 4th time that day. Through security, and off to the gate, where they're about half way through boarding. Get on, settle in, and then wonder where everyone else is. The plane was only 1/3rd full, so I would have had room back in steerage, but who knew (well, I didn't - the ticket agent did).

Get to SFO OK, minus car keys, so head to the taxi rank. One guy about 10 taxis back asks if I need a taxi, to which I reply yes, but keep walking, as I thought he was trying to jump the queue. He starts following me, and as I approach the front car, I realized that it has no driver, so I turn to look, and there's the guy from the middle of queue, following me. He was first, but was hanging out back there, chatting w/ friends. Tax ride home is over $100 ($67.35 plus 50% "late-night" surcharge), but as I'm chatting with guy and tell him my car is at SFO, and my keys are in London, he says he can drop me back at long term parking, for free, since he's going back that way anyway. I decide I'm too tired to drive home again, so I just thank him for his offer.

Get up this morning, and call BA to find out the status of my bags, only to find out that I need a lost/delayed bag tracking number, which I can only get at the airport. Agent on the phone asks me why I didn't fill one out, to which I reply first, BA told me my bags didn't make it on the plane, so they knew, second I had to rush to get to the next plane, and 3rd, they'd already told me my bags weren't there, so why should I head over to BA international to find out again. And why do I need to fill out a form to tell them they still have my bags, when they know that they still have my bags...

Overall, about 1/3rd of the people were helpful, and helped get me back home on time, but not necessarily good at it (like not telling me to try the Vancouver / SFO direct flight, if I had time), or honest (like US Airways pushing the upgrade to 1st, when the flight was only 1/3rd full).

So - they don't always f* you at the drive thru, but they do it way to often.


Nava said...

Wow - now that is a very scenic route! Poor the JohnnyB.
See, I never ever trust anyone who tells me to relax and not worry. When you live with someone who tells you to relax, and then sets the house on fire, well, you learn.

Still awaiting the goods from India...

CherkyB said...

Heh heh. You said, "F... you." Heh heh.

CherkyB said...

Well, dude, by my calculations, your wife will overtake you in "unique" visits sometime in the next 3 days. That's pretty sad given you had a couple month head start on her. You better start posting interesting stuff.

Nava said...

Hey, I overtook The JohnnyB long ago.
His StatCounter is set to one hour (ONE HOUR!!), while mine is set to 12 hours.
What is yours set to - 5 minutes?

JohnnyB said...

CherkyB - I'm getting 3x the referrals from NavaUSA then from CherkyB, so I think she's kicking both our butts!

Just wanted to mention my butt one more time :)

Nava said...

And yet, how come CherkyB's blog has priority over mine under your "Blogs of Interest"?!??

Hence, I repeat my question: Anything I should know?

CherkyB said...

Mine is set to 6 hours. Of course, I also lay a blocking cookie on myself so that it doesn't count my own hits to me, which obviously neither of you do.

The reason you're getting 3x the referrals from NavaUSA that you get from CherkyB is because they're all coming from a single Comcast account in Sunnyvale. Just like 100% of the referrals I get from this site.

Nava said...

Pffffffffffffffrrr - such accusations!
I also do not count my one visitations, nor does The JohnnyB.
"I also lay a blocking cookie on myself" - now , that's TMI...