Once upon a time, in a strange city called Washington, a young woman wandered out on a sunny morning to catch a bus to an airport called Dulles.
Being a smart, careful woman with lots of common sense, she took her single suitcase, carry-on sized of course, and her laptop bag, and left more than three hours before her United flight was scheduled to take off. After all, she didn't want to be late.
So she waited for the bus, which was scheduled to come pick her up at 10:10
But the 10:10 bus never came.
The 10:30 bus never came.
The 10:55 bus came -- at 11:05.
The young woman began to worry when the bus didn't arrive at the airport until nearly noon.
It turned out that her fears were well-founded. The evil airline would not let her board her flight, even though she arrived half an hour in advance.
So she picked up the phone and talked to customer service, who told her there was nothing they could do and that she should call the booking agent.
So she called the booking agent, who told her there was nothing they could do and that she should talk to the airline's customer service desk.
Finally the young woman found an airline employee with an IQ higher than their shoe size, and got a seat on the 4:50 flight.
It meant nearly 5 hours in the airport, but our young heroine didn't mind. As long as she got home today.
Thunderstorms shook the region, and the flight was delayed until 5:30, then 6, then 6:30, then 6:45, and then canceled all together. The skies cleared and the sun came out by 6 p.m., but still the evil airline would not reinstate the flight.
The young woman ran to customer service again, but they told her that the next flight didn't leave until 10:10 that evening. Since she was supposed to be on the 12:33 flight earlier that afternoon, customer service told her that she would be at the bottom of the stand-by list since they had to give first priority to those who had originally purchased tickets for the 4:50 flight. The young woman knew this was bull, and probably invented so that the customer service agent didn't have to say the real reason. But she held her tongue and waited for the 10:10 flight.
The flight was delayed until 11:15, then 11:45, then 12:30 a.m., then 12:45. At 1 a.m., after being at the airport for 13 hours, the airline began boarding the flight and announcing the stand-by passengers who had a seat. But at the end of the fiasco, the young woman was the only person who didn't get a seat on the flight back home.
Having learned by now that "customer service" was a contradiction in terms to the employees at United, the woman steeled herself for yet another pleasant encounter.
They were unable, they said, to put her on stand-by for either the 7:15 or the 10:30 a.m. flights the next morning, but they were able to put her on stand-by for the 12:33 p.m. flight; a full 24 hours after her originally scheduled flight.
Meanwhile, they said, because the cancellation had been due to weather (even though the skies had cleared before 6 p.m.), they could not give her a hotel voucher or cab vouchers. It was not their policy to give vouchers for weather cancellations, since, they argued, the weather wasn’t their fault. They only gave vouchers for flights that had been overbooked or canceled for some other reason, not for weather.
The young woman tried to argue; after all, she was the only passenger for Syracuse who still didn’t have a flight. It was nearly two in the morning; she didn’t know anyone who could come pick her up or offer her a place to stay. She was alone, a bit afraid, in an airport by herself and who knew what might happen to her?
But her cries fell on deaf ears, and she was forced to spend the night in the airport. So she took a shuttle back to the C concourse (the evil airline had, in the course of the day, sent her to 5 different gates at 3 different concourses) and was shocked to discover that ... they'd sent her straight back to her original gate!
And so here now our heroine sits, in the vain hope that perhaps, maybe, if she's lucky, she'll get on a flight today.
But she doubts it.