Business trip from heck (conclusion)

I’ve been remiss in following up on part 1, so here are parts 2 and 3. For those who want the Cliff Notes version: United Airlines sucks.
Now I didn’t take notes, and my memory isn’t great, so it was (if anything) worse than what I write here.

Got up Monday morning, and downstairs just in time to catch the shuttle to the airport. In the airport, I had to check in and get my boarding passes (why couldn’t customer service have just done this for me the night before and saved me a couple hours?). After check-in, we’re off to the TSA checkpoint. I’m stopped and made to open my carry-on so that they can rifle through it. Also my backpack (a.k.a. laptop case). They didn’t find anything untoward in the carry-on, but it seems I forgot about my leatherman tool that I keep kept in my backpack for emergency usage. It, of course, has a knife blade. Bye-bye leatherman. How did security in Detroit not catch that? Oh, wait… it’s Detroit. A blade that small is for picking your fingernails in Detroit. They probably saw it and shrugged it off. So now United has cost me: 1 day in Germany, 1 leatherman.

Flight to Newark was delayed. Once again, the reason given in the terminal was promptly dismissed by the pilot of the plane as being untrue. True reason for the delay was not actually given. Fortunately I had a huge layover at Newark, so the delay does not cause me to spend yet another day in the states (or, heaven forbid, fly to another airport for a different Frankfurt flight).

Flight to Frankfurt was originally booked as business class. I’m now in “economy”. United is teh suck for downgrading me when the reason is that they screwed up my original flight plans. Fortunately, the flight itself is flawless. No complaints at all. Of course, this flight is actually on Lufthansa, not United. The only problem is the cramped seat, which is United’s fault, not Lufthansa’s. Barely able to sleep. Arrive in Frankfurt quite tired. So now United has cost me: 1 day in Germany, 1 leatherman, 1 downgrade from business class to economy, some sleep.

I had a rental car reservation with Europcar. For Monday. It’s now Tuesday (thanks again to United), and they have no cars left. So I walk down the row of rental agencies, and find an available car with Avis. The initially tell me all they have is Smart car, but that’s fine. Anything that moves will do. They actually upgrade me a bit to a Fiat Panda (a what?!?). Then it’s time to hit the autobahn. Heck yeah! I love the sections that have no speed limit. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of construction going on, so I have bursts of 150 kph between long sections of 80 kph. And for what it’s worth, the Panda’s speedometer goes to 200 kph, but the vehicle itself strains to hit 160. I call that “false advertising”.

So the trip itself goes well. Friends from Stuttgart came out to Aalen to visit me and take me out to dinner Tuesday night, and the company I was validating machines at took us out Wednesday night. I spent the rest of the time either working or sleeping. Damned jet lag.

Thursday morning, I’m on the autobahn again, get to airport without incident (passed a purple Lamborghini going the opposite direction on the autobahn, and had a severe envy attack). Check in, go to my gate, and…. the flight is marked “on time”, but it’s actually delayed. The plane is sitting out on the tarmac being worked on by maintenance crews, so we have to climb downstairs, board a bus, and get bussed out to the plane. At least I’m actually business class for this flight. I get to ride on the second story of the plane. Something about the plane having a second story just seems wrong to me, but….

Land in Chicago. I believe this was scheduled to be my longest layover of all. Instead, I barely have time to make it to my gate before they begin boarding (I literally did not have time to sit down after I got there). Had to check my carry-on this time because I bought some wine at the duty-free in Frankfurt, and the TSA is just damned stupid about liquids. This flight is also on United, but shockingly is not delayed, and leaves on time. Which can mean only one thing…. You guessed it! They didn’t put my luggage on board! So I fly home “1st class”, which isn’t what it’s cracked up to be on a plane this small. I land in Detroit and go to baggage claim, and the cases come out on the conveyor, then the conveyor stops. I’m thinking “equipment malfunction”, and waiting patiently for it to start again when a voice over the PA says “that’s all, folks”. I go to file a lost luggage claim, and I’m asked for my sticker. You know, the one they should have stuck to my ticket when I checked the bag? But all is not lost. Assistance is called for, they figure out which bag is mine. It’s on it’s way to Detroit already, but won’t get in until the evening. They’ll ship it to my home tomorrow. Once again United’s customer service is extremely polite, friendly, and helpful. Once again, they need to be (many others lost luggage as well, including some who didn’t have any clothes to get changed into… at least I was headed home).

So let’s recap:
I was originally booked for 1 economy flight, 2 business class flights, and 1 pseudo-1st class flight. After United screws up the first time, I wind up with 3 economy class, 1 business class, and 1 pseudo-1st class.
Of these 5 flights, 4 are with United, 1 with Lufthansa.
United was delayed 3 times, and lost my luggage once. Number of flights without a problem: 0
Lufthansa was great. Flawless, even. Although “1-for-1” is hardly statistically relevant.
Best airport: Dulles.
Most dismal-looking airport: Detroit
Worst airport: Newark.

Glad to be home. Though I’ll miss the autobahn and the biergarten

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