I mentioned last week that I had a row with a Service Director at SFO on Wednesday. I had just arrived from San Diego (surly and argumentative SEA-based FA’s on the flight) and had a tight connection down to Ontario. Because my home is closer to Burbank, I planned to standby into BUR, a co-terminal airport, as the rules of my fare allowed. Taking advantage of UA’s liberal standby rules, I do this quite often and have never had a problem on getting on a flight into BUR if space was available.
I approached the BUR gate and made my request to the SkyWest agent working the flight. She was very young and seemed unsure if she could help me. She placed a call to the Service Director (at the next gate) and soon informed me that her supervisor had told her such a change was not possible.
Puzzled, I walked over to the Service Director and asked her what the problem was. She informed me that she could not touch my ticket because I “booked it through a travel agent.” I explained to her that I booked the ticket through United’s web support but she steadfastly reiterated that she would not alter the ticket stating, “They made that ticket especially for you and if you want to go to Burbank, you need to call web support.”
By this time, it was 1535 with scheduled departure for both the ONT and BUR flight just 13 minutes away. I heard my name being paged for the ONT flight but decided to try my luck over at the Customer Service Desk. Thankfully there was no line and the agent said there would be no problem putting me on the BUR flight. But as she was typing, her phone rang. It was the Service Director who told her, “Don’t put him on the BUR flight.” Ouch.
I went back over to the Burbank gate, pleaded with the agent to put me on, and she suggested I try calling UA reservations. I figured it would be futile, but I gave the 1K line a call…and was connected with India. I explained my situation to the agent who had absolutely no idea what I was taking about. He put me on hold and I walked down the jetbridge with the gate agent and waited right outside the aircraft door for the agent to get back to me. After five minutes on hold, I told the agent to go ahead and shut the door…it was 1548 (scheduled departure) and I did not think it was right to penalize her on-time performance to accommodate my standby request.
She was very apologetic and I thanked her and headed over to the Red Carpet Club. Once there, an agent confirmed me on the next Burbank flight immediately. Unfortunately, the next flight was over three hours away. At least I had my laptop and plenty of reading material along…
Fast-forward to last night. As indicated in the post below, all flights form QLA were zeroed out so I did not even bother to gamble with a standby from BUR. I journeyed out to ONT, my first visit to that airport, and made it in 45 minutes (the airport is 50 miles from my house) on the Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving. Not bad.
The terminal was spacious, clean, and very quiet. Two UX agents were sitting and chatting as I used the self check-in machine to print my boarding passes. I asked one of them about volunteer opportunities but they said only 49 were booked on the flight (50 seat CRJ-200).
I walked around the airport for a bit before clearing security and heading over to the gate. The security line was empty (only one lane was open), but 12 TSA employees (two downstairs, ten upstairs) were on hand to keep me safe. Upstairs, eight of them were hanging out in the secondary screening area laughing and discussing safety issues no doubt.
I relaxed in the gate area and made a few phone calls while waiting for the flight board. Suddenly, I head the magic words, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in need of one volunteer willing to give up their seat on tonight’s flight.” I admit it, I sprinted to the podium, gleefully handed the agent my boarding pass, and smiled. She thanked me and offloaded me from the flight. I told her we could take care of rebooking after she got the flight to SFO out, but she had a few extra minutes before boarding so she rebooked me out of BUR for this morning.
I asked if I could have travel credits instead of a r/t voucher and she said, “Sure. No problem. It will be $400.” Gently, I told her that I thought the correct amount was $600 for a bump longer than six hours asked her to take a look at the Star profile on VDB. She did and moments later said that I was correct: I would get $600!
She printed out the 4x$150 certs and told me she would finalize my itinerary after she boarded the flight to SFO. Boarding begin and soon it was just me and two gate agents in the gate area. Four people still had not boarded and the agent paged them over the loudspeaker. A few minutes later two passengers sauntered up and boarded, but there was still a party of two who had not boarded and it was now just eight minutes before departure time.
After making two more final boarding announcements, the agent asked me if I wanted to fly on my originally scheduled itinerary. I said yes and she said I could keep the vouchers and she would restore my itinerary to its original state. I thanked her profusely and boarded the flight to SFO with a huge grin on my face.
At SFO, I enjoyed a nice chat with Hunter in the SkyClub (he was heading to ATL) then met up with the eminent Gray Roberge of the Wing and a Prayer blog. We were both on the same flight to Chicago with 0600 East Coast connections the following morning and were both hoping for VDB opportunities. No luck.
Despite the attitude of the SFO Service Director on Wednesday, I really enjoyed my Thanksgiving travel this year. Most FA’s were good, flights were one time, and most importantly, I scored another VDB voucher. Lucky makes some great points in his recent blog post on trying to stay on a diet and workout regimen while traveling, but I enjoyed my four day hiatus from healthy eating and the gym. Back to the treadmill and lean protein tonight though.
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