You’d think that since this column is called “I’m with Stupid,” I would have had something to say about the airlines long ago. After all, there is seemingly no more poorly run industry on the planet. Surprisingly, though, I haven’t had much of a beef. Until now.
It all started a few weeks back, when I booked a ticket to my hometown for Thanksgiving. I searched and searched for a reasonably priced fare before finally finding one that wouldn’t require a second mortgage. (I won’t name the airline, but suffice it to say it rhymes with Poonited.) Sure, I’d have a three-hour layover in Denver and a four-hour one in Chicago, but if that’s all there was, so be it.
Surprisingly, when I got to Chicago and looked at the departure board, I discovered another flight to my destination would leave in just two hours. My flight, the one not scheduled to leave for four hours, was already inexplicably delayed an hour and a half, so I asked if I could go stand-by on the earlier one.
The ladies at Poonited, after rolling their eyes at my stupid question, told me I couldn’t go stand-by because I had to travel with my bag. FAA regulation, they said.
Fine. I understood. If it’s an FAA regulation, what choice did I have? I wasn’t happy about having to sit in O’Hare for five and a half hours, but I could live with it.
Soon, though, Poonited announced the delay would be two hours. Minutes later, it became two and a half — I wouldn’t land until after 11 p.m. I wasn’t sure what could be so wrong with a plane that it couldn’t be remedied in six and a half hours — hell, they could have flown in a new one from Japan by then.
Whatever. Delays happen. But it was a little galling when we could finally board and the gate attendant told us to hurry up so we could take off “on time.” Apparently, Poonited’s people aren’t familiar with what that term really means.
I finally arrived at my destination, and, of course, my luggage didn’t, which I practically expected. What I didn’t expect was that, because it was so late, no one was at the Poonited counter. Unable to file a missing luggage report, I did the only thing I could: I called someone in Mumbai who barely spoke English.
The lady was nice enough, but she worked in reservations and couldn’t help. I asked to be transferred to customer service, only to find out that the only way to contact them is by e-mail. I don’t know how that qualifies as customer service, but then I don’t mismanage a giant corporation.
I finally spoke to someone — in the Philippines — who said my bag had already arrived at the airport, some seven hours before me. So, apparently, I didn’t have to fly with my bag after all. I don’t know if Poonited lied to me or broke FAA rules, but my bag was there. I just couldn’t get it because no one was available to help.
I gave the Poonited guy my address and asked that my bag be delivered the next morning. He assured me it would. It wasn’t. I waited until 11 a.m. before heading back to the airport.
When I got there, once again nobody was at the Poonited counter. About 20 minutes later I managed to find a woman who checked in the back, then told me my bag was on a van that had left at noon. I didn’t see how this was possible, as it was only 11:45 a.m., but she was adamant.
Great! A wasted trip to the airport, but at least my bag was on its way. I went back to my parents’ house and waited … and waited … and waited. At 2 p.m., I called the Philippines again and was told my bag would arrive between noon and 4. The woman on the phone even said she would take “personal responsibility” for it. I have no idea what that was supposed to mean, but it sounded nice.
Finally, at about 4:20, a van pulled into the driveway, and a man got out carrying my bag. I asked what took him so long. He looked at me quizzically: “What do you mean? I just picked it up.”
It seems my bag had been at the airport all along. The Poonited rep just couldn’t be bothered to pick it up and give it to me.