Monday, February 8, 2010

Coming Back to America

On Christmas Day, 2009, my boyfriend, his father, his little brother, and I all went to the Incheon International Airport early in the morning. Those of you who have traveled internationally know that it is very stressful, and this was no exception. I was tired from our day at Everland and sleeping on a Korean futon on the floor (like a thick blanket rather than a mattress), and I'm not a morning person anyway. Although my boyfriend's father had traveled internationally for business quite a bit in the past, airline policies have changed a lot in the past ten years, so he was in the dark about what to do. After my travels from America to Korea and between Korea and Japan, I was the foremost expert on the subject. Unfortunately, I am to this day stressed out about missing planes, getting arrested for nothing, or whatever else can go wrong. What I'm trying to say is that nobody had a head about them. However, we managed to get on the right plane with plenty of time to spare despite confusing information given me by the airline desk that led me to believe we would miss our flight and thereby freak out. My boyfriend's father's last memory of me is a jittery, stressed out, snappy, tired, nervous brat. I hope he understands. As it turns out, my stress was well-founded, as we discovered during our connection in Washington D.C.. From the scheduled landing time of our plane from Japan to the departure time of our plane to Detroit, we had two and a half hours. That's more than enough time, right? Nope. Instead of docking at a different gate like normal planes do when the assigned gate is occupied, our plane waited for half an hour. Then we finally got into the airport, and I had to separate from my boyfriend because I'm an American citizen and didn't have to go through immigration. After going though customs and getting my passport stamped, I went to the baggage claim and re-check area, which is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of in my life. I found my and my boyfriend's bags and sat with them, watching the door for him to arrive. After waiting a long time and starting to worry, a security woman told me that I couldn't wait in the baggage claim area. I told her politely that I was waiting for my boyfriend to go through immigration and that this was his first time traveling by plane and his English wasn't too great. I was worried that he would have a lot of trouble figuring out this step of the process, because I even had trouble with said ridiculousness. She responded very impolitely that I was in a baggage claim area, not a waiting room. I was under the impression that one could function as the other, seeing as it had never been a problem in domestic flights, and reiterated that my boyfriend was not American and had no idea what was going on. She, again impolitely, inquired his age, to which I replied 23. She then quite rudely reminded me in an unnecessarily raised voice that he is an adult and can take care of himself and I had better get my own self taken care of so that I don't cost the airline money by missing my flight. I held back tears of stress, anger, and helplessness and also restrained from using profanities. I did as she said, hatred for United Airlines building in my chest.

After making it through security, I took a look at the departures board and realized that we didn't have much time left before missing our flight. I asked the nice (no really, the guy was as helpful as he could be) information kiosk guy how far away our gate was and how long it usually took incoming flights to get through immigration. As it became evident that we would probably miss our flight unless I could get my boyfriend through some lines faster, I asked the kind guy if he could radio downstairs to get my boyfriend to the front of the line. I've experienced that in security often: people with flights really soon are ushered to the front of the line. This saves the airline money and unwanted customer dissatisfaction at missing a flight because of the airline. Well, turns out, the nice man wasn't even allowed to talk to security or immigrations people. Isn't a pillar of good customer service communication between employees? Now I was really mad at United Airlines. At long last, my boyfriend emerged through the doors, and I wiped my tears that had been streaming down my face at increasing intervals as the minutes passed because the next flight to Detroit was five hours later and we had already flown overseas and were on our second connection. I told him to run, and we ran to the terminal. We were five minutes late. The plane hadn't departed yet; the doors had closed. I asked if there was any way to get us on the plane before it left in five minutes, and the guy working there walked away talking into a radio without answering me. A couple of minutes later, during which minutes my boyfriend and I were waiting hopefully and breathlessly from running on nearby seats, an angry man who had been waiting at the wrong gate because that's where a United representative told him to wait came yelling at the gate guy who was still there (not the one who walked off with the radio). The guy told him that the doors had closed and he would have to wait for the next flight five hours later. I became livid and yelled something like, "you mean we've been waiting here for you to tell us if we can get on the plane or not and you were never gonna tell us that the answer is no?!?!" He made some cocky remark, but I was already in tears. After stressing out in now three airports in one day, after the stress of waiting helplessly with no way to contact my boyfriend for more than an hour, after being snapped at by now four United employees (including two snotty flight attendants), I had missed a flight for the first time in my life. It was totally out of my control and nobody had tried to help me.

We then waited for like an hour in a service counter line and although I had all these grand ideas about bitching out the service counter person, I realized that a lot of the people in line were on the same flight we were that waited too long outside the gate. I'm sure the service counter people had already been yelled at, and I just didn't have energy. So I switched our flight and called my mom on that phone because she was waiting to pick us up in Detroit, and I complained very loudly so that everyone could hear about how much I hated United because of the events of the past few hours. I suppose they were thinking similar thoughts. My mother was also thinking similar thoughts, because she had to drive over an hour back home and then drive back to the airport again later to come get us.

We ended up eating hamburgers and fries while waiting, and spending some relaxing time watching my boyfriend experience his first moments in America relaxed me a bit. After finally arriving at Detroit Metro, we had a little baggage confusion but nothing too bad, and had an awkwardly emotionless meeting with my mom. Everyone was exhausted and annoyed about the flight change, so after nine months in Korea the first moment I saw my mom had no tears or laughs. Those would come later, as will the next post.

The gist of this post is... NEVER FLY UNITED AIRLINES! To back up my point here is another person with a similarly angry outlook on United: United Breaks Guitars


  1. You should update your blog!

  2. Thanks! I will after I finish my final exams next week. Right now I'm so busy with my university classes :/