The week before last I was in Orlando, Florida for a MySQL company meeting at which Sun announced their intention to acquire MySQL. It was a good mix of work, planning and fun, and apart from the initial surprise at the ownership change, went off without too many hitches.
On my way back home I had to fly United to LA and then Qantas back to Australia. Unfortunately a storm closed Orlando for a few hours, meaning I was to miss my flight in LA. I have travel insurance, and really, a night in LA may mean I get to check out those books that Karen wanted me to track down. A nice relaxing layover may be just what I need to reduce the jet lag I would otherwise be battling.
Nature decided to give things a bit of a twist though and a screaming headache, bordering on migraine proportions (and yes, I do know what a migraine feels like, having suffered from them as a teenager) started to settle in on me during the flight to LA. The people at United were very helpful and even tried to get me on their flight to Australia as they thought I'd have a higher priority given that United were at fault for the missed connection (really? I thought it was the storm, but hey, if you feel responsible, who am I to argue?) They did say I should go to the Qantas desk and check on my baggage. Traipsing from Terminal 7 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal found no open Qantas desk, and a hotline to a call centre in Australia that was frankly as much use as tits on a bull.
At this stage the headache was almost unbearable and I wasn't prepared to wait for a hotel shuttle, so grabbed a cab. The cabbie wanted to point out that it was a half-mile or so ride for which I'd have to pay the minimum - which was $17.50. To be honest I'd have given him my right arm and toes as change, so I finally got to the hotel and then the fever started. I hadn't at this stage really thought it was anything more than a bad headache, even though I ended up sweating through the night and having weird technicolor dreams.
The next day I decided to head down to Venice Beach to Small World Books, which I found thanks to Google Earth, and found a few books that Karen would like. I also walked around a bit but decided that I should get back to the airport and try and figure out where my baggage was, and what chances I had on getting on a plane that night.
Well, the Qantas desk didn't open until 2pm, and even then, I'd managed to leave my baggage claim check with the United counter the previous night, so traipsed back up to Terminal 7 to track down the numbers required. Then back to the international terminal and lo, no sign of the bags, nothing was transferred from United overnight, I'll need to take it up with United. OK, I'm starting to get tired, my head is pounding again and now I'm dehydrating due to the fever. Not in the mood. Can you call United I ask. No, they won't answer the phone. What??? Can you try? No, I'm not prepared to do that. What???? So much for customer service. So back to the United baggage area this time and I check with them. The bag was sent to Qantas the night before, they could even tell me the time. Great! I also ask them to find out what my realistic chances were for catching the flight that night. Now here is the difference, they told me that I was a fair way down the waitlist and that the previous night's service saw only one person get a seat from the waitlist, and that my chances weren't great, and it wasn't looking good for the following night. While not the best news it was at least something I could use to plan.
Back to Qantas, and I still have no baggage, but I ask if I can get onto the flight that day. I'm told that they will put me on standby. OK, now, what is the realistic expectation of me getting a seat? "We don't normally do standby." How is that an answer? 50%? 90%? 10%?, what are the chances? "I already told you, we don't normally do standby." WTF? OK, So I hang around until 10:15pm (an hour before take off) and find that there are at least 20 people who are waiting for standby! Don't normally do standby my arse! I manage to get a seat and am faced with a line of at least 2 hours to get through security, and when I try and ask the Qantas staff if there is some way through he walks off and ignores me! Finally someone takes pity on us and we get onto the flight.
Just in case you missed this - the United staff on every occasion I had to deal with them were polite, courteous, helpful and open. They never lied to me and tried their best to assist me. The Qantas staff were simply rude, unhelpful and even outright lied to me. I have always preferred to fly Qantas because of their in-air service, but I really am going to have to rethink after this episode.
Now through all of this I haven't really realised I was ill, just a bit headachy and frazzled. But on the flight home I manage to pass out and need oxygen a few times. When I get home the doctor says that I'd suffered (or rather was still suffering) influenza. Well, that would explain the fever, dehydration, headache and aches and pains. Still, a few days in bed and I'm right as rain. But I'm still putting the final touches to the letter of complaint to Qantas for their appalling customer service in LA. Oh, and Simon, your name will be singled out as the main culprit, there was no excuse for your behaviour at any stage, and I'd be willing to guess that the reason United won't take your calls is because of you.
P.S. The bag arrived on the same plane as me, which just shows that Qantas were either still lying or are completely useless. The only high point was their care of me on the flight home after I'd passed out and the care that in particular one female staff member meted out (and I'm sorry I never got your name.) Their arrivals team in Melbourne were overstressed but handled me with care and concern that their LA counterparts would do well to learn from.