An Interesting Thing Happened To Me On The Way to Orlando…

Boarding plane

The strangeness started at the remote lot of The Parking Spot 2 on Will Clayton. They left me waiting by my car for more than 10 minutes, while busses went by in all directions. It was strange, since there appeared to be plenty of shuttle buses, just none of them wanted to take me to the airport. Finally, I flagged one down and got on, but we proceeded to drive up and down the isles for a while, and picked up a couple other people, then finally headed out to the airport. No “sorry, we’re really busy” or anything, just driving the bus…

I was not overly worried though, as I arrived early and still had an hour and a half until my flight. Since it was Saturday night, Terminal C was completely deserted, and all the security queues were empty, even the regular line. Needless to say, the PreCheck queue was quick and I was through in about 30 seconds from BEEP, BEEP, BEEP until I grabbed by bags on the far side of the x-ray scanner. I quickly checked the monitors to determine my flight was still leaving on-time from Gate C16, then headed to the United Club to get some work done and watch the rest of the Georgia LSU american football game.

The North club in Terminal C was pretty quiet. The attendants at the front said this is usually the slowest and quietest club at IAH. It was the first time I had been in that one (there are FIVE United Clubs at Continental’s old hub!), but it was eerily quiet on a Saturday evening. The Internet connection at the club was reasonably fast, possibly due the fact that no one else was there. I was able to stream the game to my phone easily. No problems so far.

I headed to the gate with about 35 minutes to go before the scheduled departure. By the time I got to the gate, they were boarding group 3, but due to the new 5-lane boarding, I was able to walk right up to the front through the group 1 boarding lane. The attendant held the line for me, and the gentleman behind me, to board right away. There was plenty of overhead bin space, so I was able to stow my bags and take seat 2D in the second row of first class, then pulled out my iPad to start reading.

At this point, besides the wait for the parking shuttle, this flight was going quite well. I was looking forward to dinner on the flight, as I hadn’t eaten all day. The flight was on time, and I had my favorite isle seat near the front.

However, just a minute or two later, a woman boarded with a bunch of young kids and proceeded to herd them into all the remaining empty first class seats. There was a United representative with her, so I’m not sure if she had paid for the seats, or they were comp’d by United for some reason, but AFTER she had them scattered in their assigned seats, spread all over the cabin, she proceeded to ask all the people sitting next to the kids to move so they could all sit together (So the first step was just a scare tactic?). The United assistant just stood there and watched the whole thing, holding his clipboard. He said nothing, and did nothing to help her, nor did the two flight attendants who were busy passing out pre-flight drinks. One older man sitting in the front row refused to move (having gotten the bulkhead row that many covet, with more leg room and first choice on meals), so she huffed and loudly explained to the kid sitting next to the guy that he would just have to deal with it since that ‘nice’ man wouldn’t move.

At this point, all the rest of the passengers just looked at each other, wondering how bad this flight was going to get (I really couldn’t believe that the flight crew was just completely ignoring her during the whole affair). When she got to me, I decided to move just to get away from them, I didn’t fancy sitting next to this woman the whole flight. Unfortunately though, the seat I swapped for was the very last window seat, with limited recline, served last, and I missed out on the hot dinner since it was all out by the time they got to me. I had salad and tomato soup for dinner, no big deal I guess, but I had reserved the front seat for just that reason. I didn’t eat before the flight and had expected to eat first right after we took off. Instead, because it was also the slowest meal service ever, I had to wait for two hours and eat quickly right before landing in Orlando at about 10pm. They were hurrying us along as we gulped down the food, starving, so they could clean up in time to land. This was on a 2 1/2 hour flight with just 20 people eating.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem helping out a family to sit together. I never found out for sure, but I can guess that this group was giving the seats because they were forcibly bumped from an earlier flight. And maybe this woman was doing the best she could after what could have been a long day dealing with the airline, but the real problem I had with her was her sense of entitlement. She felt she could just order everyone around, and that she had the authority to move people where she wanted, with a very angry and accusing tone. I think that’s why some of the people were reluctant to move…she was just annoying.

What made matters worse was that the crew just watched. Neither of the two first class flight attendants, nor the man with the clipboard did ANYTHING to help in this situation. No announcements, no apology, they all just stood there and watched the crazy lady with all the kids yelling at everyone. I have no idea what “clipboardman”tm was there for, but it was clearly not to help the woman and her kids have a better experience, or to calm and reassure the other passengers that all was going to be OK.

Ah first world problems I guess! You have to adjust to the moment when traveling these days. However, it is still frustrating when you make plans and expect things to go a certain way, but when they don’t you get frustrated regardless. You just have to take a breath and remember you could have been in the back of coach by the restroom doors with no food or drink at all… :)

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