Will "the Mighty" Strohl

Fly Away Home – Going to San Diego and United Airlines Sucks!

My Grandfather has been ill for quite some time.  Unfortunately, he has taken a turn for the worse recently, and isn’t expected to make it much longer.  Initial reports are that he will not make it through the week.  I have been expecting this for some time now, so I am not at all surprised.  I will be making the best of this, and spend some time with him since it’s been a handful of years since I have seen him.  That being said, let’s talk about how the trip has begun. 

Making the Decision

We spent at least 8 hours yesterday trying to rearrange bills and such to determine who was going to my hometown of San Diego.  It was a tough decision to make.  After getting some prices and putting the information together, we narrowed our decision making to 2 possibilities.  Either just Kim and I fly to San Diego, or we drive and take all of the kids on their first true road trip.  We definitely wanted to take the kids with us, but we had to make the tough decisions and unfortunately, those decisions are directly linked to our budget right now.

Booking the Trip

Upon making the decision at 8 PM last night to fly, we booked our flight and rental car.  For the flight, we of course booked through RezHub.com.  I kind of have a little bit of a bias there since I work for RezHub.  :)  Luckily, we not only used them for that reason, but the cheapest flight we could find was there, on United Airlines.  It was cheaper than all of the “big guys” of online travel too!  We used Alamo for our rental car, as they were the cheapest for a compact vehicle.  Since we don’t have the kids, we have no need to get a larger vehicle and spend even money on it, and the fuel to run it.  Not to mention, that the less fuel we buy, the less carbon that gets put into the atmosphere.

The Airport

The airport was no different than it ever is.  The Orlando International Airport is a pretty standard airport, and it is old.  Nothing good or bad to report with it.  However, upon checking in, and getting through security (event-free), we arrived in the food court area near our gate.  There is a Qdoba there.  I have always wanted to try their food.  Though, we had an early flight, so we were limited to breakfast burritos.  I had their chorizo one, and Kim has their potato and egg burrito.  It was decent, but nothing to go into any great detail about.

Passenger Tech Review

Walking from front to back in this full plane, I have seen a large handful of laptops, one netbook, one kindle, a few MP3 players, one CD player, and countless handheld gaming devices.

The Airplane

This is my first time fling on United Airlines (that I’ll admit to).  Their gate area is definitely going through some extensive renovations.  And apparently, the plane we got stuck with is about to, after our flight.  I usually fly Southwest, and when I have extra money to throw away, I like Delta.  Both are worlds better than United. 

I found out very quickly after seating why our tickets were so cheap.  The seats are packed so incredibly close to each other!  For an extra $54 per person, we could get an extra 5 inches of space. You’ve got to be KIDDING ME!  I literally have my laptop squished between me and the seat in front of me, and my arms are overlapping Kim to my right, and some lady on my left (who continues to successfully battle for the arm rest).  I am so glad that all 3 of us are not any wider than we already are. This flight would be enough to validate in-flight suicide.

United apparently charges for everything except soft drinks and water.  “Do you want a pillow?  Sure. That'll be $4.  How about a snack?  That’s only another $6.  Don’t worry, we can swipe your card right here.”  When we checked in, we had the option to upgrade to first class for only $145 per person.  I thought that was pretty reasonable, but this plane doesn’t even have a first class.

The Captain announced at the beginning of the flight that our online music selection would include listening to their airline chatter on channel 9.  Though, it was never actually turned on.

Kim and I began to complain to each other early in the flight about everything we didn’t like about our experience with United so far.  It was amusing, because everyone around us began to contribute to the conversation, voicing the same things we disliked, and more.  What was a little ironic about it was that they are all also fans of Southwest.  Like us, they only are flying this flight due to either someone else paying for their ticket, getting a flight voucher, or the cheap rate.

Things are broken in this plane too.  Among them, one of the 3 bathrooms.  This has caused very uncomfortable lines to form at each end of the plane.  And walking by someone in the aisle leaves you one of two options: either you rub up against them, or you rub up against a seated passenger while they pass.  The only comfortable people appear to be the hobbit size and smaller children.

United is not the greenest of airlines either.  Purchasing a snack box, blanket, or pillow will raise the level of trash you create on a flight exponentially.  The pillows and blankets are individually wrapped in plastic, as are the snack boxes.  Once you rip the plastic wrapping off of the snack box, you then have to unwrap every item that you wish to each inside.  Yes.  All of the snacks are once again individually wrapped.  Fail!

I don’t care who you are, this cheap rate does not make it okay to give anyone this poor of a customer experience – and I see plenty of ways for them to save money without making customers suffer.  I am not flying ever United again, following our return flight.  This flight can be easily expressed using the same words that were voiced by Jaime Foxx in the movie Jarhead, “Welcome to the suck.” 

Southwest, I miss you dearly.  Oh yeah, I miss the kids too. ;)

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