Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I don't think you can discriminate against families like that.....can you?

Today I spoke with a customer service representative who, when I said that I thought that their policy regarding online check-in for families (it's not allowed) was unfair, said "That is your problem."

Huh. Actually, I think I am going to make it HIS problem.
I'm traveling alone with the kids tomorrow. I can't wait. No, really. It's going to be awesome.

You would think that flying inter-island would be somehow easier than flying to the mainland. But in fact it is not easier. It is the same amount of difficult as flying anywhere, but compressed into a much shorter period of time on a much smaller plane.

Here (for those without children) is how tomorrow is going to go (parents, I put this part in italics so that you can skip ahead and avoid a full-fledged panic attack/PTSD flashback about your last family vacation):

First, we get to walk to the bus because parking is expensive and the lot gets full and why not take public transportation? So I have the carry-on luggage and the water bottles and the snacks and the toys and the books and the booster seat because Lucy is five and you have to ride in a booster until you are eight and darnit SAFETY FIRST. And we get to the bus stop and there is nowhere to sit and it is raining because it always rains when I take the bus and there is no bus shelter so we stand in the rain and we wait and cars drive by and we are splashed by the puddles but THAT'S OKAY BECAUSE WE ARE GOING ON VACATION. Then the bus finally comes and I load everything and everyone onto the bus. THEN we get to the airport, gather up the water bottles and toys and books and bags and get everything and everyone off the bus, cross several lanes of traffic, and wait in a line to check in with the TSA agent. Then we get to pick up all of the stuff, and then I have to cheer the children on, as we trudge over to security. THEN we get to take off our shoes, and our coats, and dump out any water in their water bottles, take out my laptop and GPS and ziplock baggie of toothpaste and deodorant and nose spray, and put it all in seperate bins on the belt. And then we go through the metal detector one at a time, my son going first, my daughter following, and me at the end. Twice, because I forgot to take off my bracelet.

Then we put on all the shoes and sweaters and pack up the laptop and the GPS and the baggie, and we gather all of our things, and go back for the things that we forget - like the water bottles and the booster seat and that bracelet they made me take off. And then we go back again for my son's socks because he thought he should take those off too.

Then we go up the escalators and walk to our gate. Where we sit and wait. Then we gather up all of our things, and board the aircraft with everyone, and hope that some jerk hasn't used up every inch of overhead space. Then we fly for 20 minutes, land, and gather all of the books and toys and water bottles and crayons and Highlights magazines and baggies of crackers because for some reason my kids cannot sit down without expecting to be fed. We re-pack the bags for the 4th time today, and I try to hurry everyone off the plane but we are never fast enough for the Big Important Person who has a connection and they are always rightbehindme shoving their bag into my butt in case I have forgotten that they are important and busy and on a tight schedule and BEHIND ME.

We finally get off the plane and we look for a family bathroom and we all go in and I hold ALL of the bags and the booster seat and the water bottles and the kids take turns facing the wall while the other one pees and then we wash hands and then we all put on our backpacks and refill the water bottles because it's dry in here isn't it and then we walk all the way through the airport to the baggage claim but we don't have bags so we walk through the doors and across the road to the center island to wait for a shuttle bus to take us to the car rental counter and the bus takes forever and there is no where to sit and cars are zooming by inches away and MY GOODNESS OUR LEGS ARE SO TIRED AND CAN'T WE JUST SIT DOWN FOR A MINUTE MAMA PLEASE. And I finally agree reluctantly that they can set their bags down and sit on them. And then they want a snack and some water. And then the shuttle comes. So we stand up and gather all of our belongings including snacks and water bottles and bags and backpacks and that &^%$#@ booster seat and we try to get on the bus but two people with huge suitcases have to get their suitcases on first so we stand there holding our bags and our snacks and the water bottles and then my phone is ringing and I am answering it while lifting children and their bags and backpacks and the booster seat onto the bus and then we are riding and Lucy needs to pee again and the bus stops 3 more times and she REALLY HAS TO PEE MAMA and then we get to the car rental agency and those people with the big bags shove their way to the front while I am gathering water bottles and backpacks and so we have to stand there ON the bus while they get all of their bags off and then we run inside and find the bathroom and I stand outside and hold all the bags and water bottles and the booster seat and the sweaters too so they don't fall in the toilet, while they both go in to their respective bathrooms and I stand outside nervously waiting for them to emerge safely and then we gather up all of our bags and get in line and wait and wait and wait while the couple with all the luggage realizes that they can't fit 5 full size suitcases plus golf clubs into the sub compact so then they want to upgrade, but they hate red cars and the seats have to be comfortable and she won't drive a Ford because she had a Ford once and it was unreliable and he won't drive a foreign automobile it's gotta be MADE IN THE USA and they want a free GPS and you just want to take your GPS out of your carry on and throw it at his HEAD if only it would get you through this line faster.

And then you get in the car and throw the booster seat in the back and hand everyone a snack and a water bottle and put the address to the hotel in the GPS and then you are just in time for rush hour and you sit in traffic for another hour before you finally get to your hotel where the whole damn thing starts all over again with the car and the bags and the waiting and the lines and the elevator and then you are in the room and you throw everything on the ground and the kids announce that they are hungry and want to go out to dinner even though you only left the house 2 hours ago and they have eaten three times since then.

SO we are leaving tomorrow, and tonight I went online to check in. We are only bringing carry-on luggage, because A. I can't bring suitcases on the bus and B. I hate waiting in line to check bags and then waiting again to pick up the bags. Like I need any more WAITING to be happening. And C. I am taking a 20 minute flight and only staying away for 2 nights. We need next to nothing except for all of the CRAP that they need every second of the day that I cannot possibly check. So I typed in the confirmation code, and my name, and then a message popped up on my screen that said I couldn't check in online because I was flying with an infant.


I am NOT flying with an infant unless someone hands me one at the gate.

So I called the airline because clearly, this is just a mix up. My kids are in grade school. I paid for three full-fare tickets. And even if I was flying with an infant, I have checked in online many MANY times with other airlines, and I can't remember this ever being an issue. But then again, it has been SO LONG since I flew with an infant I honestly can't remember.


I called the airline and a real person answered and she checked my reservation and no, it doesn't show that I am traveling with an infant. But there is nothing she can do. I will have to go check in at the counter.

Me: "...........Okay, um....thank you?"


Just.....no. Waiting in an extra line to check in at the counter when I don't have any checked bags is DUMB. And also, obnoxious with two kids. And also, would require me getting to the airport 3 hours early, because I would have to take the earlier bus. THREE HOURS EARLY for a TWENTY MINUTE FLIGHT. I would also then have to buy lunch at the airport, or bring lunch and carry it on the bus and through the lines and past security.

So, I decide to drive down to the airport tonight without the kids and their stuff, and check in at the counter. Fine. I will follow their rules. I love to take a nice peaceful evening drive alone. So I get in my car and off I go. I get to the counter at about 8:30pm. The counter is closed.

BUT they do have two electronic check in kiosks that are working. Four are out of order but two of them are working ! So I type in my confirmation number and lo and behold our reservation pops up and I check us in and I hit print and.............


I wait.

And wait.

I hit the button for a receipt.


I walk over to another counter and ask if it is possible that there is an agent somewhere who works for the airline I am flying tomorrow, in the back, maybe? Who might be able to help me? No. They are gone. Their counter is closed.

She is kind. She understands that I am just trying to get a boarding pass so I don't have to take an earlier bus and wait in yet another line with two kids. I just want my boarding passes.

The machine is broken. Or something. Sorry.

So, I pick up my phone and try to call the airline but they have this cute little thing where their number spells out a slogan. And there are no letters on my cellphone number pad. I start trying to remember which letters correspond with which number key. I keep getting the wrong number.

So I go out to the car and I call information and they connect me and the same woman I spoke with an hour before answers and I say "Hi, we spoke earlier." And then I tell her that we are at the airport checking in and no one is there and I really just want my boarding passes tonight so I don't have to deal with the extra line tomorrow and the printer doesn't work and what should I do. She asks if I want to speak to her supervisor.

Not really. But okay.

So then HE gets on the phone and tells me that this is the policy. People with wheelchairs and people with children have to check in at the counter. I tell him I was just AT the counter, and my boarding passes wouldn't print. He checks the computer. I am indeed checked in. I explain that without boarding passes I will still have to wait in that line for no reason. There is a glimmer of hope. A sense of decency. He tries to get someone - someone who is still at the airport working - to come back to the counter and print out my passes. They refuse. There is nothing he can do. I will have to check in tomorrow. At the counter. Their policy is you cannot check in the night before if you are traveling with children. You have to check in the day of travel. At the counter.

I tell him that I know it won't make any difference but I really want someone to know that I think this policy is lousy. That I want to use their airline - I really do - but that they are making it really hard. That I fly a lot, and have never had this issue before. That I just want to check in tonight and avoid standing in line with my kids.

He tells me "That is your problem."

And you know, it might be.
But I don't think so.

I don't think it is asking too much to be able to check in your family the night before and print boarding passes.

In fact, I think refusing to allow parents to print boarding passes for their entire family online, when the company offers online check in, may be discriminatory.

It is definitely a bad business practice.

And so I am writing this. I am also writing to my newspapers. And to the representative from their competitor, because perhaps their new advertising campaign needs to say something like "FLY WITH US. WE LOVE KIDS AND WE DON'T MAKE THEM STAND IN LINE FOR NO REASON."

No comments: