Saturday 23 June 2007

USA: the check-in ordeal

One hour to check-in my arse. The queue for United was huge and I eventually reached the check-in desks with 'self check-in' or 'agent-assisted' options. Due to the complexity of three separate flights I wanted human involvement, but was denied by a brusque and highly flustered airline representative. The automated check-in machine gagged on my demands and suggested I saw a check-in agent. I gave the authoritarian gentleman my best evil eye as I moved across to wait for an available assistant. Time was getting short.

‘Good morning sir, where are you going?’
Oman via San Francisco and London.’
(Tap, tap, tap) ‘Where is that, sir…..I can’t find it?’
‘In the Middle East….the only country that begins with an 'O'’.
‘(Tap, tap, pause, tap). Found it sir….just checking if you’re allowed to go there.’
‘But I live there.’
‘Is there any way you can prove that?’
‘I have a visa and a resident’s card.’ That appeared to be good enough.
(Tap, tap, tap). ‘Ah, here it is. Flight 920 leaving for Dulles in 15 minutes.’
‘Oh, I am going via Dulles…not San Francisco?’ ‘Ah, this must be a different way of flying ‘directly’ to London,’ I thought.
‘Flight 920….yes sir.’

After security, I ignored the snippy, ‘oh, we’ve been waiting for you,’ comment and sauntered onto the plane with my usual lack of urgency.

Four hours later, we thumped down over my former home town near Dulles. Every person in Virginia was in the airport – it looked like a holiday weekend. I panicked but relaxed when I found a microbrew pub.

And so to the next leg to London. Previous bad food experiences on transatlantic United flights were surpassed when a tray of gelatinous pasta covered in a feeble tomato sauce arrived. Something should be done about this sort of service.

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