A very special kind of incompetence

After enjoying a sublime weekend's worth of alpine and rock climbing in northern Maine, my son, Chris, his friend, Mark, and this blogger hopped in our rental car to drive south from Bar Harbor to Portland International Airport. Our story begins en route to PIA (the airport, not Zadora).

Untied11TALE OF WOE: We were scheduled to fly United #4910 from PIA (the airport, not Zadora) to EWR (that's Newark Liberty International Airport for those of you not in the know). It's a brief 45 minute hop that covers the 500 or so miles separating the two hubs.

About 30 minutes into the drive, United sent a trip alert, notifying me of a 50-minute delay. Uh-oh, I thought. Here we go again. I informed my companions who, not having fallen victim to the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune that awaits any United passenger, merely shrugged. “No biggie,” they said. I knew otherwise.

Sure enough, another trip alert soon followed. It provided a new arrival time of 11pm. Then, a third popped onto my BB's screen, informing me the flight was back on schedule but, get this, the arrival time was still 50 minutes late! That told me the in-house United gremlins were once again at play.

We finally arrived at PIA (the airport, not Zadora) and dropped off our rental car. That's when we heard another driver let loose with a loud expletive. We glanced at him, followed his eyes to the departure screen and, sure as rain, United flight 4910 from PIA (the airport, not Zadora) to EWR had been canceled.

We hustled over to the gate, only to spy a line longer than the San Andreas Fault. I knew we were goners. I told the guys to follow me back to Budget, where we rented another car and drove 12 hours through pouring rain, fender benders and bumper-to-bumper traffic. We arrived home at 2:30am.

EPILOGUE: I awoke Monday morning groggy and grumpy, but whole. And, then, the United gremlins went back to work (I wonder whether they're outsourced gremlins toiling away in a Mumbai bunker or home grown terrorists based in some undisclosed location?). Either way, United sent me a trip alert telling me good, old flight 4910 from PIA (ok, I won't say it) to EWR was on-time! What the heck? United's crack team of reservation agents must have thought we'd camped out overnight at PIA. (Nope. I won't say it.) This, despite the fact that my assistant attempted to cancel the reservation online but, true to United's anything but friendly skies, was denied access.

Here's the kicker: late yesterday afternoon, United sent me ANOTHER trip alert to inform me that poor #4910 was once again delayed.

As my assistant, Virginia Dandridge Stevenson, observed: “This takes a very special type of incompetence.”

So, here's my new suggested tagline for United: 'Yes, it can get worse.'

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