Why do airlines hate their passengers?
JFK TERMINAL 8, New York City- Airlines are like the weather: unpredictable and there is nothing you can do about it no matter the conditions. Also like the weather, when things get stormy there is no empathy.
We need to conclude once and for all that airlines hate their passengers. Accept it and get over it.
I sat at gate 14 of JFK Terminal 8 yesterday looking out the window as the grounds crew loading and unloading and reloaded cargo onto the Cathay Pacific aircraft for over an hour. We should have already of been on board and gone. But there was something going on with the cargo — why would they keep loading and unloading the same pallets, making us late? Don’t they do this everyday? Don’t they have their systems perfected by now?
Apparently not. They couldn’t get the weight right. They kept overloading the plane, taking some pallets out, putting some back in, and overloading it again and again and again. The weight made the engines not want to start — or at least that’s how it was explained to me.
Eventually, we boarded … and then sat on the plane for three hours while the grounds crew continued loading and reloading. Eventually, they did it, and then the thing that starts the engines (???) didn’t work. They called for another one, but it took too long to find a replacement as the crew timed out.
“We regret to inform you that flight CX183 to Hong Kong has been cancelled.”
We were kicked off the plane.
We claimed our luggage and went to the ticketing counter to rebook. Hundreds of passengers stood in line as one guy — seriously one guy — handled the rebookings. A half hour passed and I didn’t take one step forward. I stood there watching a dozen Cathay Pacific employees standing idle behind their check-in podiums doing nothing but staring back at us. The line now extended across the airport and the one guy that was working spent ten to twenty minutes rebooking each passenger.
I called the airline to try to rebook my flight that way. The lady that I talked with refused to believe that my flight was cancelled.
“Why do you think it’s cancelled? Did an airline representative tell you that it was cancelled?”
“Yes, they told me it was cancelled when they kicked us off the plane.”
“It says here that the flight was delayed and hs already departed.”
“No, the plane didn’t depart. The flight was cancelled and I’m standing in line at your counters with hundreds of passengers waiting to rebook. Can you help me?”
“The flight was not cancelled. It departed. Would you like to rebook?”
“Yes, whatever, rebook.”
A woman standing next to me was getting the same story from another service rep. In their computer system it didn’t show the flight as cancelled, and they believed their computer screens over the passengers saying they were booted off the flight.
“Would you like to re-book onto an 8:30 flight that stops in Vancouver?”
[On hold for long time.]
“Can you go to the service desk and ask if there is enough time for you to make this flight first?”
It was 7pm. I walked over to a service rep and just handed her my phone.
I hear her saying:
“You can’t book him on that flight because it’s overbook already.”
“No, no, it’s overbooked by 16 passengers.”
“Don’t you think that if there were seats on that plane we would have booked passengers on them? We have a line of passengers here who need flights.”
“There is a line of passengers because the flight was cancelled.”
“No, the flight was cancelled. I’m sure of it. The flight was cancelled.”
“Idiot,” she said as she handed the phone back to me.
I returned to waiting in line. Another hour goes by. Passengers were taking so long to re-book that I had to conclude that there was a severe lack of flights and that I would be grounded for days if I didn’t book with another airline.
Eventually, I got up to the front of the line.
“Would you like the same flight leaving tomorrow at 11am?”
She handed me a boarding pass stub and told me to bring back my taxi receipts for reimbursement.
That was it.
Why the airline couldn’t make an announcement saying that the flight was going to depart the next day and that we could have the same seats and everything so we didn’t have to wait in line is unknown to me. The only passengers who had to re-book were those with connections or those who couldn’t wait until the next day.
As I walked away from the counter I stopped for a moment to marvel at the extremely long line of people who were still waiting. I put in nearly two hours of standing in line — these people are putting in what I did plus multiple hours more.
The luxury of 21st century travel.
I shook my head and laugh. There is nothing else you can do. Like the weather.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
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