Archive for: June, 2012

Here's How United Airlines Supports the Troops

Jun 23 2012 Published by under "Supporting" the Troops

United was able to get my wife into one of the many empty seats on their 0600 departure. While I'm happy that she is en route, the number of empty seats makes me wonder why she couldn't have been rebooked onto that flight in the first place, particularly when United was willing to sell me a seat on that flight for $1500 in the last couple of hours before departure.

Look, I'll admit at the start that United Airlines - or, for that matter, any other commercial enterprise - does not have any obligation to treat members of the military any better or worse than they treat their regular customers, but it would be nice if they can do better than what my family is dealing with right now.

Here's the deal:
Yesterday, the Northeast had yet another air travel debacle. Between weather and an FAA fire, flights were cancelled and delayed all over the coast. Naturally, yesterday was also the day when my wife arrived in Atlanta from Afghanistan for her 15 days of mid-deployment leave, which started upon arrival in the states. Her connecting flight from Chicago to New York was cancelled.

It happens. It's frustrating, but it happens. Weather is not something that an airline can control. Fires in FAA control centers are not something that an airline can control. It's frustrating, but I get it.

How passengers are rebooked, however, is something an airline can control. And it is here that United Airlines is showing just how they support the troops.

My wife is travelling in uniform. She has explained the situation to the United agents at O'Hare, and says that they appear to be doing their best to help her. Unfortunately, the best that they could do is rebook her for an 8:15 pm departure today - that's more than 24 hours after the cancelled flight.

I should be asleep right now, but I'm not. That probably has something to do with being alone in a hotel bed I had planned to share. Since I couldn't sleep, I decided to try to see if I could find some alternative that would get my wife to NY before an 8:15 pm departure from Chicago would.

I started with Priceline. I plugged O'Hare and NYC into the appropriate boxes, told it to try to come up with anything arriving within 200 miles of New York, and waited to see what came up.

Priceline found a 6:00 flight from Chicago to Newark with seats. On United.

I figured that couldn't be right. I went to United's website, punched in ORD and NYC, and went to see what I could book.

At this moment, while my wife sits in uniform at O'Hare waiting on the "first available" 8:15 departure to see her children for the first time since December 27th, United Airlines is willing to sell me Economy seats on:
Flight 1750, departing from O'Hare at 6:00 am and arriving at Newark at 9:00 am
Flight 3452, departing from O'Hare at 2:45 pm and arriving at LaGuardia at 5:54 pm
Flight 5151, departing from O'Hare at 5:22 pm and arriving at Newark at 8:48 pm

That's just the nonstops with allegedly available economy seats. There are another half-dozen nonstop flights with first class seats available, and several multi-stop itineraries with economy seats also turn up.

I've got - and may post - screen captures of some of this later. I've looked at the seat maps for the flights, and they show specific seats that United is willing to sell me on those flights. I sent my wife a text. The agents at the airport in Chicago cannot get her those flights. They tell her that their computer setup won't let them, unless it's tied with pay. Instead, they're trying to get her a flight to Albany, where I can meet her and we can catch the train.

The kids and I flew United's Honolulu-Newark nonstop on the way out here. I'm looking at alternatives for the flight back.

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Jun 01 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I spent the weekend goofing off. And, since the kids are out of school, I spent most of the week goofing off. This makes me nearly the last blogger in the sphere to hear about the minor tempest that MSNBC host Chris Hayes sparked on Sunday morning, when he said:

I think very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen, without invoking valor, without invoking the words heroes. And why do I feel so comfortable about the world hero? I feel uncomfortable about the world hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. And I don't want to obviously desecrate or disrespect the memory of anyone that's fallen and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine tremendous heroism, you know, in a hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me we marshal this word in a way that's problematic. Maybe I'm wrong.

Before going further, in the interests of full disclosure I should note that Chris' parents and mine are friends. He and I are products of the same liberal village in the Bronx. The military, obviously, is also a sensitive subject with me. We both had the benefit of having the love and support of a tremendous group of thoughtful, intelligent, and compassionate adults. Clearly, we've gone in very different directions. He's gone on to fame as an intelligent, thoughtful progressive voice. I've spent much of the same time raising two children while living on a collection of military bases and worrying my way through 2.5 (and counting) deployments. There was a time when he and I had a great deal in common; that time is long past. Our experiences have been so completely different that they've left me - as he put it earlier in that show - in a nation within a nation, barely inhabiting the same union he does.

I didn't get around to watching the controversial Sunday show until today. Frankly, I'm not sure I should have. It was frustrating and aggravating, and not necessarily because Chris was wrong.
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