Early, early (think 3 AM) on Sunday, we embarked on our 3rd plane trip with Isla. We were headed back to Texas to visit family and attend a wedding in Austin. I remember commenting to Kellen, as we approached the security line at 4:45 Sunday morning, that, “Today is going to be awful.”
I don’t know why I was so certain. Maybe it was because it wasn’t even 5 AM, and I was already exhausted. Maybe it was just the prospect of having to keep a sleep-deprived toddler sitting still for 6+ hours. Whatever it was, it ended up being one of the most accurate predictions I’ve ever made.
Here’s the rundown:
- We woke up at 2:45 AM. Isla was up at 3:15. We were on the road by 3:30 AM.
- We were at our gate in the airport by 5 AM.
- We flew United, and they don’t do family pre-boarding, even when you ask. Strike one against United Airlines.
- We got on our first flight to Houston, no problem, but…
- Isla only slept an hour on the first flight. She was wide awake for the majority of the trip.
- There is no room at all for holding an average-sized 11-month-old in your lap on modern airplanes. Isla couldn’t breathe without hitting the seat in front of her, and we spent a fair chunk of the trip trying to keep her from hitting or kicking the seat in front of her.
- By 2 hours in, she was so fed up with the whole sitting thing, I had to strap her into the Ergo and walk her up and down the plane. For an hour.
- We finally got on the ground in Houston after 3.5 hours on the plane, and had to transfer to a different terminal and literally walk to the furthest possible gate to get to our next flight. At least we got all our steps on Fitbit!
- When we got on the little puddle jumper from Houston to Little Rock, the flight attendant informed us that we couldn’t sit in our assigned seats with a lap infant because there weren’t enough oxygen masks. (Strike two against United Airlines.) We would need to sit in rows 3, 7, or 11.
- Rows 7 and 11 were occupied. Row 3, on a bulkhead, was available, so we stowed all of our bajillions of carry-on bags above us and started to get seated, all while some old dude behind us grumbled about how we were holding up the boarding line. (If they’d let us pre-board, this might not have been a problem…)
- We had just about gotten in our seats when another old man gets on and starts raising a fuss about how he paid an extra $16 to sit in row 3, and by golly, that’s where he was going to sit.
- Kellen and I had to split up. I sat in row 3 with the baby and the extra oxygen mask and the grumpy old man. Kellen sat back in row 10.
- Note that at this point Isla had been awake approximately 7 hours with a single brief 1-hour nap some 4 hours before. She was cranky and in a horrible mood, and because our bags were stored overhead (there’s no underseat storage in a bulkhead row) and in the mess of getting our seats, I hadn’t had time to get anything down, I didn’t have any of her food or toys out with me.
- Through take-off I kept Isla occupied by letting her destroy a credit card application. Once the novelty of that wore off, she started screaming bloody murder and doing death rolls.
- I kept waiting for the seat belt light to go off so I could get up to get Isla’s food, water, and toys, but it NEVER DID. Not for the entire hour and a half flight, even though there was no turbulence.
- The grumpy old guy next to me talked a lot about his grandson, who is about Isla’s age, and thankfully held her when I finally gave up on the seat belt light going off and just got all of Isla’s $#!@ out of the overhead bin with the light still on. (I’m so glad the flight attendant didn’t say anything to me. I probably would have had to be escorted off the plane by an air marshall.)
- When I sat back down and popped up the straw on Isla’s sippy, the change in pressure caused a fountain of water to go surging up. It was everywhere. My seat. My lap. The old man. Isla. It was even dripping from the ceiling. At least the people sitting around me were amused and not pissed off.
- Isla drank from her sippy and ate a few yogurt things for about 10 minutes, then started death rolling and screaming again. I don’t know how long this went on. Maybe half an hour?
- When they announced our descent, Kellen and I switched spots. I got 20 blissful minutes of not having a baby crying and squalling. I only felt a tiny bit bad for Kellen.
- When we got on the ground, we realized that one of Isla’s bottles had leaked somehow in flight and the entire diaper bag and all of our stuff was SOAKED in formula. We spent 10 minutes at the gate getting everything sopped up.
- FINALLY. FINALLY we make it out to baggage claim to await our two bags. It took 20 minutes for the baggage carousel even to start, and we waited and waited and waited and our bags never made it out. (Strike three against United.) We and 4 others make our way first to the baggage office, which was closed for some bizarre reason despite being regular business hours (strike four against United), and then to the ticket counter.
- It took the 2 girls there half an hour to process the 5 folks without luggage (where, notably, one lady cut in front of me to get processed out first and another guy tried to–I was so furious. Who cuts in front of a lady with a baby?!) Apparently, the plane was too full for all our luggage, despite the fact that the plane was only half full, so I’m not sure how that happened, but they took our bags off the plane. (strike five against United) Our bags were still in Houston. They didn’t know when they’d make it to Little Rock. We couldn’t wait until they showed up, because we had a screaming baby who needed a nap and was absolutely filthy from walking around the ticket area, which was under construction. Seriously, she looked like she’d spent half an hour playing in a sandbox rather than in an airport.
- We headed to my parents’ place, which is a 2.5 hour drive. Isla fortunately slept most of the way.
- We make it home and at around 8 PM, I get a call from someone at the Little Rock United baggage office. They have our bags. Because we are in Texas and they don’t know where the town in our delivery address is (apparently no one there knows how to use google maps?), I had to have a long conversation about where my parents live and how no, it’s not closer to some other Texas airport, and they said they’d get everything Fed Exed first thing in the morning. They gave me the direct line to the baggage office and told me to call back at 9:30 AM.
- I called back at 9:30 AM the next day, nobody answered. I called back at 9:45. 10. I call the airport communication services. “Oh, it’s a holiday. Nobody’s here today.” WWWHHHHHHAAAAAATTTTTT?!?!?!?
- I start calling every customer service number I can find on the internet. First I get some guy in India who keeps telling me, “I’ll just put a message in the system to expedite your bags.” I told him I wanted to talk to his supervisors. He said someone would call me. They never did. (I don’t remember what strike we’re at by this point, but I think we’re in double digits.)
- At some point, I posted on United Airlines facebook wall about my difficulties getting in touch with anyone at the Little Rock baggage office.
- I finally got in touch with someone named Gina, who managed to find someone at Little Rock baggage office. They weren’t on vacation, and someone would call me about my bags eventually.
- Because of what I posted on facebook, someone from the baggage office in Houston calls me. They get in touch with someone in the baggage office in Little Rock. Someone in Little Rock will call me.
- Finally someone from Little Rock calls me at lunch time. Apparently the conversation I’d had the night before about my delivery address wasn’t recorded, so I had to have that conversation all over again. They still wanted to send everything to Houston or Dallas first, which was ridiculous and would mean at least another 24 hours before I’d get my bags. Finally convince them to Fed Ex my bags. The next round of bags going out would happen at 3. Someone would call me.
- No one from Little Rock ever called me again about anything. Strikes are in the triple digits. I’m pretty sure my blood pressure is in quadruple digits.
- The same lady from the Houston airport eventually calls me and lets me know that she’s talked to the people in Little Rock and assures me my things will be Fed Exed at 7 PM. She says if I have any other questions to call her. She will be back in the office at 8 AM.
- By 9 PM, I haven’t heard anything from Little Rock, no one there is answering the phone (nobody there answered a single phone call from me all day on Monday), and the lady in Houston is off work, so I call United’s customer service line. I get the India call center again. The lady confirms that my bags were shipped and gives me the tracking number.
- Long story short, my bags finally turn up at my parents’ at noon 2 days after my flight. I’m wearing the same outfit for the third day in a row. Fortunately, my mom had bought a ton of clothes for Isla for Valentine’s Day, so we had plenty at my parents’ for her.
- I can almost guarantee I will receive zero compensation from United Airlines for any of this, and if I hadn’t said something on facebook, I don’t know if I would have ever heard anything from the people in Little Rock or when my bags would have arrived. They probably would have been shipped back to Houston and wouldn’t have made it to my parents’ house until Thursday, at which time, we’d be running very behind on making it to Austin (an 8-hour road trip minimum with a baby) ahead of the wedding festivities.
- In the midst of all this drama, I found another story about United Airlines losing someone’s 10-year-old and being completely useless and unapologetic about it and suddenly felt a whole lot better that all they lost was our bags.
Summary: Don’t fly United, and when an airline has crappy customer service, take it to facebook. Suddenly they’re interested in your problems. (Another friend who’d had a bad United experience piggybacked on my comment and got some help, too.) Also, always make sure to pack your jammies, tooth brush and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on, even if there’s nowhere to put them between all of the bottles and diapers and toys, because you never know when you’ll end up being one of the tiny percent of people who is separated from their bags in a long day of flying.
The good news is, our new Ergo was a wild success. It was super comfortable for carrying Isla both up and down the aisle of the plane and making the long hike across the airport. She didn’t mind being in it, either, as long as we were moving.
Now here are a couple of cute photos from our trip: