David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The IT Forum
A funny thing happened on
the way to the IT forum – Nothing! Now don't get me wrong -- this was a good
nothing. To explain a bit, I needed to fly to a conference in Las Vegas -
Interop to be precise - and absolutely
nothing went wrong.
When I arrived at Newark airport the TSA Pre-Check lane was open...and had no line...and they didn't need to do any secondary screenings or random checks on me. My belt buckle did set-off the metal detector for the first time since I've owned it, but amazingly the TSA agent just asked me to take my belt off and hand it to her and walk through again instead of giving me the usual huge hassle.....nothing. (Very frequent travelers know that TSA Pre-Check is usually not the great thing that their hype makes it out to be.)
Then, when I got to the United Club, there were chairs available. The breakfast spread was greatly improved - with fresh cut fruits and a choice of breads and pastries. Even though it was the morning and the bar doesn't technically open till noon I was actually able to find a bartender to pour me a soft drink.
When I left the club and walked to the gate in Newark’s C1 wing, the moving walkway that had been out of order for months was actually working again. And then there were even seats available close to my gate!
When we boarded the flight, the gate agents didn't stop anyone and make them use the luggage sizer. Even the one Global Services passenger (who pushed her way to the front of the line but then still had to take a few minutes with everyone waiting to fish for her boarding) pass wasn't stopped - and the shopping bag she was carrying was at least big enough to hold a compact car.
Once on the aircraft (a United 737-900 - aircraft number 3437) I was stunned to see the old, standard, non-slim-line seats - the ones with the cloth seat pockets that actually hold water bottles, iPads and all the other things passengers need to put in them. When I sat down I realized that this aircraft also had both Direct TV and WiFi - AND they both actually worked. And miraculously, the person in front of me wasn’t a serial criminal recliner and I had room for my knees.
I had kept my fingers crossed all through boarding, and amazingly the gate agent didn't assign the two standby passengers to the middle seats in Economy Plus. They actually filled the plan back to front like they're supposed to. I scored an empty seat next to me for a five hour flight – and it was a chair where the aisle arm rest actually could be raised for more comfort if needed.
Why are any of these things even worthy of a blog? Because the odds of having as good a day as I did flying United out of Newark have been astronomical so far this year. Something always goes wrong. In fact, most frequent travelers I know have vastly different mental preparations for flying than they did years ago. Pre the failed UA/CO merger most would head to the airport hoping for things like an upgrade...or a decent in-flight meal. Nowadays we all just steel ourselves like were going in for a surgical procedure, hoping it won't hurt too badly and praying for a rapid recovery.
I'm not sure if I can conclude anything from this pleasant experience. I'd like to think the seventeen empty seats on a usually packed and oversold flight are an indication of customers avoiding the horror that the current (passenger and employee hostile) management has turned this airline into. I'd like to think the gate agents have toned down the bag hassles because they're being treated better, and that the clubs have upped their offerings because suddenly the dysfunctional management got a clue and realized that customers with travel choices were choosing anyone but them. I'd like to believe that, but I don't. As an airline run by lawyers solely to please Wall Street I realize any good passenger experience is merely a lucky coincidence. I know the comfortable seat I sat in will soon be replaced by a plastic “slimline” monstrosity. I know that if frequent business travelers continue to avoid United because of how poor the experiences are, and that causes more empty seats, all that the clueless management will do is cut even more flights to ensure high demand. I realize that until this management team is replaced they will continue to drain profits into excessive executive compensation while they also continue to outsource jobs to firms that don't pay a decent wage.
Still, for one day in April, I was able to enjoy a little bit of nothing - and I do appreciate that. Perhaps my good karma will carry to this company's board of directors to help them see the vast damage being done by their “little bit of nothing” management.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.