My Two Bits

United We Stand …. In the Baggage Check Line…..

One Friday last (2007) November I began my weekend western adventure. Unfortunately for a 6am flight the airport/airline ‘requires’ you to be at the airport two hours prior to flight time in order to ‘check’ your baggage you aren’t going to ‘carry-on’. While this is all well and good the least the airline could do is have employees there to actually check said baggage in.

Since it takes me approximately 1.5 hours to drive from my home to the New Orleans Airport this entailed a home departure of 2:30am for a 4am arrival; which thusly meant a 1:30am wake-up alarm. Ugh. Considering I didn’t actually crawl in bed until about 1am I didn’t get much snooze time before the bells started ringing.

Right on time, at *exactly* 4am I presented myself at the United Ticket counter with my bag I needed to ‘check’, my e-ticket in hand as well as boarding passes printed at home via ’speedy online check-in’. But what is this? No friendly United Customer Service Agents are manning the counter. A few more passengers trickle in and join me in line. A passing TSA agent is flagged down by one passenger and asked if he knows why no one is attending to business. His reply is “Oh, they start about 4:30.” Ugh.

Promptly at 4:15am two nice looking ladies in United attire manuver their way around the ‘cow lanes’ (you know those roped ‘enter here’ lines), totally ignoring the now 30 or so passengers/customers, step over the baggage scale and behind the counter to disappear though a convenient doorway to ‘the back’. All of us standing in line breath a sigh of relief with the expectation of being attended to soon so that we may suffer the humiliation of barefeet and exposed buttcracks to get through the security checkpoint on time for the flight. These things *do* take a while when a couple of hundred people have to practically strip down to run everything through x-ray machines and step through metal detectors without setting them off.

But, woe. The Agents don’t reappear at 4:30. No. It doesn’t happen. Over the next 45 minutes the line behind me grows substantially, seems United has 3 or 4 flights of airbuses scheduled to depart at 6am, so now the line consists of approximately 300 passengers. At 5am the two ladies reappear from the back, smiling and laughing with their steaming cups of coffee in hand. (They are very lucky I didn’t try to steal it from them, but I was by now deep in the throes of a nicotine fit and unable to perform such a complicated feat). Slowly they begin, one is quite efficient dispatching the First Class passengers, about 6, quickly while the other plods along and hasn’t even begun processing us lowly Coach passengers (the other 284 people standing there, me included). First Class Mama stands there purposely ignoring the fact that she *could* assist the Coach Clown. Ugh.

Needless to say I eventually got my bag checked and headed off to the Security Entry (after having to carry my checked bag to the x-ray machine and dumping it for anyone and his brother to be able to go thru – not the wine! please not the wine! – since you aren’t ‘allowed’ to lock your bag just in case they see something on the x-ray they would like to liberate). Security was another adventure, remove the shoes … no problem, except for the fact that knowing my belt would have to be removed to get through the metal detector I hadn’t bothered to put it on and when i bent/squatted down to get my shoes to put in the tray my jeans nearly fell off – since I put them on (now 3 hours prior) they had stretched a bit – providing my fellow passengers with some entertainment.

All cell phones, laptop, shoes, coat (don’t you love traveling by air in the winter and lugging a coat you can’t fit in your luggage?) purse, laptop bag, and 1 quart ziplock with makeup, eyedrops and perfume in it, in the trays – 3 of them (!) – I proceed to the metal detector with my passport/id and boarding pass between my teeth and my hands clutching the waistband to my jeans to hold them up. New Orleans is seriously understaffed and only had one detector to walk though, but two lines for scanning personal items, and a family of about 8 jumps in front of me. Oh that’s okay go ahead. but…. they didn’t have their id’s and boarding passes… they put them through the scanning machines… oops but each of them then proceeded through the detector only to set it off because of cell phones they were carrying that they didn’t put through the scanner. Doh…..

I finally got through the thing and able to gather my things up and arrive at my gate after the plane had already started boarding. Knowing the aisle would be blocked and no sense in heading down the jetway yet I began re-organizing my bags and donning my belt. When I finally walked up to the agent to scan my boarding pass I was given a dirty look and a mumbled comment about how I should have been there earlier, that that’s why the 2 hour check in prior to flight is required.

Just goes to show you can’t win for losing. I won’t even go into the fact that you can’t have your tweezers in your carry-on but if you are served a meal during your flight that the airline provides you with a serated blade plastic knife…

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