Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Last night I flew back to San Francisco from Chicago from a quick weekend trip and I have got to tell you – that was THE WORST flight experience of my entire life. Now – I went to school in Illinois, spent a summer in NC, Have flown to Boston, Nashville, Denver and more times than I can count up the coast from Seattle to SF, Palm Springs, Anaheim, and Pheonix. I’ve been to Paris, and Mexico. And there has never been a flight like this. Ever.

I’m pretty easy going about flying. I like the holiday hoopla, I don’t mind long lines, I get to the airport early and would take all my clothes off if they asked because I would rather do that than have my plane blow up cuz someone shoved explosives up their butt. And then I experienced the confusing, ridiculous security line at OHare, an airport I am very familiar with. It wasn’t that the security line was so long, it was that there was no person – of the many many TSA ass holes standing around – who would give anyone any direction or information. How long was the line? How many Disneyland-esqu zig zags did we have to make? After the ID check point did we have to go through a whole OTHER set of zigzags? No one knew. No one cared. In fact, the security people were sitting their marveling outloud at the huge line, while we were all standing in it like cattle, because that’s how they treated us – like mindless animals, instead of people who had spent a lot of money to catch a flight, people with places to go and people to see. So, we were left to organize and fend for ourselves. People were gracious enough to let other people who were going to be late for their flight cut ahead of them in line (although some crabby people refused, I was more than happy because really? what’s one more person ahead of me?) .

So I finally make it to my plane and just walk right on which was nice. I sit down with my O magazine and a diet coke (and chocolate covered pretzels – WW fail) and wait for the rest of the people to put their shit away and buckle their seat belts. The pilot says we’re going to actually be about 15 minutes early to SF. Hooray! But we just sit there at the terminal… and I read and read and read and finally he says that we have to wait 20 more minutes before taxing out because there is a delay at SFO. Ok, that’s fine. 20 minutes. But we sat there for 45. And then didn’t take off for another hour. So I had already been on the plane for 2 hours before we even took off. And here is where my frustration begins to boil. The last thing we heard from the captian was “20 minutes till we taxi,” would it have hurt him to put another sentence in there somewhere like, “oops, my bad, looks like it’s going to be more like two hours, here is some free champagne to make it all ok again”???


While we are waiting in the giant line of planes I was seeing flashes of lightening and hearing/feeling massive thunderclaps. Oh joy. Storms! The captian assures us the flight should be fairly smooth, just some bumpies over the rockies. This I can handle, I appreciate the warning. Except when the warning is a complete LIE. We flew through storm after storm after storm with not a WORD from the cockpit except the occasional “sit down, put your seat belts on, yadda yadda” and the “flight attendants, return to your seats” – my least favorite thing to hear. It would have been really NICE, while I was gripping my arm rests and the tears (real life tears, not writerly tears for dramatic effect) rolled down my cheeks, if maybe anyone could have said, “we know it’s getting pretty bumpy, but everything is actually alright, think of it as a really great ride” or some other reassuring BS. But no, we the passengars, who get on a plane with the trust that the people running the operation actually know what they’re doing and give two shits, and guess what? Looks like they actually didn’t (give two shits that is). At one point, during a break in my crying, I asked the flight attendant lady, who was in charge of our section, when, she thought we’d be making a final decent. She said “I’m really not sure, we’ve gone through some storms so that may have slowed us down.” I asked what time it was and how long we’d been flying and she responded that she didn’t know and then walked away. How does she not know? Explain this to me. Do these people not talk to eachother, have watches, have a sense of how the world of air travel works beyond what we, the lowly passengers can infer? I have had some really amazing flights with amazing air crew, so I know that that cannot possibly be the case.

And I swear to god – at that point if the flight attendants would have said “ok, you have the option of parachuting out of this plane right now or finishing the flight,” I would have been strapped into a chute before they could even finish asking the question. But that didn’t happen, so I went back to silently crying and praying the plane wouldn’t crash for the next 1.5 hours.

We did land. We did all survive, and in the end it was just turbulance, but in reality it was more than that. I had been in the plane for 7 hours for a 3 hr and 45 min flight. And the treatment of passengers by airlines is abhorrent and less than human. When I was leaving the plane, I always always thank the attendants and the captian if he is standing near the exit. So as I passed my indifferent flight attendant I looked at her and said a sincere thank you, her response was “yeah, uhhuh” and then she went back to fiddling with her phone.

I would like to extend a big FUCK YOU to United Flight 6081 from Chicago, Ohare to SFO. You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you treat people.

13 thoughts on “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”

  1. Whoah. I’m really sorry! In fact, I’m kind of black out terrified just hearing about it. I do NOT fly well, and. shhhhhhiiiiiittttttt. I’m glad it’s over and you’re safe. TREAT YOURSELF WELL TODAY.

  2. I think I may very well have flown with this crew on my way out to California a couple months ago.

    My family has worked in the airline industry my entire life. A favorite uncle is a flight attendant for Delta (and WOW is his crew whipped into shape). Having spent a large portion of my life in planes of various sizes, I’m especially appalled at the lack of decency lately. Their entire job is customer service … get with it people!

    My “favorite” was a flight on AirTran last spring from LA to DC, stopping over in Dallas/Fort Worth. Already one of my least favorite airports to make connections in, but I had 3 hours to do it, so no big deal, right? Well, we, like you, sat on the runway, and then took off … through storms … and then around storms. With the pilot saying nothing. And with a flight crew who basically hid the entire flight, and were rude when they weren’t hiding. We landed 2 hours and 45 minutes late … and everyone was shocked. I shoved my way off the plane as quickly as I could and ran to the gate attendant to ask where I needed to connect. She looked it up (slowly) and then, instead of offering to call ahead to the gate to tell them I (and several others) was coming (standard procedure) looked at me and said “Well shit, you better run, huh?”


    I’m so sorry you had such a terrible flight. Are you staying on the ground for a while?

    1. Thank GOD I am. I won’t be going anywhere till close to christmas. It’s so funny how everyone has horror stories about airlines or airports but there is this fear that ripples through the crowd lest we act out and become labeled a terrorist. One girl in line at Ohare was going to be super late to her flight and was fretting over what to do. I told her she should just duck under the rope and ask the people MUCH close to the line if they wouldn’t mind cutting, but she totalyl froze and refused to do anything until an TSA jerkoff told her it was ok. At this point, we, as passengers need to start demanding better treatment on a human level and helping each other out if no one else will.

      1. I totally agree. Security doesn’t have to be a cattle call … but we have to stand up for ourselves, and demand we be treated respectfully. As sad as it is.

        Oh thank goodness! I was on a plane every month or so last year, so I’m done for a while too … at this point, until March. HOORAY!

  3. OH MY GOD. That’s just ridiculous. WTF is wrong with people?! I’ve never had an experience like this on a plane, but I’ve had those experiences with security, actually at O’Hare.

  4. I’ve had more bad attitudes than thunderstorms during my traveling times but more so in the last two, three years. Also, they (flight attendants) are now uglier, fatter, older and with no smiles to the passengers. Problem is that this happens in all airlines…

    I’m glad that you arrived safe! The rest are just experiences.


  5. Oh no! I came over to see how your trip went… obviously not so awesome at the tail end. I worried about you while it was storming last night! Hope your shoppings went swimmingly though….

  6. My dear Lauren,
    This is quite possibly the best bit of reading I’ve done in a long time. Everything you said was spot on. I particularly loved the “This I can handle, I appreciate the warning. Except when the warning is a complete LIE.” and the big fat fuck you at the end. You should send those snobby assholes a letter and in a climate where jobs are scarce and people are praying every day for any kind of job, you think some people would work a little harder to say, “Hey Cosmos, God, Zeus and whoever else is up there, thanks for keeping me in the cash for a few more days.” Oh and “flight attendants please sit down” is for sure like the worst, most uncomforting phrase ever.

  7. This makes my blood boil. I don’t know if you’re up for it, but you should consider writing the airline a letter. Hell, send ’em this post. I did that after a similarly terrible experience on another airline — CC’ing my congressperson and the CEO of the airline, heh — and got some pretty sweet vouchers in return.

    That said, I am sorry for your crappy experience. And I’m a new commenter (and fairly new reader, from APW) and just wanted to say generally that I’m enjoying reading your blog. 🙂

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