Thursday, March 09, 2006

Almost Thrown in Jail

WARNING: This is another of Jack’s personal travel rants. It doesn’t have anything to do with Economic Development, Main Streets, or agurbs®. Please skip to next post unless you wish to hear another one of his miserable travel mishaps.

I ran to the gate with 5 minutes to spare for my connecting flight back home from SC. Ms. Meazu Hailes (badge no. 130580) of United Express blocked my way, “The flight is closed and you can’t get on.”

“But the door is still open and the stairs are still down. Besides it says that the flight doesn’t leave for another 5 minutes.” Someone came in from the plane and said that I could still get on, but, there was no convincing Ms. Hailes. So I pulled out my camera to take a picture of the plane with its steps down, which really set her off.

“You are not allowed to take pictures of the plane. Give me that camera!”
Huh??? Am I in the old Soviet Union? This is a camera, not a gun!

I probably shouldn’t have continued to try to take a picture, but then this wouldn’t be on my blog today. She started blocking my view of the plane and as I raised my camera above her head to take the picture, she jumped up and knocked my camera to the floor, breaking it into several pieces. This was a very aggressive gate attendant! Great on security, but not much on customer service!

When she wouldn’t give me her name, hiding her name badge, I asked to talk with her supervisor and also security. A supervisor was there quickly and took me to their customer service area where I was handed off to another supervisor, Mr. Jeremy Flores. He called for Ms. Hailes to explain her side of the story. After listening to both of us, he told me to “go pound sand” in so many words, so I asked him to call security to file a complaint. That turned out to be my second mistake of the day.

The union steward huddled with Ms. Hailes as Officer Moore talked with me separately. After talking with her, he informed me, “You are on private property leased to United and you shouldn’t have tried to take those pictures. You can’t file anything against her, but if she wants to file an assault charge against you I’ll have to book you.”

“WHAT???? She broke my camera!” was running thru my mind but I decided that retreat was the best option open at the moment. After a few anxious minutes while he conferred with her and the union steward, he returned to let me know that “she isn’t going to file charges but you are going to be blacklisted from ever flying on United Express again.”

“Let me see if I’ve got this right. I missed my plane even though the door is open. I try to take a picture. My camera is knocked to the floor and broken. And, I just avoided time with Bubba in a jail cell and now can’t fly? Is this a bad dream?” Also, not spoken out loud or it would have been my third bad mistake of the day.

I left the United Express terminal and went to the United terminal where I talked with the Customer Service people about my situation. Mr. Stephen G. Price, a supervisor there, calmed me down and explained to me that I had been had and that there isn’t anyway to blacklist someone. He also told me that there was no way they would book a passenger for trying to take a picture. And, United Express could have left me on the plane with my boarding pass and taken care of the paperwork after the plane left the gate.

Well, they sure had this country boy fooled! Another in my continuing rants about the frustrations of traveling on the hub and spoke airline system. Other than a misstep here and there, I’m still having a ball seeing rural America. It will take something worse than a Ms. Hailes or Officer Moore to keep me down.

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