I’m still in Chicago. My 9:30am flight yesterday morning was cancelled because of the bad weather. I had seen the news about the storm system, before I left for the airport, but there was nothing listed on the airport’s website to suggest any problem. The airport was chaotic when I arrived around 7am. Hundreds of people were queuing for check-in. It’s almost as if United hadn’t realised that people were going to turn up to fly. It was under-staffed and the staff who were there spent their time walking up and down the lines yelling instructions at passengers that were hard to understand. They even started to yell at people telling them not to miss their flight because they were waiting in line – but they didn’t tell them how to check-in without queuing.
It took over an hour for me to get to my gate. I got to spend a pleasant hour chatting to a friend who was travelling through O’hare that morning. Once they left I sat and watched the “flight delayed” notifications turn into “flight cancelled”
I had to go the service desk to get re-booked for another flight. I was lucky in that I beat a lot of the rush (later on in the day as more flights were cancelled the queue was 3 hours long), but they still told me I would have to wait 27 hours before I could get another flight.
I asked about compensation, food vouchers, hotels, but was told that there was nothing they could do. The person I was dealing with looked quite put out and asked why I thought the weather was the airlines problem? I told her it certainly wasn’t mine and did they really think customers who didn’t live in the city should sit in the airport for another 27 hours? I was told I was free to spend my own money on a hotel but that they wouldn’t be providing me with anything. The only thing they could do was put me on the standby list and maybe I would get lucky and catch a later flight.
By 5pm I knew there was no way I was getting to Pittsburgh on standby. I was number 84 on the standby list. (This makes it sounds as if they were useful and told me what place I was on the list. That’s not what happened. I had to move around the airport as the gates kept changing for the flights to Pittsburgh hoping that the board by the gate would display a list. I waited 6 hours after being put on the list to see my position on it.)
There were only two planes left to go to Pittsburgh, both were overbooked, and they only hold 66 passengers each. I found out they were overbooked as the woman I ended up spending the day with rang the airline. She was put on hold for more than 30 minutes but eventually managed to speak to someone who told us that the rest of the flights were already overbooked before the delays and cancellations.
Thankfully, I have travel insurance. So instead of sitting in the airport all night, as the airline staff suggested I do, I am at the hotel in the airport. My new friend and I went shopping last night so that I would have something clean to wear today (the airline refused to give me back my luggage as I still want to travel to Pittsburgh).
I’m hoping that things are better today.