Blogger Template by Blogcrowds

As promised, more on New Orleans...

Monday, January 28, 2008
First of all, the food was fantastic. Not cheap, but fantastic. We went to Palace Cafe, Mr. B's, Acme Oyster House, and Mulate's - all great.

Not so great? The weather. We got unlucky - it was mid-40s and raining for most of our trip. Pretty miserable.

Even worse? The Hilton New Orleans Riverside, and United Airlines. Let's begin at the beginning: we were flying United from Richmond to Dulles, then Dulles to New Orleans (for some reason, this was $200 cheaper than just flying on the same flights from Dulles to New Orleans). When we arrived at the Richmond airport, we found out that our first flight was delayed, so we wouldn't make the connection. Instead, they put us on an American flight that connected in St. Louis...which would've been fine, except the second flight was delayed. In the end, we got to New Orleans about 4 hours late...

...which would be no big deal, except that the Hilton Riverside had run out of non-smoking rooms, because they were overbooked. The woman at the desk even tried to convince me that I had actually booked a smoking room, despite the fact that I had my reservation confirmation printout showing "Non-smoking King Confirmed." I explained to her that I could not sleep in a smoking room, that I have migraines and cigarette smoke is one of the triggers. She went back to talk to her manager, and returned with a solution: 50% off the room rate!

Sigh. I explained that a discount did not solve my problem - in fact, since my employer was paying for the hotel, I didn't care how much it cost, I just had to sleep in a nonsmoking room. I asked to speak to her manager. When I finally spoke to the manager, Pat, about 20 minutes later, she did not apologize. She was not nice, or helpful, or sorry. She informed me that they were overbooked and it's first-come, first-served (despite the fact that they've had my money for two months). I did let her know - not nicely at this point - that their being overbooked was not my problem. Then, finally, she offered to put us on a rollaway bed in the parlor room of a suite (the living room, basically).

Pat did not offer us anything to make this right, other than the useless 50% off. When I called their customer care line the next morning, hoping to talk to someone more useful, they connected Pat. After much difficulty, I finally spoke to someone who offered us a free breakfast and an apology. I guess that's something.

The next day they said they could switch us to a regular nonsmoking room (you want two double beds, right? Sigh.), just stop by between noon and 3:00. The new room, they assured us, was really nice, a really nice room. So imagine our disappointment at 4:00 - when the room was finally ready - to find that it wasn't a really nice room. I guess maybe if you've never stayed anywhere but a Motel 6, it might be, but otherwise....ugh. The carpet in the 16th floor hallway looked like it had been flooded by Katrina...last week. The mirror frame in the bathroom was peeling and cracked. The laminate bathroom counter was ugly and the sink had a chipped chrome faucet. The walls were paper-thin, so we could hear every word spoken in the room next door. The minifridge they delivered REEKED and made everything in it smell bad.

But, finally, we left! Our return flight to Dulles was nice and uneventful. We arrived at Dulles airport around 11:00am, so we had plenty of time to make our connection (which, according to our boarding passes, would board at 12:18 and leave at 12:38). We sat down at Five Guys, about 15 feet away from our gate, and had lunch. We heard lots of announcements, including other flights leaving from our gate. At 12:20, we walked over and heard the person at the desk say "Last call boarding to Richmond" (aloud, not on the PA).

What? Last call?

We hurried up and handed them our boarding passes - and were greeted by the woman with "Where have you been? We've been boarding for a while! We've been paging you!" I apologized, and said that we'd been right there at Five Guys and hadn't heard anything. "You can't hear from there! You have to wait at the gate! You can't hear any announcments from there, and you can't wait there!"

Well, now I wasn't sorry. I explained that we'd heard lots of announcements, just none for us. She held our boarding passes so that she could continue: "No, you can't hear our announcments from there, you can't wait over there, we've been waiting for you, we were going to leave!" I can't convey this with typing, but her tone - you'd think I'd personally beaten up her grandmother or something. I have never been spoken to as rudely and angrily by any employee of any company, ever. I was furious. The calmest reponse I could manage - to avoid being detained and not allowed on the flight - was to take out my cell phone, look at the time (12:20), and say "I sure hope you wouldn't leave 20 minutes early without 5 of your passengers" and then keep walking. For God's sake, we WERE listening, and we arrived at the gate at the scheduled boarding time.

So...I'm glad to be home. I've written to United about that woman, but don't expect a response. It doesn't really matter, because I won't ever fly United again.

Sorry for the long rant. The food was really good, though.


Post a Comment