Chapter 4: Amanda and Jamie

Chicago Travel Blog

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While making the calls a cute, petite blonde is sitting two seats to my left, working on a laptop. I don’t realize she is listening in on my conversation until she leans over to ask "Are you planning to drive to Madison?"

I nod yes while Enterprise is explaining their $300 drop-off fee. The petite blonde says "We need to talk".

I put the agent on hold.  

The petite blonde explains that she is looking up flight information on her laptop to cut through UAL's misinformation.  She has learned that the plane we are supposedly waiting for has already landed, despite what she was told. She realizes we were being jerked around and wants a way out.

I take the agent off hold and make a tentative reservation.

I introduce myself.  

The petite blonde’s name is Amanda, and she introduces me to Jamie, the tall blonde sitting next to her, who I recognize from the line at LAX.

The three of us form a quick alliance to somehow escape from the UAL hostage situation.  Amanda pounds her keyboard for more info on the delay, as Jamie explains that they are seniors returning to University of Wisconsin-Madison.

They absolutely need to be in class tomorrow morning and offer to split the drop-off fee for the car.
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From 1998-2004 I flew UAL between LAX and SFO, a short hop for a plane. I learned through bitter experience of UAL’s dastardly "Delay, Cancel, Consolidate" (DCC) strategy.  

DCC consists of offering frequent flights to entice passengers to fly, and if the flights don’t fill up then consolidate the suckered sheep onto fewer flights to save money.

Once UAL realizes they have to fly two half empty planes to the same destination, they delay the first half empty plane citing a minor mechanical problem, or the delay of a crew member, or, if remotely believable (since this gets the blame off the corporation and on to God) the weather.  

I have missed many a business meeting due to the supposed “mechanical failures” and “fog” that only affected UAL planes, and then only when the flight is empty enough to amazingly accommodate all passengers on a subsequent flight.  

We speak to a passenger who has been at the airport for 12 hours already.  Three planes to Madison are all supposedly grounded due to Chicago weather, or mechanical problems.  The odds don’t compute, and despite the weather, other planes are leaving left and right.

UAL is consolidating the passengers from all flights to Madison onto our flight, scheduled to depart at 10:30 pm. It is immediately obvious to me that UAL is running DCC with a twist.

The twist on UAL’s nefarious bait-and-switch strategy is to use "passenger management" tactics and misinformation to keep the passengers docile and lead them to decisions against their better judgment.  These decisions are, of course, in UAL’s best interest.

It’s a textbook application of Mushroom Management Theory.  

For those unfamiliar with M.M.T. - it's managing people by keeping them in the dark and feeding them mushrooms food.  

It works like this…

Once UAL has decided to run DCC they withhold official updates while various agents tantalize frustrated passengers with promises of departures mere minutes away.

Distracting and confusing trips back and forth to the various gates are an effective M.M.T. tool.  Effective execution of M.M.T. while running a DCC play on a regional route discourages passengers from driving to the final destination, which would qualify them for a flight refund, ruining the whole thing for UAL.

The girls and I weigh the cost of the car, the weather, and the time needed to reach Madison, against the odds of UAL honoring their departure time.  This switches from 9:30 to 10:30 and now 11:45, a charade during which we migrate obediently from F11 to F7 to F12.

We have become human pearls in a sadistic shell game, like a Twilight Zone episode for the new corporate millennium.  UAL is the grinning profiteer who keeps us running, guessing, and confused - never quite able to figure out which move is the right one.

At 10:30 PM, we agree to rent and drive.  Even if it only saves us minutes. At this point it’s a matter of principle.  

UAL must not win.  

We advance to the counter to do battle.

We are stopped in our tracks with a new, unexpected, and diabolical twist. The agent refuses to relinquish our luggage before the final destination.

Even IF we arrive ahead of the plane, we will have to wait at the Dane County Regional Airport for the plane to land, with our luggage, and the stuff we need.

Amanda, Jamie and I concede Check and Mate to the not-so-friendly skies of United.  The gates of UAL have prevailed. 
While making the calls a cute, petite blonde is sitting two seats to my left, working on a laptop. I don’t realize she is listening in on my conversation until she leans over to ask "Are you planning to drive to Madison?"

I nod yes while Enterprise is explaining their $300 drop-off fee. The petite blonde says "We need to talk".

I put the agent on hold.  

The petite blonde explains that she is looking up flight information on her laptop to cut through UAL's misinformation.  She has learned that the plane we are supposedly waiting for has already landed, despite what she was told. She realizes we were being jerked around and wants a way out.

I take the agent off hold and make a tentative reservation.

I introduce myself.  

The petite blonde’s name is Amanda, and she introduces me to Jamie, the tall blonde sitting next to her, who I recognize from the line at LAX.

The three of us form a quick alliance to somehow escape from the UAL hostage situation.  Amanda pounds her keyboard for more info on the delay, as Jamie explains that they are seniors returning to University of Wisconsin-Madison.

They absolutely need to be in class tomorrow morning and offer to split the drop-off fee for the car.
Chicago
photo by: mahoney