brokenclay.org/journal

I am a customer

We had a three hour layover at LAX. The weather was bad at O’Hare, flights were being grounded. We listened to what sounded like an increasingly crazed gate agent: “Do not stand in line to ask about your flight. I will let you know when I have more information.”

At first I felt sympathetic towards her, but as time went by it became apparent that instead of dealing with customers’ questions and concerns one by one, she preferred to be left alone, because apparently she already knew what everybody needed, and they shouldn’t mess up her attempts to help them. My daughter joked that she hoped the agent would get a break soon.

She didn’t get a break – she got to work my flight.

As soon as she arrived at the counter, I got in line, behind about a half a dozen people who were already waiting. She ignored the waiting people, marched up to me, and asked what I needed. As I always do, I asked for a gate check tag and an aisle chair. She looked at my boarding pass, and asked if I could get all the way back to row 31. I made a joke about how it was obviously easier if my seat was closer to the front, but I did not ask to be reseated. I repeated my requests. She said, “Let me take care of these people first.”

That was a little baffling, so I just stayed in line. She dealt with the people in front of me, and when I got to the counter, she stared at me, confused, and asked what I wanted. A gate check tag and an aisle chair, I said. “I said I’d take care of you,” she said impatiently. “I’m going to take care of the customers in line first.”

“I am a customer, and I am in line,” I said, as calmly as I could manage. “You don’t need the gate check tag right now,” she said, and turned away from me to beckon up the next customer. I retreated back to my family. She started doing her “don’t stand in line” routine over the loudspeaker.

By now, another gate agent had joined her. Then she called my husband’s name (hey, wait – who made the reservation? Who is the Premier flyer here? Who actually needs the aisle chair?). I decided to stay out of her way. She gave us all new seats (rows 13 and 15), but no boarding passes. My husband came back and said she wanted us boarded, right now.

So I got up there. Still no boarding passes in hand, and the other agent protested, but she said that she knew who we were and where we were sitting. She acted very harried and busy.

I waited at the end of the jetway while my family boarded. After a moment or so, the other agent came down and said, in a surprised voice, “Do you need assistance?” Feeling like I was in some kind of comedy routine, I said, “I need an aisle chair and a gate check tag.” I could see him suppressing a curse, and he ran up the jetway to get the aisle chair, and ran back down to bundle me into it. In the meantime, the original agent came down to see what the hold up was, and he told her, in no uncertain terms, to get a gate check tag for the chair. She looked shocked and hurt, and turned away. He leaned over me to fasten one of the straps and muttered, “God, what a kook!” I tried not to laugh.

Katja

3 Comments

  1. wheelchairdancer

    Oh God! That’s gross. United? Thank goodness for the humanity of the other agent.

    :-)

    WCD

    Reply
  2. Katja (Post author)

    It’s not really an access or discrimination story, though – this woman was providing poor service to every customer equally.

    Yes, United. I’m seriously considering switching to Frontier – I didn’t fly enough this year to make premier again, and Frontier just seems to treat customers better in general.

    Reply
  3. Karin

    Wow-I’m not the only one!! Thanks for sharing, can I be part of your club, too? United- it happened to me last year from Dulles to Orlando both ways! And they acted so put out when I took a couple extra seconds to remove my shoes, get out of my wheelchair, and WALK through the metal detector with my cane! Jeez, maybe we can started our own airline. I’ll think of a name later…Oh yeah, I had my 4 y.o daughter on my lap and my 6 y.o. son was in rare form. Gotta love it!

    Reply

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