United finally get it right… (wonders will never cease)

Well in all fairness I have to post this, normally I am only seen whinging about United Airlines (and with good reason) but as I am also a fair and honest person, time to give credit where credit is due.

Today I had to take a flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Baltimore (BWI) and was booked on flight UA558.  I wasn’t looking forward to 5.25 hours in yet another badly maintained plane with rude staff, and an awful checkin system..  What a pleasant surprise I got.  A quick drive to SFO from Sunnyvale, was uneventful, the roof was down and Rammstein was blasting out at full volume (much to the angst of fellow road users who looked decidedly afraid, of the Goth in a big convertible mustang, banging out some very metal tunes… I suspect they thought at any minute I might draw a shotgun and start taking pot shots for fun!)  Arrival at SFO was also uneventful, car was returned to Hertz, no comments, complaints in fact several of the staff started head banging to the sound of the (still very loud) Rammstein!

I got to the check-in desk and as usual, they weren’t manned at all, leaving only the computerised systems, my heart fell, however a very cheerful dark skinned lady (United staff) decided to help me through it…  [Hang on a sec, you say, Michelle is a techie and programmer, how come she needed help….  My response to all of you.. you ever tried checking in using one of those damned machines?!?!? 😉 ]  anyhow, after initial problems with getting the machine to read my passport (my fault) it asked questions and I responded.. including a question, ‘this flight is full, would you consider helping us out and taking a $250 flight voucher for taking an alternative flight’… I thought, I answered, “yes” …  I hurried in to the departure lounge to talk to the boarding staff because I wasn’t all that sure about it… just wanted to make sure there were no problems..  I mean, 36 hours to get to Baltimore, sure, I could take a different route.. but they had to ensure my back was not destroyed in the mean time…  They offered (and I accepted) alternative flights, a hotel for the night and an upgrade to first class as well as the $250 voucher…..  I said, “yes please” 😉 [Note: in the end I didn’t get it because 2 people didn’t make it to the flight so they didn’t need my seat, but that was a bonus I was willing to take 😉 ]

So, the flight.. Airbus 319.. very small aircraft, old and notoriously uncomfortable for people like me..  they gave me Seat 7D at checkin..  just behind the business class section, tonnes of leg room but completely impossible to watch the movie… glad I bought a book. 😉

Now loud and proud.. United I had done many flights with you, some using my Frequent Flightier card (so you know who I am) some without…  The following people do you credit:

Terri Clark

Monica Travis

Ronda Novotny

I have *NEVER* had a flight with United that even comes close to the quality and standard of other airlines (even with a $7500 one-way Business class ticket).. however, this was an Economy Plus flight, and I thought I was on another airline, the service, the staff, everything was good.  Service was with a smile, they were helpful and courteous, there was none of the, “You’re a dirty low class economy piece of s**t” that I have experienced in the past.  These people answered the bell within a few minutes, they served me food and wine when I asked (even if they didn’t have 3 of my choices, it doesn’t matter, they served in a manor that made up for the shortcomings of what was in the galley.)  I watched the business class service from where I was and the same was happening there… All I can say is (and I never thought I’d ever say it).. For the United Flight UA558 on the 20th Oct 2012, Top marks from me!!

Rude, Arrogant or just plain stupid…?

One would expect public figures to be the example, certainly in other countries those in public office, rock stars, actors and generally anyone famous has to set an example for others.  Where the law is broken, those famous often get heavier sentences as an ‘example’ to others, indeed as a person who has worked for a customs office I was warned as part of my induction if I was ever caught in possession of drugs I would likely get the maximum sentence by any court etc..  Where laws are not broken but ethics are, jobs are lost, people are distanced from colleagues and the culprits are discredited.  So the question is how does the Maltese political parties fair in this game of showmanship?

Well yesterday I had to fly back to San Francisco for my 3 monthly visit to ‘Head Office’ and I wasn’t looking forward to it.  United Airlines are renowned for the worst service of any passenger airline, and traveling some 60,000 air miles per year, I have to say I have had my fair share of their awful service.  However, my ‘travel dramas’ of the past were surpassed to my amazement and disgust by and incident at the very beginning of my journey…  Happening right in the Malta International Airport (MLA).

I was waiting patiently in line for a checkin assistant to become available with at least one person in the queue behind me, and a couple of friends being served already, then an older man came up and stood near the desk.  Thinking this guy was just after asking a quick question I did not challenge him, checkin continued and my friends started to move away, and to my amazement the guy stepped forward and put his suitcase on the conveyor belt and handed over his passport.  I immediately called, “excuse me! excuse me! There is a queue here you know?!?!” to which the reply was, “I see no queue.”

I did not hear the reply, but my friends had, I repeated myself with the addition, “are you really such a rude person that you will jump the queue whilst there are others waiting?”  The reply, came under his breath, “F’oxx …” (I did not hear the second word but am fairly sure it was “Ommock” ..  Now for the benefit of the non Maltese speakers, “F’oxx” is equivalent to “Fuck” in English and “Ommock” is “Mother” (ie the term is “Fuck your mother”, which is used rather offensively instead of “Fuck Off”) ..  I was outraged and turned to the checkin assistant who was a young girl and she said, “he’s Flypass”

Now Flypass members get preferential treatment, they get to use the business class lounge etc..  However, their privileges does not extend to queue jumping, and in the event that someone does have that privilege they are to use the ‘business class’ line, or wait to be invited by the assistant.

Mr Joe Debono Grech
Mr Joe Debono Grech – MP for Labour

Remember me saying that I travel around 60,000 air-miles per year?  Well, that’s around 20,000 ‘Flypass’ miles per year, I am known to Air Malta staff in Malta, Germany and the UK (though not this girl on the check in desk).. I was flying Premium on Lufthansa in this case, I am a Gold ‘Star Alliance’ member (Lufthansa Miles and More, and United Airmiles etc)  I am a silver British Airways member and just 4,000 airmiles off being a Platinum Etihad member… I fly a lot, and have been doing so since 2009, I don’t enjoy it….  Not that it made any difference in this case the assistant still allowed him to continue and the poor people behind me had to wait for this ignorant twit.

Another Lufthansa staff member became free and checked me in.

I spent 30 minutes in the departure lounge wondering where the person had gone to, and boarded the flight on time, several minutes later one of the last people to board came into view, and who would it be, you guessed it, the rude person from checkin, and to my astonishment, he continued past my seat into the economy area and sat approximately half way down the plane…  Yes folks, this guy was not even a premium class traveller…!

Incensed by finding probably the most rude, ignorant person in Malta, I formulated a plan.  The plane landed and I jumped up and got off the plane as fast as possible, taking my carry on luggage with me, little did he know I would be waiting at the gate in Frankfurt with my Nikon D3s and F2.8 lens…  Camera checked, turned on, set to highspeed shooting (9 frames per second).. he walked off the plane and one of the pictures was uploaded here..  My plan to name and shame him into better behavior…  Give him an unwelcome 30 seconds of Internet fame…  Little did I realise who “he” is…

Within minutes of posting the picture to Facebook several people messaged me to tell me it was none other than Mr Joe Debono Grech, a politician parliamentary candidate for Labour. Many describing him as a relic of the 80s, some stating quite clearly that my report about his conduct has made up their minds on which way to vote at the next election.

Personally I am shocked that someone holding public office would conduct themselves in such a manner that brings their party into such disrepute.  Labour, not for the people, for everything they can get for themselves, is what comes to mind.  Well Mr Debono Grech, I will not stoop to your level, I will not tell you to “F’oxx ….” I will not use my frequent flyer privileges to be rude and inconsiderate to others, I will be the example you obviously cannot set, and I pray that the people of Malta never have to suffer election of someone so ignorant in the future.  I fully expect you to use your contacts to make my life hell, well do your worst is all I can say, I currently pay 4000EUR in income tax per month, I can claim most of those back with all the loop holes in the tax law, I choose not to!  I put my taxes into the community for the benefit of all, I support local artists where I can, often at great cost to myself, and never charge a penny.  I am polite most of the time (I am just not polite to people who don’t take ‘no’ for an answer) and I believe in the Maltese people and way of life.  I was not born here, and I do not have relatives here.  My only connection with Malta before I moved was that my father was stationed here in Malta during World War II..  I am 43 years old now, and I have never in my life seen *anyone* with a attitude as disgusting as yours, and I am just glad the new generation of Malta, whilst not following in as much tradition as many would like, are better behaved and respectful to others than yourself.


Oh and the right (Dis)Honorable Joe Debono Grech…. just for the record… you won’t be getting my vote either.


PS: I am learning Maltese, not because I have to – but because I WANT TO!!  So yes, I could understand what you said to the assistant.