Things to Do in Denver Airport When You Miss Your Flight: A Geekazine Short

Seattle from the Plane

from the Plane

So you may have heard the story from my Facebook page. On Friday, March 12, I missed a connection flight and had to stay in the for the night. I made the best of it and created a little video. Although it worked itself out, I still have to wonder if this could have been avoided?

Here is the story:

Flight itinerary was 3:50 PM take off from San Fransisco Airport to Denver. Arrive at 7:15, then board the next flight at 8:17 to Madison. Arrive in Madison, WI at 11:30 P.M.

The first plane was arriving from Reno. The weather in San Fransisco was , so there were slight delays – which pushed back the first flight to 4:17. United Airlines didn’t push back the new take off time until 4:15. We finally boarded the plane and took off around 4:40 P.M.

The switch was going to be close, but it was expected a 8:05 landing, which was true. However, we then sat on the Tarmac because United Airlines decided to give our assigned gate to another plane. 15 minutes later, we pulled into gate E35 (If I remember correctly).

Before landing, the flight attendants talked about other and their gates. They did not seem to know that I was connecting to the Madison flight and did not have that information. When I talked to the attendant, she was quick and said – well just consult the board.

I deplaned at 8:20. There was nobody at the end directing anyone. I went to a and found my flight was at 85 – a run to the other side of the terminal. However, the status was “Closed”. I found and asked an attendant what that meant. She looked it up and said “Oh. That flight left already.”

Therefore I proceeded to Customer Service to figure out how I was going to get home. As I got in line I heard over the speaker – “Madison Flight – You have one minute to board or the will close”. I was floored at that point, and still way too far away to make a run for it.

The customer service line was way too long. 50 people in front of me that missed a connection? A lot of angry people and a Manager that looked like he was ready to give the same answer – That scripted paragraph that comes from the United Airlines manual. I have to admit: He didn’t sway from that script at all.

Customer Service Line

Customer Service Line

As we were standing in line, another man apparently swore at a woman. 3 big words came from his mouth. She called a guard over and that is when it got interesting. He basically was belligerent as he talked to the officer. He walked out of the terminal in Handcuffs. So this is a lesson to all: An Airport is kinda like an Embassy building. It’s not really a place to practice freedom of speech. Freedoms are pretty limited; and I completely agree with it – That is why he was hauled away.

I finally got to the front of the line. I was told that the next few flights to Madison were booked and I wouldn’t get out of Denver until Sunday morning. Not liking that answer, we started to look for alternatives. She finally found a flight to Chicago that would leave at 6 AM the next morning, with a connecting flight at 3 PM, although I would be put on the list to get bumped up. There were no other flights out of Denver to the East coast, so I was basically staying at the Airport. Of course, they offered a hotel discount coupon, but otherwise I would have to stay in the Airport Terminal overnight.

At this point it was 9:30 P.M. I was hungry and getting a little frustrated. To top it off, all the establishments were closing or closed. By 10 P.M, all I could do in Terminal B was walk around or sleep.

Luckily, a passing employee suggested I go to Terminal A – for there was a McDonalds that was open until 2 AM. I also found the bar next door to McDonalds was also open, so I was able to get a more substantial meal.

The idea to do the video came shortly after that. I decided that if I was going to be stuck here (in which I also assumed there have been and will be others that had that same issue), I would make the best of it and take video of the experience.

After a couple hours of footage and first round of post-production, I sat in one of the chairs and got a couple hours of sleep. Woke up to get to the 6 AM Chicago flight.

So with all that said and done, here are my issues with this flight:

  • Yes, inclement weather pushed our flight back, but that was known before we left San Fransisco. They could have made appropriate plans for connecting flights – especially since most of them were the last flights of the day. Holding a plane for 10 minutes is not the end of the world.
  • When we landed, the flight attendants did not direct or ask passengers for help  in letting those who needed to run to a connecting flight get off first. It just became a regular push to get off, which added about 5 minutes to the wait.
  • There was nobody at the terminal to give us direction to our flights. If someone would have said “85” as I got off the plane, I would have been running to the gate without asking someone who really didn’t have the right answer. I might have been home by 11:30 P.M.
  • The Customer Service line pretty much said it all. We waited over an hour to talk with someone. If you have 50 people waiting for Customer Service, it’s too long.

I would like to add a couple more for the Airport itself. I don’t have any qualms with the Denver Airport – I really appreciate the place that I could sleep and the wifi connection, but it would have been better if:

  • Some of the stores stayed open just a bit longer. It would have really sucked if I would have waited for 10 hours without any food or drink.
  • Maybe an after hours vending machine so I could get a soda or candy bar.

Even though United Airlines stuck with the “Inclement weather” excuse, I believe my issues and rebuttle are valid ones. Waiting 15 minutes for a gate and holding the connecting planes 10-15 minutes would have gotten us all home without issue. Not having someone do Quality Control when we walked off the plane is poor organization. Simple changes and there might not have been 50 people standing in a Customer Service line.

By the way – The flight to Chicago – The flight attendants did everything I mentioned above to get those off the plane who had connecting flights leaving shortly. There WAS someone at the door to guide us. I made it to my next plane with 2 minutes to spare.

So with that said, here is the video of my stay. Enjoy!

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