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Travel 2017: An ‘Awkward’ Travel Day with United Airlines

The first half of the day couldn’t pass fast enough! We were both up early, last minute packing check, I took Belle and Dudley for their boarding/’vacation’ and Michael went in for a half day of work. We’d checked in with the airline and printed our boarding passes the night before.

We were ready.

Everything was on time and Peggy drove us to the airport late afternoon. We went to check our luggage and noticed right away our seats were changed. No big deal– but wait! We weren’t sitting together. Why did this change overnight?

The new seating arrangement was 2-1-2. I was now assigned on the left side, seated by a stranger and Michael was in the single center seat– in what appeared to be business class. Except, we had paid for first class.

It was a full flight and there was no way to change our seat assignments at the kiosk. We tried to get assistance but no one could explain what happened or knew how to fix it. We went ahead and checked our bags and went through security, hoping to fix the situation at the gate.

We have global entry and TSA Precheck…. advantages include: leaving shoes and belts on and you don’t have to take your computer/electronics out of your bag. Well, both of us set off the detector and were stopped for further screening. Michael just had to take off his shoes but I had to wait to be searched. Of course, no one was there to do this and there were five people ahead of me waiting. I went through the x-ray body scanner,  got the pat down and then the metal detector wand. It was showing something above my ankle. I had to remove one shoe — yet still it was detecting metal above my ankle– they checked again, then let me through.

We were headed to the desk at our gate when we saw a United Customer Service Center. No help. Beyond the fact that they changed planes, they couldn’t explain why we had been separated and they couldn’t fix it. Actually, after checking his computer and then several minutes on the phone, the rep gave us false information. He tried to claim we were still in first class (we were supposed to believe business class seats, randomly placed, were ‘first class’) and that this was one of the newly renovated planes (it wasn’t). He insisted there was no way we could be seated together.

I fired off a couple Tweets at United. I’d heard of people getting responses in the past so I thought it was worth a try.

No one was manning the desk at our gate yet, so we decided to go to United’s Polaris lounge. They let us in but told us they were full and there would likely be no open seating for at least 40 minutes. The regular United lounge in the terminal was closed and they were apparently letting everyone (‘eligible’) use this lounge instead.

So far, this wasn’t going well.

Luckily, we didn’t wait long before we were able to grab a couple seats. In less than 30 minutes, the lounge was nearly empty. Michael and I discussed our frustration about the flight and I expressed the fact that there was no way I was going to be able to do any sleeping right next to a stranger. An eight and a half hour flight can feel monotonous enough without making it any more uncomfortable.

By the time we were boarding, a United Representative was waiting for us and said they’d try to get someone to move so we could be seated together. We also wanted to know why we being told first class was the same as business (it isn’t). The Rep was very nice, apologetic and said he’d see what he could do.


On the plane, we were able to switch seats and sit together. The Rep checked on us again and confirmed that they had switched our flight from a three class (first, business, economy) to a two class (business, economy) plane. He also apologized for us being given false information regarding the change and said he’d make sure it was addressed. We were now owed a substantial refund.

What makes me really aggravated about this is that 1) we booked this flight months ago; 2) the plane change should have happened before check in; 3) a misinformed customer service rep chose to give us false information as opposed to saying he didn’t have an answer. Thankfully, the customer service rep at the gate was honest and extremely attentive. I felt he did everything he could at that moment to rectify the situation and make us feel like we (the customers) were important (to the company).

Why am I sharing this? Because our experience might help someone else in a similar situation. I think it’s important to try and handle things in the appropriate way. We could have a) taken out our frustration on reps in a rude manner (when it wasn’t their fault); or b) not said anything, letting it fester and put a damper on the the beginning of our adventure. Neither would have resulted in a happy outcome.

United should have been proactive. With the plane change, they should have seated us together and informed us of the change when we checked our bags. They also should have automatically refunded us the difference in the price between first class and business class tickets. Had this been done, the confusion would have been eliminated and we would not have been left to try and figure out what happened ourselves.

The flight itself was pretty uneventful. I watched the movie Allied and was able to get a few hours sleep before we landed.

By the time we reached London, we felt relaxed and were able to put the rocky start behind us.

Now, as long as United issues a refund for the difference in ticket price, I think we’ll be satisfied with the outcome.


Travel Date: May 12, 2017

The Never-ending 36 Hour Day

Southeast Asia Travel -11/16 – Day Eighteen & a Half:Today was the longest day ever!” People always say that when a day seems extremely slow or stressful– it’s the longest– but 24 hours is still just 24 hours. Unless, of course, you are flying back through time zones from the other side of the world and 24 hours becomes 36 unbearable, long hours.

Michael and I got up at 4:30 AM Monday morning to get ready to leave for the airport at 6 AM. Plenty of time. Michael had prearranged transportation online before we even started our crazy adventure. All we had to do was call and confirm a day in advance.  Only…. No answer.

IMG_1502We’d allowed plenty of time, being an international flight, customs, etc. and we still hoped the car would show up as scheduled. We made repeat phone calls and no answer, no recording… nothing.

At 6:20 AM we gave up and had the hotel call us a taxi. Which, by the way, was cheaper than the original arrangement we’d made in advance. (We did get a full refund through Viator later.)

The simple story is that we flew from Singapore to Seoul, Seoul to San Francisco; and after a five-hour layover, home to Chicago. We flew business class to boot. Easy huh?

Except- it really wasn’t easy. It was like torture. Mainly because with the extremely dry air on the plane, I got a bad sinus infection early on that had me in pain and irritable most of the trip. I couldn’t breath, my throat was sore and I was starting to develop a cough. I started calling it ‘the airplane flu’. This made sleeping extremely difficult as well.

I need moisture. I looked it up and airplane air is down around 10% humidity– almost nonexistent. I had plenty of fluids but I couldn’t stay hydrated. It’s not the airplane air itself that makes you sick but the extreme dryness leaves your body unprotected to any germs you might be exposed to on the plane or from others.

We had turbulence (nothing severe) much of our flight time; preventing even standing up and stretching from being an option.

I just kept reminding myself that it would soon be over and we’d be home with our dogs. I also kept imagining what it would have been like if we’d flown coach. I think I would have been ready to jump out the window! In addition to being sick, my body was aching and my cramps had cramps.

By the time we reached San Francisco, I was desperate for a break. I would have given anything to just walk around for a while. Except, immigration and customs took almost two hours! 1) Because the person in charge of line control for the automated immigration kiosks was clueless and half the machines were always empty; and 2) Michael got randomly pulled for his bags to be checked at customs. I find it somewhat amusing (and sad) that airports and customs all over the world can get it right– but the US is the most unorganized and slow. It was a good thing we had the five-hour layover before our final leg to Chicago. We needed nearly four hours of it just to get into the country and then through screening for our flight home.

Everything from Singapore was on time… until we reached Chicago. Surprise, surprise. We landed and had to sit on the plane waiting for a gate for nearly an hour. Not because the gates were full—but because O’Hare had shut down all the gates for the night– making all incoming flights wait and take turns at the few open gates.

Then of course, it was the same situation at baggage claim. It took another 30-45 minutes for baggage while Peggy was patiently standing by to pick us up.

By the time we got home, we were so tired and wired at the same time. It was good to be home. Best of all– almost better than anything you can imagine– was seeing my old boy Cash. He was happy to see us, greeting us with kisses and a big warm puddle in the driveway because he was so excited.

We pick up Belle and Dudley from boarding tomorrow after we (hopefully) have had some rest.

There’s a reason the saying, “there’s no place like home” has had such longevity. I love traveling and experiencing new adventures but there is nothing like your own bed, your pets nuzzling you– and the tranquility of your own space. It’s been such a whirlwind adventure. It will take time just for everything we were privileged enough to experience–just to sink in and sensory overload to catch up with us in real time.

For now, it’s all about getting back to normal, getting over this stupid cold and steamrolling into the holidays.

Next stop? London and Italy in September.

Maybe we can teleport there.

Up, Up and Away

Southeast Asia Travel Day 1 & 2: 35 hours to travel halfway around the world. Even flying business class — it’s a challenge. I don’t know how people who travel internationally on business manage to keep their sanity.

The good news is that none of our flights were delayed. All the airports we used had free WiFi, making the stops go by pretty quickly. There were only small pockets of turbulence once we got out over the Pacific Ocean that came and went throughout the rest of our flights.

IMG_1493We flew Virgin America from Chicago to Los Angeles. (I have to note their use of contemporary music and pink and purple mood lighting for a refreshing take on air travel.) From LA we flew Singapore Airlines to Tokyo in about 12 hours. We had to disembark, go through security again; then get back on the same plane (same seats) about an hour later. The flight crew changed at this point and I was envious that they didn’t have to continue on. By this point, Michael and I were both ready to be done with the flying.

IMG_1502From Tokyo, we continued on Singapore Airlines– for another 7 hours to Singapore. We had a five hour layover at Singapore’s Changi Airport, which has a reputation as one of, if not the best in the world. We spent a chunk of time in the SilverKris Lounge and then did some exploring. Lots of interesting things to see and do at Changi including free movies, a pool, many stores and some beautiful gardens spaced throughout the massive complex.

IMG_1513Our last 2 hour flight was on Silk Airline to Siem Riep, Cambodia. (I barely had time to finish my movie on this one.)

I watched the movies Trainwreck, Magic Mike XXL, The Age of Adeline, Once and The Lucky Stiff. I was especially glad to see the last one since it was recently released but not available yet in our area. It’s based on a small cult musical and was a lot of fun.

Beautiful cloud formation on the last leg of our journey to Siem Riep.

Beautiful cloud formation on the last leg of our journey to Siem Riep.

By the time we reached Siem Riep, Michael and I were both tired, sore and in desperate need of showers. I slept as much as I could during the flights but still felt exhausted and disoriented. Honestly, by that point it didn’t matter if it was breakfast or dinner time or morning or night; I was just completely grateful to be on the ground.

When we left Chicago and it was 37 degrees and when we arrived in Siem Riep  in was humid and about 80 degrees– and climbing.

We were fast-tracked through customs in Siem Riep, where we met Jun, from Trails of Indochina. He escorted us to our vehicle that transported us to our hotel, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. It turned out that Jun would be our guide during our stay in Cambodia– but more about that later.

All in all, the length of the trip aside, it was a fairly painless process. Sleeping on planes, even in business class is challenging. We both managed to get some decent sleep time in though. The service personnel all along the way were very attentive and extremely nice. We moved through all the security checkpoints quickly and I loved not having to take off my shoes after leaving the United States.

Here are some images from Singapore’s beautiful Changi Airport:

Deserted at 3 AM. Changi Airport.

Deserted at 3 AM. Changi Airport.


On November 1st, even Changi Airport is already decorated for Christmas.

On November 1st, even Changi Airport is already decorated for Christmas.


A Koi pond in Changi.

A Koi pond in Changi.


One of the many gardens in Changi Airport.

One of the many gardens in Changi Airport.


Inside the SilverKris lounge at Changi.

Inside the SilverKris lounge at Changi.


The Sunflower Garden at Singapore Changi Airport.

The Sunflower Garden at Singapore Changi Airport.


Singapore Sunrise.

Singapore Sunrise.