I researched about babies ears popping and how to deal with the pressure changes. Luckily (this is making lemonade out of lemons) Colton had fluid on his middle-ear, an effect from a recent virus. The pediatrician told me that this was not a problem at all. It would prevent his ear from popping and there was no risk of busting an ear-drum. I didn't want to chance it though and had bottles, snacks, pacifiers and water in a sippy-cup all packed in the carry-on.
United had an automated phone check-in. They called and I checked-in, or so I thought. The automated phone person asked if I was traveling with a baby. I responded that I was. They replied that I was set, and all I needed to do was swipe my credit card.
That's not really what happened. On Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 we arrived nearly two hours before the flight to the Burlington airport (BTV). I tried checking in with my credit card, it didn't work. No big deal. It took a bit longer, but we were helped by a desk person. I had two bags to be checked. None of my credit cards were being read (even though it worked for check in ???). Luckily, I had cash to pay for the bags $60. Strike one.
Baby, two diaper bags (one with food, one with diapers, toys and spare clothes in case of a poop-problem), stroller, baby blanket and winter jacket. This may not sound like much, but now comes my first of many scrunched-up, squinty-eyed faces at the United staff. For United Airlines flight 4232 we were required to walk down two flights of stairs outside and then up one to the plane (no ramp). Fortunately they allowed me to board early - this time. No one from United seemed to notice I had a baby in a stroller and there was no elevator, even thought they sought me out when I was feeding the baby in the waiting area to tell me I couldn't sit in the A seat section... Luckily a nice man from the Burlington Airport offered to carry the stroller. Strike two United Airlines.
On this flight the young flight attendant was quite rude. Her welcome to me (lugging my baby and two bags - that didn't fit very well through the aisle) was, "You can't sit on that side." She was referring to the A side. I didn't know why, but let her know that the airport United lady told me the same thing. Luckily I was sitting next to a bunch of Minnesotans who were very nice. I believe the lady's name was Becky and her son was scared to fly - they switched him with me (because I couldn't sit on the A side). She had to reassure her son it would be okay - from across the aisle. She also let me know why it was I couldn't sit with a baby on my lap in the A aisle - it's because there isn't an extra air mask in case of problems. Thanks passenger for explaining this. Strike three United Airlines.
Now came the flight - I had the bottle ready (warming between my knees) for take-off just in case my pediatrician was incorrect and Colton needed to swallow to pop his ears. My pediatrician told me about how overly wonderful the flight attendants were (on another airline he took) a few weeks earlier. He said there was a young couple who asked the attendant to warm a bottle three times on one flight. I thought, "wow, that's great. But I think I figured out how to feed him without help." --- Thank goodness, as no help was ever offered, not from United anyway.
Colton was pretty good on this first flight - I just kept shoving his mouth with banana puffs. The nice Minnesotan family assisted me with my bags when deplaning*. (*I believe I've blogged about my disdain for this word a few years ago - it's a ridiculous word. I don't decar, dehouse, debus or de-anything else when I leave...)
We made it to Cleveland. I love the Cleveland airport - love it. It's always clean and has a great food selection. Things were looking up. We didn't have to leave terminal C. The flight got moved, but only a few gates down.
When the time came to start boarding flight 4749 I got up and started loading the bags on my shoulders with baby in stroller. NOPE. Back-up. Sit down. Apparently a baby is not a disability, nor a reason to be able to make it down the ramp early, not even if you're traveling alone. The United lady wasn't even nice about it. She was a jerk when I asked if I could board early. OK. fine. I'll just delay all of the other passengers as I unload him from the stroller, fold the stroller up and carry both bags and baby onto the plane... and that I did.
Again, if not for a very nice (again Minnesotan) I would have been in tears. This young man helped me carry the bags so I could fold up the stroller and not drop the baby in the cold ramp. Again the only thing the flight attendant was concerned with was that I was not sitting on the A side of the aisle.
Since baby C slept on the descent of the last flight, I figured I'd let him sleep through this one. He was a little fussy, but after another bottle fell asleep and stayed asleep until we landed in Minneapolis. The flight attendant on this one wasn't as bad as the first, but she was of no assistance either.
At least there was no problem with the checked bags. That's a problem I often had with Midwest and Northwest airlines. So I guess you can give the airline a point back...
My return flights were on Monday, January 14, 2013. I was waiting for the phone call to check-in, it never came. Okay, no problem. We were planning on getting to the airport early and we did. My dad brought Colton and me to the Minneapolis airport more than two hours prior to our departure. Again, thank goodness. We waited in line for at least 20 minutes. Then when I went to check in with my credit card, it didn't work (the registration, not my card). Instead of someone from the United desk trying to help, the nice man from Air Canada stepped in to see what he could do. For some reason the baby was not on the return flight reservation. What? arghhhh. This caused another delay.
Again we were not allowed to board early. But it didn't really matter as there were only six people (not including the baby) on a 90-person plane. And I was better prepared. This time I didn't bring a winter jacket and instead of pushing the baby down the ramp, I carried him with the two bags so I could pop the stroller down and fold it up. The check in United lady was nice, but there were many problems with other flights she was trying to manage.
Onto the ramp, finally we had a personable attendant for flight 5143 from Minneapolis (MSP) to Newark (EWR). There were two male attendants and the one at the front was very nice. He actually explained that he's not allowed to leave the plane to help and took the stroller from me and placed it in the overhead compartment as there were only five passengers on the plane, not including the baby. Well, there, a little communication goes a long way.
This attendant was semi-amused as Colton found his air mask demonstration amazing and watched very intently the entire time. Baby C was a bit more fussy on this flight, but again there were not many others on the plane with room for 90. I was able to stand up and rock him a bit. It was nice to have a flight attendant who actually conversed with us.
Onto Newark. For this boarding I can't blame the United worker for my frustration. Instead the ultimate rudeness award goes to the French Canadian Family that barged in front of me (holding my baby with two bags on my shoulders, pushing my stroller) forcing me to stand there holding 40 pounds while they took their own temps sucre! I had to sit Colton on the podium as my arms were going to give out. There was a nice French Canadian girl who offered to push the stroller. And although I don't fault the United employee - she could have pointed out that I was already in line instead of ignoring the fact that I WAS THERE FIRST and my arms were falling off... That was her job, not mine.
The flight attendant on this flight 4162 had a voice like Morgan Freeman, which was cool, but he was not friendly at all. He seemed pissed that he was working. At least he placed my bags above (because I was in a row with no seats in front of me) for me.
We made it. I wish I could say I would choose another airline in the future, but unfortunately United is the primary choice out of Burlington. This makes me sad.
I miss Frontier Airlines as their flight attendants were the best. I've never had a problem with Delta or Northwest either. Service does matter. I will pay more in the future to avoid United - who by the way advertises that your carry-on is free (that's not a USP). That's a dumb campaign.
I'm not saying that United did anything particularly wrong, but they definitely didn't do very much right.