There aren’t many degrees of separation from knowing of someone who is in, or has left an abusive relationship. That’s a relationship you stay in for convenience or because of an unhealthy co-dependency where the abused accepts or excuses bad behavior.

The relationship between Klamath residents and visitors who fly commercially at the Klamath Falls Airport is filled with abuse from the sociopath-like entity known as United Airlines.

Klamath leaders believed that an airline serving Klamath with direct flights to Portland and San Francisco was essential to the economic well-being of the area. With every large flight to and from San Francisco averaging at least 18 passengers paying between $220 and $540, and many of those paying more for additional transfers in the flight network, there was a strong business case for an airline. Even before United Airlines cut the number of flights in half a year ago, there were still overbookings on full planes.

Even with all the demand that existed, before committing to service, United extorted huge anchor fees from area sponsors such as KCEDA, the City and the County…well over a million in subsidies.

airlinejailAnyone who has taken the San Francisco flight the past year can attest to how abusive the airline is to the Klamath patrons. Sure, the attendants and crew on the planes are as smiley as a coked-up jack-o-lantern and friendly as maple syrup, but being courteous and abuse are not exclusively separate. Many a tyrant has spoken courteously while whipping the serfs.

The abuse begins with the booking process. If you don’t book two weeks in advance, the rate often doubles or triples by departure. This makes no sense: you’d think they’d want to fill up more planes by offering discounts the last two hours instead of jacking the price past $500 for an SFO one-way. You usually can’t buy online at that time anyway because of the cut off and your chances of purchasing at the gate are random. Then they charge you for checking bags, don’t feed you a meal if the flight is delayed (their fault), and won’t let you have a full can of soda in flight (soda in little ice cups only). For a pricey ticket, many customers would like a beverage in a container they can take with them for the arduous journey out of the destination airport. Is a 35 cent beverage in a full can really so much to ask?

The worst abuse is the arbitrary scheduling of flights. The only flights to San Francisco depart at 5:00 in the morning. That means you must be at the airport at 4 am, which for most people, means they must get up at least by 3 am. That’s abuse, pure and simple.

The only direct flights arriving at Klamath from the Bay land between 10:30 and 11:30 at night. It has become a rarity that they ever depart on time.

Also a year ago, United started altering the SFO departure gate from the terminal 76 area–which wasn’t too difficult to find–to randomly different terminals, sometimes on the other side of the International terminal, requiring a shuttle.

Also extremely frustrating is the lack of awareness of exactly what is going on with the Klamath flight in the San Francisco airport. They don’t keep the terminals updated. If you don’t subscribe to text notifications on your cell phone for terminal changes, you are very likely to miss your flight if you rely on anything at that airport to keep you informed. How can this be? They route the planes with computers. The terminal displays are run by computers, so why are they the last thing updated…United seems to just not feel it is worth ever updating the Klamath flight info a half hour before departure. Even when you ask staff (if you can find anyone at your gate) they don’t know what is going on, or pretend not to. And if you happen to miss your flight because they changed gates without updating the board, you have to wait 24 hours for the next flight. There really aren’t any reasons these days United will compensate you with a hotel or a meal unless they cancel your flight entirely or screw up a connection. United doesn’t seem to view any length of a flight delay as their mistake. You are supposed to be happy as long as it isn’t cancelled.

More Horror Stories

Here is an actual account from someone who was abused by United Airlines this year. Joe had just been released from surgery after his forearm was nearly cut off, so any movement was extremely painful. He was fit to travel under what doctors called “normal circumstances.”

Joe arrived at the airport an hour early for his 10:01 flight. There were roughly 50 people in the security line. When he got to the front 35 minutes later,  TSA forced him to remove the sling so they could inspect his arm for hidden bombs. He was in a great deal more pain after that, trying to walk without jarring his arm while towing his bag with the other. He walked a half a mile to the terminal the flight was originally supposed to depart from. There was no evidence of it there. He finally discovered it had been moved to somewhere past the international terminal.

The only way to that terminal was down a stairs (no elevator) and into a shuttle. Although United personnel were standing around watching Joe visibly in pain and hobbling, no one offered to help with his bags. He carried his luggage with his good arm down 30 feet of stairs to the shuttle, then struggled through the door of the bus. After what seemed like driving entirely around the airport, he arrived at a dark and mysterious gate where he had to hike his gear up another flight of stairs. He thought he’d miss the flight, but when he got there, other people confused by the lack of display updates were muttering the flight was delayed. 30 minutes later, it was announced work was being done on the plane and they expected departure to be delayed another hour. An hour went by, and the intercom announced the gate was changed again. This time, it was down another flight of even longer stairs with no elevator available.

This gate was by far the strangest Joe had ever seen at SFO. It was dark, damp, and void of any vending machines. It felt like a forgotten corner of the airport, a cold war relic that may have once been a bomb shelter. The patrons waited there another hour. By now the restaurants in the rest of the terminal had closed. Joe didn’t venture out of the dungeon earlier because any movement was so unbearable, it was less painful to go hungry than risk a potentially futile search for forage.

Two more times the departure time was changed, then right before takeoff, the intercom announced the terminal had been moved back to where it was earlier. By this time some flyers had given United the finger and left the airport (United would not refund unless the flight was actually cancelled). Joe grimaced as he hauled his bags back up the stairs and was actually surprised when he finally boarded the plane. It was now 1:30 am. The flight arrived in Klamath close to 3 am. No discounts on future flights, no free shuttles for the people who couldn’t get anyone to pick them up so late.

Joe is one of many people who were so annoyed by United over the past year, they decided it was better for their sanity and more timely to just drive the 7 hours to San Francisco, rather than fly. His injury compelled Joe to fly again. Too bad United had to add so many insults to it.

United Shysters

This is the cost of resentment. People who would have been buying tickets now plan not to, move or cancel meetings, and seek any alternative to using Klamath’s only commercial carrier. United Airlines seems like it placed Klamath Falls at the absolute lowest on it’s shit list. United execs must view Klamath like a third world country, dumping on Klamath the least reliable planes, reducing the number of flights, offering only the least desired arrival and departure times, and condemning patrons to confusion and ultimate waiting in the backwater of San Francisco International that no one previously knew existed. They charge for things airlines used to offer complimentary to retain customer satisfaction. In fact, our United Airlines routinely scores the lowest in that category in most polls. No surprise any longer.

A solution to the problem of airline abuse is elusive. You can steer clear, but eventually you will need a flight and return to that abuser. We should certainly not pay any more ransoms for such shitty operations. We have an oligopoly problem. Vigilante justice comes to mind when there are no other options…know any executives at United that set up this mess? Kidnap them and make them move to Klamath Falls so they have to take these flights.

The only way this situation will improve is if and when those fat cats feel our pain.