I really should stick to known airlines. I had never ever heard of AirOne when I booked my flights to Rome but I decided to give them a try (or maybe I was being cheap). But I did read up on them, and before I booked my ticket, I knew that Air One was a private Italian airline that had been around since 1983. I was comforted that they were partners with Lufthansa. I learned through Travelocity that their US partner was United, and later in August I learned that they were to be merged with the bankrupt Alitalia. I also learned that its first US flights were to Boston and Chicago directly from Milan beginning in June 2008. Sounded promising.
So where to begin?
First, the changing of flight details which I agree with Travelocity was not their fault, but rather Air One’s. I should have been suspicious when the 9/21 Rome-Milan-Boston flight got changed to 9/22 without explanation. But the subsequent change to Rome-Milan-Chicago within hours of the flight departure was unforgivable. After a disappointing conversation with Travelocity, I called Air One directly and was able to reach somebody right away.
Sofala to the Travelocity representative who told me the office was closed and that he couldn’t reach anybody. They too confirmed that I was booked to fly from Rome to Chicago through Milan. When I asked what happened to my original Rome-Milan-Boston flight, they explained that flight did not exist. How odd. After many minutes, the Air One representative changed my flight to go from Rome to Washington DC and then to Boston, but she didn’t sound very convincing. The fact that this flight was to leave a few hours after the original flight made me nervous that I would remain stuck in Italy. I needed a lot of reassuring but I remained skeptic expecting the worst when I showed up at the airport.
My second issue with Air One is their partnership with United Airlines. Does Air One actually have its own aeroplanes?! Not being able to find my flight reservation on the Air One homepage, nor on the United Airlines homepage was very disconcerting. I don’t need any further reasons to get palpitations. What this meant of course was that I couldn’t check-in online nor could I use the self-service counters at the airport.
I have already recounted what stress I went through when at Logan airport in Boston, the United Airlines representative told me that my reservation did not exist and I should go over to the Air One counter when my e-ticket clearly stated that I was to check in with United. That was not a pleasant experience. On the phone with the Air One representative prior to my return to the United States, she too told me to check in with United and not with Air One. I envisioned the worst, but the process at the United Airlines check-in counter in Rome went much smoother than it did in Boston, and I got my boarding passes without difficulty.
But now, my grievances move on to United Airlines. Because essentially, this whole flight (departure and return) was run by United. For whatever reason, United flight 967 from Rome to Washington D.C (IAD) on 9/22 was about an hour late. Overhead, they kept promising that we would all make our connections as going through Immigration and Customs was a breeze at the newly revamped Dulles airport. Nothing could be further from the truth! After a painful hour or so in a really long line in a hot room, I had the pleasure of just MISSING my Boston connection.
Several other people missed their connections to other cities as well. Nobody was happy. When people complained to the Immigration people while waiting in the lines, we were told it wasn’t their fault but rather United’s. I don’t see how, but this was their explanation for their lousy triage. Why they can’t just call out people who are at risk of missing their connecting flights up to the front is beyond me. And why after just getting off a plane and going through Immigration and Customs, we need to go through Security again is also beyond me. I am so glad that I didn’t have any checked bags because that would have meant I was to pick up my bags, take them through Customs and then re-check them. No. Makes no sense to me either.
Without any apologies from United, nothing, I was booked on the next flight to Boston which meant a 5 hour stay in the D.C airport. Needless to say, this was such a tiring trip! Ugh! So now United can join Delta as an airline that I should avoid at all costs!
Wait, I just now realize that I never recounted my misadventures with Delta when I went to Ghana this June. Ooooh, now that was something else …