Cobblestone Flight Review: The Trip From Hell part two: CPH – ORD – LAN on Scandinavian/United

Let me start right off by saying that the flying SAS part of this trip was the one that went well. Yes, SAS is my hometurf airline, and yes I do like them as an airline – but even then, the flight from Copenhagen to Chicago was a good one.

It probably didn’t hurt that my colleague knew one of the stewardesses operating in his aisle – so that we got a “mini-upgrade” of services. Also, the two of us had a center 4-seat section to ourselves (as mentioned in part one, the plane was half-empty, offering Air Canada a chance to save a good number of the stranded passengers from AC 883 – a chance that they completely missed) – as I have mentioned in the CFR Travel Tips, getting an aisle seat in a center section that is empty at check-in time (online, as early as possible) is a good idea precisely as it often leads to more space…

The flight was actually rather late out of Copenhagen, due to the weather conditions, late oncoming cargo (we actually hoped it might contain our luggage) and de-icing. But the pilot shoved the throttles all the way forward and we came into O’Hare at a quite decent time.

The hell part of the trip re-descended on us shortly after disembarking in ORD. Immigration was a breeze – but then, no luggage turned up. We decided to go to United’s check-in counter first, though – and deal with luggage next. So, we handed our ID to the gate agent – and he started with me, labouriously typing with a single finger and being quite slow about it. Eventually, the printer produced a boarding card and I ran away with the luggage tags to get reports filed.

The gate agent then swiped my colleague’s frequent flyer card – gold status – and then pronounced that it was now one minute past eight and so he couldn’t do the check-in as the deadline was eight o’clock. WTF? We were clearly there in time and any gate agent with a normal typing speed would have had us processed just fine… My colleague ran off towards the terminal to get it fixed there – eventually, it went ok.

I stood in a line and some fellow passengers without connections gracefully let me come forward. That didn’t help much, though – there were three counters and when I got to the head of the left-hand one, it was only to learn that the right hand one was the only one to process lost luggage claims. Rrraaahhhh!

Got over there, got the claims filed, got the information that the United flight to Lansing would take off from terminal 2, gate F12. Hurried out and up to the transfer train, caught one, impatiently waited as it huffed and puffed (it didn’t really – just seemed so) to the terminal 3 stop, then onwards to my terminal.

Finally there? No way! A lady at the entrance to the security told me – in no uncertain terms – that this entrance was closed and that I would have to enter via terminal 1 or 3 and then, as it is one concourse airside, make my way back to terminal 2. She did offer the “very helpful” advice that it was probably quickest on foot and that terminal 1 was nearer.

So I hot-footed it there – only to find a security line that looked like 10 minutes that I didn’t have. So I asked as kindly as I could, in my by now rather stressed state of mind, if the agents at the entry could help me through quickly? “Oh no, we can’t – but United can…” Can you guess how many United employees would be in sight? Yep, none.

Somehow I noticed that there was another terminal 1 security – in the wrong direction relative to terminal 2, but practically without a queue. Made it there, got my passport and boarding card scrutinised. Laptop, iPad and toiletries out, belt and shoes off, everything on the belt, finally through.

With my belongings haphazardly in my arms and my shoes on but unlaced I then hurried backwards through the terminals towards my goal. Do you know how hard it is to run with coat, laptop, iPad and belt in your arms and your shoes unlaced? Let me just say that I can’t recommend it.

All ended well, we got on the plane and we arrived at our hotel in Lansing shortly before midnight EST – around 20 hours after setting off from home. As to the luggage, I ended up collecting mine from Lansing airport on my way to Detroit airport to go back home. By the way, the only reason for me knowing that it was there was that I kept phoning all three airlines involved (SAS, United and Air Canada) and despite Air Canada initially just saying that the claim was still in “tracing luggage” status kept asking them to look into the matter. My mobile phone number was in the file – someone could have given me a call along the way to let me know where it was, but nobody did…

Morals of the story? Always seek other options and openings, relentlessly contact anyone who seems like they might be able to offer a solution, be polite but persistent, do not take no for answers. And save the less relevant fights for later – in this case, there still is an outstanding issue with Air Canada regarding a refund for the CPH – YYZ flight that they didn’t fly, yet didn’t offer us rebookings for*.

(Written in seat 3C on LH443, published from the Lufthansa Business Class lounge in FRA)

*Update: Air Canada did refund the unused ticket.
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