So I’m flying home from a business trip this evening. In fact I’m sitting in a plane right now typing this, reflecting on my experience thus far, and pondering how it could have gone better. If I was telling this directly to executives at American Airlines I could collect a handsome consulting fee. As it is, I’ll tell you, some stranger on the internet, for free.
Here’s what happened, along with references to my typical traveling experience for comparison. I arrived at the terminal well in advance of my scheduled departure time. I do this I order to have a better shot at success when requesting an exit row seat. So I walked into the ticketing area, looking for a self service kiosk at which to check myself in, select my own seats, print my own boarding pass, and essentially do the job of the ticket agents for them, and then pay a checked baggage fee as my reward for faithful service to the company. As has become the norm, there were several kiosks labeled “For Military Customers” or something to that effect. Now at my departure airport, on several occasions, I have been faced with similarly labeled kiosks when no service men or women were anywhere to be found. In those cases I’ve been instructed by the ticket agent to go ahead and use the otherwise idle terminal. So today, seeing no soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines lining up to check in at their dedicated kiosk, I decided to avail myself of its service.
I got about half way through the check-in process,when a very sour-looking woman asked me from behind the desk if I was an active-duty military member. “No, I’m not,” I replied.
“Well, you’re not supposed to use that kiosk. It’s for military only,” she scolded as she approached from behind the counter. I looked around at the nearly empty terminal, wondering if I had wandered into a reenactment of Meet the Parents. Not only were there no military members anywhere to be found, there were maybe seven other people in total anywhere in the vicinity of the American Airlines counter, and three of them were employees, including Mrs. Sunshine who was presently scowling at me. I was a bit taken aback, not knowing exactly what response was expected from me, so I continued checking in, while my new friend watched over my shoulder. After my boarding pass printed, I collected my document, gathered my bags, expecting to follow her back to the counter to have the baggage tag fixed to my suitcase. But she just stood there, frowning at me.
“Where should I go to get my luggage tagged?” I asked.
“Did you pay the checked baggage fee at that machine?” she simpered.
“It didn’t ask me to pay a baggage fee,” I reported. Somehow this caused her face to pinch into an even tighter, more menacing glower. I think she might have hurt herself a little, because she made some sort of pained sighing sound as she climbed back across the threshold, into the source of ticket agent power behind the counter. I think she was disappointed that my luggage tag had actually printed, because she then repeated her assertion that had I followed the directions and used the non-military kiosk I would have been assessed a $25 baggage fee. First of all, this is not much of an incentive to follow the rules. Second of all, I know this assertion to be false, because I’ve used the military kiosk before and not only been assessed a fee, I’ve paid it without being publicly berated by Satan’s sister-in-law. I’m confident the software controlling the check-in procedure can keep track of the details of my ticket class and determine whether I’m to be charged the fee or not. I didn’t pay extra on my trip out, either, incidentally.
“What would you like me to do about it?” I asked.
At this point, ticket agent backup arrived on the scene. The deputy scowler was a somewhat younger version of the check-in sheriff I’d been dealing with so far.
“All she’s saying is that you weren’t supposed to use that kiosk, and not to do it again.”
This obviously was quite helpful information, because up until this point I was unclear on what the problem was. Unfortunately, it did nothing to answer my question of how to make amends for my egregious sin. I took my boarding pass, collected my bag and carried it to the baggage screening area.
So I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never use the military only check-in kiosk at Reagan National Airport again. Unless its not being used by anyone else. Also I’d like to publicly apologize all of our brave military men and women, for my callous behavior, even though none of you were there to be offended by it. So, you know…sorry for that.