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There's A Reason I Love This City

"I don't have a seat assignment," I told my work associate as we stepped into the line for airport security. I had checked in hours earlier, so I was more than a little annoyed.

"Uh-oh," she replied. "Uh-oh" was exactly right.

Once we had cleared security, I beelined my way to the gate to try to get a real boarding pass. "The flight is overbooked. We're going to need A LOT of people to volunteer before we'll be able to give you a seat assignment," the gate agent reported.

"Uh-oh" quickly turned to a series of curse words in my head.

There were two hours until boarding was scheduled to begin, so I tried to figure out the best way to use that time. I could sit at the gate and try to be the loud squeaky wheel, or I could go grab some french fries.

French fries will ALWAYS win over sitting around and being frustrated.

Later, I tried to assess the situation. I had purchased a ticket for the flight. I wasn't standby or anything, I had actually paid a ridiculous amount of money for the right to sit on that exact plane. Apparently, so had way too many other people. As I stood in line waiting to talk to a gate agent again, I realized that the two dozen or so other people milling around the counter were in the exact same situation. Everybody wanted to get out of Chicago and find their way to Pittsburgh, but apparently United Airlines doesn't know how to count. I understand over-selling a flight by a couple of seats, but it appeared the flight was oversold by at least 20 seats. Each person who was standing there without a seat assignment seemed more annoyed by the inconvenience than the last.

Options were offered that included a hotel room for the night and a $400 voucher for future travel, but as I told my work associate, seeing my kid is worth more than $400 to me. I refused to voluntarily give up on getting home just then.

So had everyone else.

The gate agent finally told everyone without a seat assignment to line up so they could start booking alternate travel. "I just want to get home to my kid," I muttered under my breath.

Several minutes later, I realized that someone who was in line to board the plane was staring at me. I wasn't sure what to make of the kid with the curly brown hair, so I went back to staring at my phone. I'm not sure what I thought my phone was going to do for me at the moment, but staring at it was slightly more productive than glaring at the gate agent. After all, United set that employee up to fail. It wasn't his fault the company had allowed such a FUBAR thing to happen on a Friday night. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that The Starer had gotten out of line. He was headed straight for me. I'm sure the look on my face was one of pure annoyance by the time he reached me.

"Come here a second," he said as he walked towards the counter. His words were weighed down by a heavy dose of Pittsburghese.

"Hey, I'll volunteer, but only if she can have my seat," he said. "She needs to get home to her kid."

Words got stuck in my throat. I barely managed to squeak out a "Thank you" as the young man explained that he wouldn't mind hanging out with his friends in Chicago for one more night and that he wasn't headed home to anybody anyway. 

Thank you, Brad. You are a big part of what makes Pittsburgh so amazing.

(She thanks you, too.)

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Reader Comments (34)

That? is just awesome. Makes me proud to be a future (as in this summer) resident of Pittsburgh.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

That is absolutely awesome and SO SO SO Pittsburgh.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Awwww...crap, that brought tears to my eyes. Nice kid.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Smiles

Your post just popped up in my explore reader tab and it was like deja vu all over again. Husband and I flew United to and from Chicago this weekend from DC. Flight to Chicago on Friday was overbooked and they were asking for volunteers. We had seats and kept them, mainly due to an approaching line of storms which did hold up the later flights. Sunday our plane was overbooked again and we offered to be rebooked into a different, more convenient airport. The next two flights to the other airport (and the next flights to our original airport) were also overbooked. What the heck, United? EVERY flight between Chicago and DC is overbooked? We kept our seats.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

@Marie--GRRR! I would have been so frustrated!

My only return option was departing late Saturday afternoon. That would have put me home MAYBE in time for dinner. An entire Saturday missed with Alexis? BOOO HISSSS. Thank goodness for Brad.

awesome :) nice that there are still some nice folks out there.

and yes overbooking sucks. we were a traveling party of *5* and not given seat assignments and had to pray for enough folks to give up their seats so we could get home from AZ back in April (on American tho, not United). What, they gonna try and split us up? geez. Overbooking 1 passenger at a time is one thing, but overbooking an entire family is ridiculous.


June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClair

Uhg this makes me shudder thinking about my (BIG!) trip to Chicago this summer.

Thank goodness for people like Brad. Though knowing myself the way I do? I'd probably give up my seat to someone else.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMackenzie's Momma

This really was a sweet post. Call me stupid but I just realized what "Burgh" baby means now. I never understood the burgh part til now. :-P

Is overbooking common in the USA? We are travelling to the USA at the end of August for a month and I have booked two internal flights with Jet Blue. Do they overbook flights? Just a bit nervous as our trip is on a kind of tight schedule.
That guy Brad sounds wonderful and what a great advert for your city;)

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

Brad will forever be known as awesomeness! Welcome back to the burgh!!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

That is what chivalry is all about. Way to go Brad!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTara R

What a sweet story. I'm always amazed at the kindness of strangers in this city. This brought tears to my eyes.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristen

Pittsburghers are awesome!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertehamy

How did he know you had a kid? Were you muttering that loudly to yourself? That is such an awesome example of the kindness of people. So glad guys like Brad still exist!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Awww. Now that just makes me feel like bawling. It is so awesome when life sends awesome people your way. It gives you warm fuzzies when stuff like that happens. :)

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKat

You just made me CRY!

Wait. No. Brad just made me cry! *stinkin' beatiful*

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjennyonthespot

Brad rocks!

I know you had to be in Chicago so there was no alternative, but this is the reason I refuse to fly through Chicago. Every encounter I've had with that airport has been RIDICULOUS. I'm sorry you had such a mess on your hands!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermattieflap

Freakin awesome! I want to hug Brad.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjdp

That is the SWEETEST thing ever! AWESOME... but seriously- how sad is that about the airlines? you would think they would be working on making themselves an airline people are proud to fly instead of one who greedily oversells seats and leaves the "little people" to clean up their mess. grrrr.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermisty

I love this and I love the reassurance that there are still good people in the world!
Brad, you rock!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermary

It's people like you, and Brad, and Jenna too that have me rethinking my whole Pittsburgh train of thought.

you better hope i never meet you because i feel compelled to give you a long, massive boobie squishing hug. you are a good man. thanks for stepping up for our friend.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

AWWWWw just yes.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrachel

@Kathleen- I have not heard of Jet Blue being a notorious serial over-booking airline, but we usually only fly once or twice a year to Florida. @Burghbaby- Brad sounds like an awesome kid and maybe not all is lost with today's youth, at least not here in the Burgh! As for overbooking, sometimes this can be an awesome opportunity to get free future flights, upgrades, hotel rooms, meals, etc. Of course my son is worth more than that stuff a infinity+a gazillion times more!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

I love finding nice people in this world!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim

I love how you write. And I kinda love Brad.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFireMom

Awwww! I actually got teary-eyed. (and now I'm trying to segue into asking if he's single and you somehow have his email....)

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie in MA

THAT was a super sweet thing to do. No wonder you love that place!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbriya

that is awesome! if only you could send a gift basket :)

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbostonterriermama

Daggun it - you made me cry.

June 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

What a great story! United has always been notorious for overbooking Chicago and DC. I used to fly a lot when I lived on the West Coast and I pretty much know what cities/airlines are going to be oversold, but in my case, as a single person with no kids/husband/boyfriend to get home to, I typically book my travel in order to position myself as a volunteer to be bumped. I actually volunteered three times in one day to get from Houston to Newark on Continental. I ended up with close to $1500 in cash, plus a first class seat to Newark. Never thought about trying to designate who got my seat though. Will keep that in mind next time.

June 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEx-Pat Pittsburgh Girl

Seriously. I just teared up at this story. AND I AM NOT A CRIER. (but apparently I'm turning into one because MAN things are making me cry lately. heh)

This is an awesome story. Love it. (Also: BOO UNITED AIRLINES, WTF.)

June 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Looooooove it. YAY BRAD!

June 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

WOW..just, WOW. Maybe kindness and acts of unselfishness are not a thing of the past after-all?

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHaB
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