Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Full Day in the Windy City

After all we have gone through these past two days, and because we have gone an entire 24 hours without sleep, I find it very difficult to decipher when yesterday ended and today began. One thing is for sure: we have all become far too familiar with the Chicago O'Hare Airport.

It was 12 AM and we had been waiting for about seven hours for our "delayed" flight to leave. The flight had been delayed due to the thunderstorm and because the airplane was missing one staff member. Thus, as we finally presented to them our boarding passes, we were shocked to find out that we had been waiting for the wrong flight! It was then revealed that we had the wrong flight number listed on the itinerary. Through further investigation, we also found out that our original flight had been canceled not delayed.

We then got in line to rebook our flight, but after a few minutes, we realized that all the flights going to Syracuse were fully booked, so we got out of line. There was much confusion as no one knew how we were going to get to Syracuse. There was talk of driving from Chicago to Syracuse by car, taking an AMTRAC, but it was nearly impossible to get a flight to Syracuse directly. I fell asleep for about 2 hours, thinking I had slept through all the decision making but when I woke up, it was still only 3 AM but we had decided to get on a flight to Connecticut at 4 PM later on in the day. Jacky called the Hilton hotel located inside the airport, and booked three rooms, but they told us we could not get into the rooms until 9 AM We decided that waiting in the hotel lobby and hoping that they had some unused rooms which would be much better than our current camp-out on the floor of the airport in front of the Air Canada airline.

We then walked to the Hilton hotel and discovered that they were completely booked. So, we all grabbed a seat and attempted to entertain ourselves until our rooms were available. We sat in the waiting area in the hotel until 6 AM when they opened the hotel restaurant and then we ate a terrific breakfast. We finished breakfast at about 7 AM and luckily, we were then able to get into our rooms. The girls had one room and the boys had 2 rooms to split among themselves. Immediately after I got into our room, I crawled into bed and fell into a wonderful slumber. After being awake for almost 24 hours, a good rest was exactly what I needed.

In terms of hotel operations, I did not have any experiences with the hotel staff to comment on, but I did take a look at their facilities. The Hilton at the O'Hare airport was state-of-the-art and was clearly taking advantage of the new technologies available. I noticed that they had a few automated check-in machines, which reminded me of the self check-outs that many grocery stores now have. I thought it was very clever, especially because flyers who are very exhausted would appreciate the simplicity of checking in through a machine, while others still have the option of using the old-fashioned check-in desk. The O'Hare Hilton also had something I had never heard of before, a Concierge Board. It was an interactive screen that boasted information about many events in Chicago and looked very impressive. Our stay at the Hilton was very pleasant, but with nearly no sleep, I'd say I wasn't a hard customer to impress. But, one complaint I did have was the pillows were very high thus making it difficult to find comfortable position to rest my head as I slept. In Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy, when one of their frequent customers stopped coming to their hotel, the Four Seasons staff called and asked why. He stated that a competing hotel had better pillows, so to regain his business, the Four Seasons hotel made sure to get him extra special pillows every time he stayed with them. They then changed their pillows in all their Four Seasons hotels in the world to match the comfort of their competitors. I was very surprised to read this because, for me, it demonstrates Four Seasons commitment to giving their customers the best facilities and services possible.

We took a flight to Hartford, Connecticut and then rented a car and drove for 4 hours to Syracuse, NY. Though our delay caused us to miss our scheduled tours to Colgate and Syracuse, I am still looking forward to our tour of the University of Rochester and the Erie Canal, as well as dinner at the Scotch and Sirloin. We have just arrived in Syracuse and entered our hotel rooms where our luggages had been waiting for us. It is time to go to sleep as we are meeting in the lobby at 7:15 AM to drive to Rochester.


  1. Beilul,

    I was amused to read your comments about the pillows. Of course it's just a matter of personal preference but with you it may also have something to do your small stature.

    You may have noticed that I'm slightly larger than you are and one of the complaints I often have at hotels is that their pillows are way too thin. I often double or triple them up and put a folded up jacket and maybe a towel or two under them to get some elevation.

    At home I sleep with three king sized pillows stacked on top of each other, a foam pillow and then a large foam wedge underneath.

    When my pillows start to flatten out I replace them with newer pillows that are still tall and fluffy. I do this maybe once per year.

    If I were to try to sleep on a bed with only one thin pillow I think I wouldn't really sleep at all.

    Now, put yourself in the shoes of a hotel chain CEO. Which customer do your buy your pillows for? The petite young gal or the fat headed big guy? I can't give you the answer to that one but I can tell you that when I drive and know I'll be sleeping in a motel I usually bring at least two pillows from my own bed so I can get some sleep.

    As for you having the wrong flight number on your itinerary, I'm not sure I'm buying that story. When I called the Hertz desk in Syracuse they knew that flight number, that it was coming from Chicago and what time it was supposed to arrive. Could it be that United had two flights taking off in Chicago and landing in Syracuse at the exact same times but with different flight numbers? I don't think so. I think this may have been yet another example of the inability of a major carrier to get things straight and to communicate with their customers.

  2. Beilul,

    One more thing about that Concierge Board listing things to do in Chicago. Did it say anything about how to get out of town? That's some information I bet you all could have used.