My oldest daughter lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. I live in Sweden. My other three children are scattered across the USA. When I decided to fly over the pond to visit them all, I began my journey at her house. I entered the United States via Chicago O’Hare and connected to Omaha. After seeing all of my spawn, I ended my journey back at my oldest daughter’s place so flew back out of OMA and on to Chicago where I caught my flight to Munich during the whole Icelandic ash cloud crisis. This journey means I flew into (and back out of) Eppley Airfield twice each way. I was not impressed.
My first experience was landing at Eppley from Chicago the end of February 2010. This was rather uneventful. Omaha has a very small airport. They had my wheelchair waiting for me and whisked me the short bit to the baggage claim area, where my luggage arrived rather faster than normal. It was a late-night arrival so I imagine the staff was in a hurry to get home themselves. This is not an all-night busy airport at all. All the businesses at Eppley were closed.
About 10 days later I left via Eppley at Omaha to fly on to Los Angeles to spend some time with my son. By the time I boarded my United flight, I was pretty well pissed off. This was also a late-night flight, probably their last of the day. The staff was tired and surly. My suitcase was over weight by about 3 pounds. The gal at the check-in was not nice about it all. That probably falls on the shoulders of United, but airlines have to pull from the available work force and this is typical of the area, and thus the airport. I ended up paying a total of 150USD for that suitcase.
But it was not just that. I could have pulled my good wool coat out and lessened the weight had I not been so annoyed by the clerk’s attitude, but we had already had other problems. I am handicapped and require a wheelchair from the ticket counter to the gate. I also have my rolling walker that I usually gate-check so I can shop a little if need be while awaiting the actual boarding time. The wheelchair was not waiting there for me and I had to wait. That annoyed me. Then the guy pushing the wheelchair refused to let me bring my walker along also. I had never had a problem with this anywhere else in the world. The ticket agent forced me to check my walker right there rather than at the gate, which meant I did not have it for my layover in Denver, nor did I have it upon arrival at LAX. I had to pick it up with my suitcase at the luggage area. So yeah, I kinda threw my credit card at her by this point and paid the ridiculous fee.
After visiting my son, I then headed to Oklahoma City to see my youngest daughter and my brother who both live in that area. After a few weeks I headed back into Eppley Airfield in Omaha to spend the remaining 2 weeks before flying back to Sweden. This was an evening arrival into OMA, so the shops were open. My wheelchair was not waiting when I landed. I knew it was not far to baggage claim from my prior arrival so I just said screw it and wheeled myself to baggage claim. It took a bit longer this time for the luggage to come off the plane, but luckily my walker has a seat on it. Still, it was very difficult for me to try and wrestle my huge hard-case Samsonite off the belt. There were lots of staff hanging around, but none offered to help me. Finally a fellow passenger stepped in to help me.
I planned to stay the first night in Omaha to explore a bit and my daughter would pick me up at the hotel the next day. This meant needing a cab from Eppley to the Econo Lodge Downtown. The cab stand is right outside luggage claim, but you have to cross the airport road to get to them. That’s right. I had to wrestle my suitcase, my carry-on, and my walker across the road by myself. Again, nobody offered to help. There were airport employees all over the place outside the terminal. They saw me. I even pointedly stared at one of them. Still no offers of help. Stupid! I would have tipped very well for a little bit of help.
The last leg of my adventure with the airport in Omaha was when I was leaving the country to return home. My flight from Omaha was into Chicago, where I was to catch my Lufthansa flight on to Munich, Germany then from there to Copenhagen. Yeah. Being a cheapskate means lots of connections.
The problem here arose because it was in the middle of the whole Iceland Volcano crisis around the third week in April 2010. When I went to Eppley, I was not sure I would be allowed to board since my ultimate destination was smack in the middle of the ash cloud. Still, I wanted to at least try to get to Chicago and wait out the crisis there if I had to. I had been away from home for 7 weeks at this point and was anxious.
The gal at check-in this time was nicer than the previous time, but pretty well clueless. She assumed (wrongly) that my connection had been canceled so tried to check me only to Chicago, which was not working. Luckily my oldest daughter is very outgoing in nature and therefor knows a whole lot of people… one of which happened to work at Eppley and walked out to the check-in desk at the perfect moment. He was on the ball and exceptionally helpful.He took over everything at that point and managed to get me checked clear through to Copenhagen. No charge for (at this point) two large suitcases. I accumulate tons of tourist crap, so had bought an additional suitcase while in OKC.
This time I insisted on gate-checking the walker as I still had visions of being stranded at the Chicago airport and would need that. He smiled and told me it was no problem at all. I wish I could have thrown that in the chick’s face from my first departure through Omaha. I did not ask for a wheel chair this time as I had arrived several hours early due to the crisis and the gates are just not all that far.
Arriving early gave me time to wander around a bit and take pictures. Eppley has a few decent tourist shops, the usual book/magazine shops, and several places to eat, as well as a kiosk selling Omaha Steaks. They also have totally free wireless access. I used it to call my husband back in Sweden via Skype to let him know what was happening. The connection was very clear and fast. That’s one small plus for the Omaha airport.
Security was a pain in the butt here, as they pretty much figure anyone going to a foreign country must be a terrorist. I was pulled aside as usual and thoroughly searched. Twice. Plus they made me stand there unaided while they checked my walker. Other airports allow me to sit down in a chair while they do that silly bit. Also, they had no special concessions for handicapped people to get through the line quickly unless you were being pushed by airport staff in a wheelchair. Idiots.
As it turns out I did barely make my flight out of Chicago to Munich even though this flight was late landing. I was stranded in Munich though… but that was a piece of cake compared to the idiocies of Eppley Airfield in Omaha. Next time I get the urge to fly over and see my kids, I will avoid Omaha altogether. I’d rather fly into Kansas City and take a bus up than to have to deal with the majority of the horrible staff in Omaha. I suggest you do the same. Coming in is not bad if you have someone to meet you, but flying out of there is insanity.