Yesterday I flew United Airlines from Boston to Spokane, Washington via Denver. The flight itself was quite enjoyable. The check-in process was not.
Of course, United's check-in facilities in Boston were crowded, even at 6:45 in the morning. I spent close to half an hour waiting in line, and saw one check-in person even go on break and return fifteen minutes later, when there were still lots of people waiting to be processed. By the time my bags were checked and my boarding pass was handed to me, it was 7:15 - running quite a bit late for a 7:55 flight!
Then came that awful reality of air travel nowadays - the dreaded security line. I would have missed my flight had the security woman allowed us to cut in front of everyone else upon seeing my boarding pass.
Then, after being whisked through security, I showed up at the gate only to realize that the plane that that I was supposed to take to Denver had not yet arrived. Instead, a Ted (United's low-fare subsidiary) aircraft would be flying our route. And that meant that they had to deplane and clean the plane too (even though you can't notice the difference if they clean the plane or not). All that time spent worrying and looking at the clock had gone to waste!
Of course, the flights themselves were nice. United has a fabulous terminal at Denver, and the process of switching flights was not stressful at all. But I find that the check in process is always the most stressful of the air travel experience, along with security.