Why I will forever hate United Airlines.

You guys! You guys, I’m back! I’m back, you guys!

I missed you so much. Seriously. Cried myself to sleep every night.

Okay, not really, but I did think about you. Occasionally. I mean, I’m not a stalker. I JUST REALLY LIKE YOU GUYS OKAY?!?

Phew. Feelings, amiright?

So anyway. Some of you have called me out on the fact that I did not return as promised on August 14th. You are very, very correct in this accusation.

BUT. I have a good reason. A very good reason. A reason so good that I have honestly been putting it off for a bit because I wasn’t ready to re-live it.

I’m ready now.

First things first, we had a lovely trip to Iowa. Those of you who follow me on Instagram (@justinelorelle, if you’re interested) or Twitter got a few sneak peeks at everything we did, but for those of you who missed it, I promise to do a post after this one with the deets. (And, let’s face it, most likely an Instagrid to sum it up.)

But first, the bad news.

It all started at an all-too-early hour on Monday morning. The hubs and I were due to depart at 6:30 a.m., which meant a 4:00 a.m. wake-up call. We had grabbed a drink with Susan and Matt the night before, so we were running on approximately four hours of sleep at this point.

It was, predictably, just lovely.

After throwing ourselves together in about 20 minutes, we loaded up the car and I checked my phone. Missed call at 2:30 from an 800 number. Strange, I thought. Then I checked my email.

Only to be greeted by a lovely message from Orbitz informing me that our flight had been canceled. And rescheduled for 5:30 a.m. the next day.

Um…come again?

Barely awake enough to even process this information, I hopped on my parents’ computer and confirmed on United Airlines’ site that our flight had, in fact, been canceled. Seemingly without explanation.

DID YOU KNOW THEY COULD DO THAT? WELL, THEY CAN!

The thing is, we were both supposed to be back at work on Tuesday. Something that would be difficult to do if we were, you know, 3,000 feet in the air above the Midwest.

I called the United customer service line and was told our flight had been canceled for “mechanical service,” (which, in case you didn’t know, can mean anything from a broken engine to a broken seat belt to a hungover flight crew) and that there was nothing that could be done for me and enjoy my flight in 24 hours.

My father, being slightly better rested than I was, found this unacceptable and called them back. Seeing as it was (we found out later) a call center in another country and not a dedicated customer service line, we were connected to a different person and had to brief them on our situation all over again. This person repeated what the first person had told us, but my dad told them that wasn’t good enough and they would need to schedule us on a different airline for the same day.

DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD DO THAT? WELL, YOU CAN!

First, they tried to convince us to take another United flight that would get us to Newark at midnight. Um, sorry. Thanks, but no thanks. Then they told us we would be rescheduled on a Delta flight leaving at 8:10 that morning. We would get in to LaGuardia at a bearable 2 p.m. That was acceptable.

Here’s where things got a little hairy. After my dad agreed to this new flight, he was put on hold for about ten minutes. The problem was, the cheery hold music that had been playing previously never came on, leaving us to speculate as to whether or not we were even still connected. Finally, we hung up and called back (reaching yet another representative), explained our situation again, and were told that we had been re-booked onto the 8:10 Delta flight. Huzzah!

Or so we thought.

I feel obligated to mention that we never asked for a confirmation number. That was our mistake. But when someone from an airline tells you that you are on a flight, you tend not to assume they are bold-faced lying to you.

We made our merry way to the airport. My dad dropped us off, and Joey and I got into a virtually motionless line at the Delta counter.

Thirty minutes later, we reached the desk and explained what had happened (again). The rep looked up our names in the computer.

Nothing.

Just in case you aren’t grasping the severity of this moment, we are just now realizing that we might not exist in any of the airport’s computers on any flights. We. Didn’t. Exist.

I’d also like to note that the women behind the Delta desk were super nice and helpful. They offered to let us stand to the side while I tried to work things out with United so we wouldn’t have to wait in the long line all over again once it was sorted out.

I called the same United number and was met with yet another representative in their call center.

This is what I like to refer to as “the darkest part of my day.”

I explained (AGAIN) what my morning had consisted of. The rep looked up the Delta flight we were told we were on and informed me that, “Oh, that flight is full.”

Radio silence.

I (as calmly as possible) explained that, yes, two hours later, it probably was full, but that we had been told we were on the flight. She told me the agent had (for WHATEVER REASON) canceled that booking.

I think the most irritating part of dealing with this woman is that she would tell me a mistake that HER COMPANY had made, and then just pause as if to say, “So…there you have it. You’re welcome!”

Struggling to contain my frustration, I pointed out that we had not told them to cancel that booking. That was their mistake. So what were they going to do to fix it?

She blandly repeated my option to take the 5:30 a.m. flight the next morning.

Wrong answer.

“Isn’t there another flight on another airline you could book me on?” I asked, doing my best not to cry/scream/both.

This was a trick question. I knew there was a 2:00 p.m. Delta flight and a 10:30 American Airlines flight leaving out of Des Moines that day. I knew it.

“Well, I can’t transfer you to a different airline over the phone,” she replied casually.

UMMMMMMMM…WHAT. Because I’m pretty sure you did just that an hour and a half ago.

I pointed this out to her (okay, I was yelling at this point), and asked what was the difference now.

She told me that she couldn’t override what the original “agent” had done and that “agent” would have to transfer us again.

“Okay,” I replied, working again to keep my voice level, “then can you please transfer me to that agent.”

“Oh, well it’s a call center in India…so…no.”

Cue the implosion of the part of my brain that controls my urge to not scream.

I don’t know about you, but having an airline call system that only allows one person to transfer a flight and then LOCKS IT IN FOREVER NO MATTER WHAT sounds like a broken system to me. Especially because I had already had two agents offer to switch my flight that morning. You know. AN HOUR AND A HALF AGO.

Basically, she was lying to me. And I knew she was lying to me. But there was really nothing I could do when she is just repeating the line, “There’s nothing I can do” and then putting me on hold when she doesn’t want to answer my questions anymore.

Except, well, ask for her manager. WHO COULD CERTAINLY DO SOMETHING, RIGHT?

After another ten minutes on hold, another woman answered the phone. The only redeeming quality she had was already being somewhat briefed on my situation so I did’t have to repeat the sorry tale over again.

That was her only redeeming quality.

She basically gave me the same “there’s nothing I can do” song and dance.

Side note: I’ve decided there is nothing more infuriating to me than someone in the service industry telling me there is nothing they can do for me. You know why? Because there is literally always something you can do. (Sound familiar?) Even if you legitimately cannot move my flight (even though I know you can), you could move me to first class. You could check my bags for free. You could give me a meal voucher. You could give me a freaking free drink. I am not an unreasonable person. In fact, I would say I am probably too willing to forgive businesses if they make the slightest effort to show that my business is in any way important to them. Especially when making such effort would cost them virtually zero effort.

Anyway. Back to our story.

This is the point when I essentially lost my cool. I angrily pointed out that all her company had done for me was cancel my flight for no reason and then repeatedly lie to me under the guise of “helping.” I asked her what possible reason they had given me for continuing to be a United customer.

She sniffed and told me that if I was looking for compensation, I would need to go online and file a complaint on their website.

I’M SORRY? YOU TELL ALL OF YOUR ANGRY, DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS THAT THEY HAVE TO DO MORE WORK TO GET JUSTICE?

I roared (internally) and asked her (audibly) what she could do for me, because so far I so no reason for her position to exist.

She told me she could give me a confirmation number for a Delta flight they could put me on later that afternoon. (So much for our relaxing day back in New York before we started work again.)

Somewhat defeated, I said fine. And proceeded to wait for five minutes while I listened to her computer keys clicking in the background. After five minutes of silence punctuated by clicking (during which I assumed she was fetching that confirmation number), I asked (nicely, I swear) if there really wasn’t a single other flight out of Des Moines that could eventually get us to New York.

She repeated the story of how she couldn’t transfer me to a new airline over the phone (BUT YOUR COMPANY JUST DID A COUPLE OF HOURS AGO!), but if I could go to the airport they could possible help me at the desk.

Cue the other side of my brain imploding.

“I’m AT the airport. And apparently I’m going to BE at the airport for SEVEN hours. Didn’t you think telling me that they could actually HELP me here would be a good thing for me to know HALF AND HOUR AGO?”

Instead of answering me, she tried to interrupt me three times to tell me all she could do was give me my confirmation number.

Again, I admittedly lost it.

“I’ve been waiting FIVE minutes for you to give me my confirmation number and you STILL HAVEN’T GIVE IT TO ME.”

She gave me the number. I hung up after she reiterated that there was a possibility the United desk could do nothing for me. Fantastic. Thanks for nothing.

I went to the United desk and waiting 15-20 minutes to get through their line. I want to point out that the woman at the United desk was very nice. She genuinely wanted to help me and started scouring all the flights leaving out of Des Moines that morning. They were all booked solid. While she looked, I told Joey he could get out of line at the Delta desk because it looked like we were just stuck on the later flight.

While he was sitting, one of the (SUPER NICE) Delta reps came up to anything and asked if she could help him with anything. He asked if she could get us to New York, and she replied (with the voice of an angel), “Well, let’s see!”

Joey called me from the Delta desk and (after the United woman sadly told me there were no other open flights) I went over. It turns out there was a Delta flight that was supposed to leave earlier that morning, but had been delayed a few hours. It was leaving in about ten minutes, and they just might be able to sneak us on.

The problem? United apparently STILL had not transferred our information to Delta’s system. STILL. After about FOUR of their employees had told me that we were ON a Delta flight.

I gave them the confirmation number the United manager had given me. GUESS WHAT? IT WASN’T A DELTA CONFIRMATION NUMBER. IT WAS MY ORIGINAL UNITED CONFIRMATION NUMBERS.

It’s important to note that those Delta women did EVERYTHING they could to get us on that morning flight. One of them was literally sprinting back and forth between the desks (which were located on opposite sides of the room) trying to get our information in their system. There just wasn’t enough time.

After we missed that flight, I may have broken down crying at the desk. In my defense, I was going on four hours of sleep and we had been dealing with this for about three. It’s not good when you’ve already had a long day at 8:00 a.m.

I pulled myself together, and they finally got us on a Delta flight leaving later that afternoon. My mom took an earlier lunch break so she could pick us up for a few hours and take us out for lunch. (She also offered to just drive around so we could sleep in the car. Like babies. we almost took her up on it we were so exhausted.)

The rest of the day went so-so. We finally got on our flight, but Delta wasn’t able to check us into our layover flight on the computer because it was so much later in the day. And when we landed in Detroit, our flight had been boarding for about ten minutes. And we had to get to the opposite side of the airport. And when I asked a Delta rep if they would give away our seats if we weren’t there right away, she snootily rolled her eyes and told me they don’t do that until the door is about to close. (BECAUSE YOU KNOW I NEEDED A LITTLE MORE ATTITUDE THROWN MY WAY FROM AN AIRLINE EMPLOYEE.) And as we were hustling toward our gate, the airport reminded us via loudspeaker announcement about the importance of checking in at least 20 minutes prior to departure. (We were about ten minutes from departure at that point.)

I screamed again. (Internally, again.)

The good news is, we made it. We got on the flight. We got back to New York.

As I said, the most frustrating part of the whole experience was United’s refusal to help us. Even the women at the Delta desk asked us if they were at least giving us meal vouchers or something. I told her they said we had to file a complaint online, and she laughed and said, “Really? We just hit a button and print it out on the computer here.”

I would have laughed along with her, but I think I was closer to tears at that point.

In the end, we got home. But the most frustrating part of the experience was United’s refusal to help us. Their refusal to do anything on their part to make up to us the fact that they had reneged on our contract. Their refusal to even apologize for the inconvenience.

Not a single person told me they were sorry. Not once. And excluding only the woman at the United desk, every employee I spoke with treated me with attitude. Which, I’m sorry, but I’m the one whose day has been ruined. I’m the one who has been lied to repeatedly. I’m the one with the right to be upset. Not them.

Ugh. I hate whining. We made it home (thanks to Delta). I just don’t understand how a company can exist if they don’t show the slightest bit of regard for their customers.

Suffice to say, United no longer has to worry about me as a customer anymore.

Phew. That was a lot, right? Blah. Okay, on the bright side, the rest of the trip was great. I have a ton of pictures. And I promise to post something cheerier about it next. Just had to get all this out. AND WARN YOU TO NOT FLY UNITED AIRLINES. (They don’t even give you a snack! Just a tiny cup of soda, water, juice, or coffee! NO SNACK!)

Anyone want to share their own flight nightmare story so I feel better? Please do so in the comments.

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8 thoughts on “Why I will forever hate United Airlines.

  1. I’ll never forget when I visited my parents last year and because I had done the whole “Priceline Name Your Own Price” thing I got booked with my 2 year-old and my 6 month-old on a 10:30pm flight out of Denver after enduring a 4+ hour layover. UGH. the flight was COMPLETELY full save for one seat and we were in the dead last row, middle and window seats, of the plane (less legroom and no reclining seats). When the older guy who was supposed to sit next to me saw that he had to sit next to children he THREW A FIT, right in front of me. Basically called me a nuisance and complained to the flight attendant that he was forced to sit next to the “woman with THOSE.” And the flight attendant AGREED with him. IN FRONT OF ME. After I had been traveling with my kids since 8am that morning and all three of us were nerve-wracked and exhausted. The flight attendant acted like she couldn’t believe I was on her flight either and asked everyone on the plane if anyone was willing to switch with the old guy so he wouldn’t be subjected to my little family’s presence. Someone switched and eventually kindly ended up moving to the one empty seat on the plane, in the middle of a row instead of the aisle he had switched to, so that we could have the space.

    That flight attendant’s attitude was so unbelievable to me, and so rude, and inconsiderate, that I will never fly that airline again. I will say, however, that another attendant came over and let me know that I had received free cable on the flight and asked if there was anything she could get for me, but it in no way made up for the public humiliation I endured or the cruel attitude of her co-worker.

    Having worked customer service many, many times, I am still dumb-founded by the people in that industry that fail to understand that their job is only secure when they promote their company by excelling at their job. For every angry customer there are a hundred (or more) others who will hear about it and make judgements on the company based on that one person’s bad experience. And when people don’t use that company because of poor customer service, there is no need for so many employees.

    • That sounds horrendous. I would have been furious. (I’m furious FOR you just reading this!)

      • As I was furious for YOU reading about your nightmare with United. It’s ridiculous that we’re held hostage by airlines with AWFUL customer service, just because they can.

  2. This isn’t a nightmare story so much as it is funny. One time on a connecting flight in Tuscon (from Phoenix to Chicago), my US Airways flight was delayed two hours because they couldn’t get the “stuff” from the last flight out of the bathroom because a lever was broken. It wasn’t so bad for me because it allowed me to get some much needed lunch, and the guy who was explaining that we were delayed and why was actually very funny about it.

  3. Sadly, I’ve never been on a plane and the only time I’ve ever been to the airport was to pickup and drop off my sisters brother. What an awful experience. Think if I ever take the trip I will def avoid this airline. haha. Sorry for your hellish day!

    • Haha you are actually the third person to send this to me! They are AWFUL. And they STILL haven’t replied to my complaints. Typical.

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