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United Airline misadventures

So i got up at 04:00 to catch my 05:30 flight. Connecting flight was to houston. fifty-five minutes in the air, my connecting flight was supposed to leave at 07:07.

when we got on the plane, the crew announced that they were having some sort of mechanical issue that was going to take roughly 30-45 minutes to resolve. They wanted to get some of the urgent passengers trying to catch a connecting flight onto a 06:00 to houston so that we had a better chance to catch our flight.

Flight landed at about 06:57 at Terminal B. Flight to Seattle was in Terminal C. We didn't get any indication from the Houston flight crew about what if anything that we were supposed to do - i know that sometimes airlines will do something to try to help people when they know about tight connections due to this sort of issue, but this crew didn't give any indication whatsoever, which i suspect is a product of the new orleans crew not telling the houston crew anything about what was going on. I heard one person asking about it in passing, but the flight attendnant was pretty unhelpful. I was undecided about whether i should try to wait it out or if i should try to run to catch the flight. I opted to run and try to take precedent.

I arrived at the gate at about 07:08, getting a decent fast-walk/slight run workout and found out that the flight left. About fifteen or so other people that were trying to catch the connection but weren't moving as fast as me came up soon after and we all went to the service desk together. It was interesting the sort of bonding that happened as a result of the whole affair; people were generally universally disgruntled and had some cause to disgruntle together, and as a result, there was a bunch of random friendly conversation or bitchy conversation or whatever.

They guaranteed me a flight on the 12:41, but also put me on standby for the 09:00 and the 09:30. One guy in particular was stressing about getting on one of those two flights because he was only stopping in Seattle to pick up his son and then fly back to New Orleans - if he was pushed to the 12:41 flight, it would have gotten him to Seattle later than his return flight. I sympathized with the guy and was ready to give him my spot if i came up on the list before he did. As it turns out, they had two seats on the flight for standby, and he was about ten seconds into the door when a ticketed passenger came by at the very last second and usurped his position. It was during this that we also discovered that the 07:07 left about 5-10 minutes earlier than its scheduled departure time despite clearly missing the 15-17ish people that got waylaid by the delay in new orleans.

Everybody was supposed to roll over to the 09:30 standby list, but i didn't end up getting on it. I suspect it was because of a snafu that happened prior - when they called names out for the 09:00 standby, one person that got the first one was with a second person who didn't get the second seat, so she decided to give it up. One of the people working at the terminal trying to deal with this kept on messing it up - the other woman had to correct her about four times to say, "no, this person was the first one that already went through. No, she's the one that's saying no, we need to try to put her back on the list because you accidentally cleared her. No, now you put her on the bottom of the list." That sort of thing. I think in that process, my name didn't end up getting transferred because i was probably accidentally taken off the list during that whole fiasco. When I talked to the woman at the terminal for the 09:30 flight, she looked at me skeptically when i said, "no, i'm positive they didn't call my name. i was there the whole time." Other people backed me up, but she still gave me one of those Looks and made me feel like i should have been grateful that she put me back on the standby list at all.

in the meantime, a couple of other people had found ways to get onto the flights through other sort of means. One guy knew that he wasn't going to be fast enough to reach the original 07:07 waited around the ticket counter of the gate that we departed from, and the person at that ticket counter automatically put him on the 09:00 with a free first class upgrade and two free meal vouchers. Someone else who didn't make the standby at 09:00 along with most of the rest of us ended up going to the service desk and got a ticket from them by talking to them about the fact that he had another layover he needed to catch, and so they bypassed his standby status and gave him a ticket right away.

So i was put on the standby list, but i didn't end up getting on the flight. I was still pretty relaxed about the whole thing, but i put on a bit of a face when i went to customer service because i needed to check on the status of my checked bag and i wanted to see if there was anything else that could be done about the inconvenience, and the person who helped me was another example of a person who made me feel pretty worthless as a customer, saying, "no, if you didn't roll over, it was probably your fault." and then i actually _did_ get a little pissed, not because of the circumstances that were beyond anyone's control, but because of how the thing was ultimately mishandled. The delayed flight crew should have told the 06:00 crew what was happening so that that crew could tell us what to do. The 07:07 shouldn't have left early, should have gotten information that people were on their way, info that they didn't have since the 06:00 crew wasn't told of any urgency. There should have been a more consistent process as to how to deal with the standby passengers - not necessarily that there should have been an order other than random even between standby lists, but the people that had circumvented that process - one somewhat by accident and another deliberately - shouldn't have been able to do so so easily.

and sure, i get that the terminal employees get a lot of people that raise a ruckus about things with a warped perception, and that customers can be pretty annoying about things that are their own fault and/or pretty unreasonable. But i at least still come from a conceptual idea that the customer, if not always right, should at least be given some benefit of the doubt.

the whole experience has been fairly frustrating, and i'm trying to decide if it's something that i want to blame United for specifically. My inclination is to say no because i feel like the circumstances were actually pretty random and unlucky, that the actual experience of flying with them is generally better than, say, American Airlines, who i've come to dislike heartily. Every airline has their off days, and the best i can do is just roll with the punches.

and so i sit here now writing a blog entry on a laptop with atrocious wifi signal, doing a lot of random people watching while i do so, and just take it as just a minor bump on what has otherwise been a pretty fantastic week. There's way too much good in life right now for me to get bent out of shape from one extended bad airport experience, and it created a story and a connection with some people who i'll never see again surely, but i can at least say that i had some meaningful connection, no matter how temporary.

but now i'm going to write some more music. because the creative juices are flowing, and life is fantastic, and what better reason to let that have its outlet? The deadline helps too. Gotta love deadlines.

Comments

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suerocks
Jul. 18th, 2013 04:45 pm (UTC)
Airline snafu's are inconvenient and annoying but you are kinda at their mercy. So while it's nice of you to be an understanding customer, it seems obvious that they were in the wrong in some way. While you have no way to prove that they DIDN'T communicate with the other flight that they were running late, the OTHER flight might have said "eff you, we're running on schedule" and been the ones to approve leaving early minus 15 people who were in the airport. Because that would mean it had a whole trickle-down effect of lateness and other people not making connections and stuff.

That guy who waited at the original counter was savvy and obviously travels a lot. Smooth move by him!

If I were you, I would absolutely complain to United on their website and let them know the situation and the poor treatment by the crew, using names whenever possible. You probably will just get a form letter back, but you never know, maybe some miles or something else will come your way.
The other part, besides a personal "reward" for complaining is that they shouldn't get away with that shit. They should be called on their poor customer service skills and inability to communicate because if they don't know there is a problem, they can't fix it for you and their other customers in the future. By the same token, when there is a positive interaction, over and above a person's job, to accommodate a passenger, this should also be communicated to the company. It goes both ways.

Bottom line: you should absolutely lodge a complaint for the record. It's NOT ok that you get to your destination many hours later, get left off a transfer list, etc.
girfan
Jul. 18th, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC)
I've had a few bad run-ins with United over the years so try to avoid them if possible. Surprised they didn't offer you first class!
(Deleted comment)
lifeofmendel
Jul. 19th, 2013 03:42 pm (UTC)
it's not like American did anything wrong from a service perspective, but the actual experience felt not as good. planes felt older, the whole operation felt less professional, less polished. There was something else specific too, but i forget what, i just remember coming away not terribly impressed compared to what i had been used to from united and delta.
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