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Same Underwear, Different Day

QUICKIE UPDATE:
The nice lady manning gate B4 for US Air, recognized me and came over ONCE AGAIN to apologize. Even though they are wholly blameless. While James works one gate down and still won’t say anything to me. (No one at United Airlines has done anything to express their regret for hosing me over) US Air +1 United -99 Guess who I’m flying next time Southwest doesn’t go where I want them to?

Dear Reader,

No, more specifically, Dear United Airlines. (or UAL, I put that in there just so people goggleing for UAL will see this as well.)

I sit here in Louisville, KY writing you. The trip back from England has turned ugly and I want to let you, my loyal fan-base know why I won’t be traveling United Airlines anytime soon.

It started Feb 25th. London to Chicago was a great flight. Nice crew, good equipment, even a good movie or two. But Chicago was having problems. Since my flight to Nashville had been canceled and there was nothing till the morning, I checked into a hotel and slept it off.

Monday morning, I got up and made my way to the airport. I checked in With United. I was already booked on an afternoon junket from Chicago->Knoxville->Charlotte->Nashville. When I checked in the ticket agent (we will call him wholly incompetent Rob) told me that I could get in 2 hours earlier if I wanted to fly Chicago->Louisville->Charlotte->Nashville. not caring which cities I visited as long as I got home, I agreed. As my tickets spit out of the machines, he told me “If a boarding pass prints out, you don’t need to check in at the gate.” It turns out, this statement was made “in error” I don’t want to say WRONG or HE FREAKIN LIED TO ME, let’s just say he was wrong and move on.

I arrive in Louisville and kill a couple hours in the Starbucks. (Those of you who know me know how thrilled I was about that) They call the Charlotte flight so I step up and hand them my boarding pass. It turns out that regardless of what the ticket agent tells you, if the boarding pass says “PAPER REQUIRED” then you have to check in. This is a fact that would have been nice to know when United Airlines gave me the ticket instead of their ticket agent telling me not to worry about it and go on.

So, US Air (wholly blameless in what shall forever be known as The Louisville fiasco) would not let me on the Charlotte flight. (Which means I missed my Nashville Flight) They sent me to United Airlines’ ticket desk to straighten things out. Here we meet the two most interesting characters of our farce, James P. and Brian.

Now James P. is an affable man. He was one of the ticket agents working the United Airlines ticket desk on February 26th, 2007. James, I’m sorry to say, bore the brunt of my anger at the fact that they couldn’t get me straight into Nashville and they wouldn’t:
1: Move me to Southwest because Southwest flies to Nashville
2: Refund the remainder of my ticket (because remember, they took my money and promised to fly me to Nashville, I’m now in Louisville) so I can rent a car and drive the 2.5 hrs to Nashville.
3: Spot me a meal coupon since they were stringing my journey out for an additional 24 hrs.
4: Do ANYTHING to make it look like they understood that United Airlines had screwed me over and United Airlines cared that I got home.

It was when he refused to do anything other than book me on the next United Airlines flight to Charlotte so I could catch the next United Airlines flight to Nashville, putting me in at 10:30 PM (aprox 24 hrs after I was supposed to arrive) that I got angry. Now James was a cog in the United Airlines machines, I understand that but I also know that there are things that can be done and he didn’t seem to be doing any of them. So I did what any reasonable person would do, I asked to speak to his supervisor. Ok, let’s be honest. I didn’t ask, I angrily demanded to see his supervisor.

It seems that his supervisor had been standing there the whole time. James hooked his thumb towards another United Airlines employee named Brian. (Side Note: When I asked for Brian’s last name and/or employee ID number, he refused to give it. His words, and I quote “You don’t need either of them” Guess what Brian, it doesn’t matter. I’m guessing you are the only United Airlines supervisor named Brian working the ticket gate at 2:30 on February 26th, 2007. I’m guessing that somebody at United will be able to identify you should they care to adjust your smug attitude.)

Brian was curt, Brian was rude, Brian was the Goofus to the United Airlines Chicago crew’s Gallant. Brian was infuriating! Not solely because he wouldn’t help but simply because he didn’t want to help. He made that painfully clear. At one point, I asked him a question about the situation (and asked rather strongly) and he turned and started working on something else.

Oh and Brian refused to let me talk to his United Airlines Supervisor who WAS on duty at the time and WAS back in the back area. (I saw him but couldn’t get his attention.) I didn’t want anything special from the supervisor other than to tell him what a gem of a bad example of customer service he had in Brian. United Airlines really should really be proud. See when I was in Chicago and the people there were NOT to blame, everybody was nice, everybody smiled and offered me sympathy and anything they could think of to help me out, Brian managed to wipe all of that away. (I had this blog planned anyhow but boy is it different from the one I was going to write last night)

I don’t fly often, once a month or so at the max. When I do, I usually fly Southwest because in all the flights I’ve made with them, I’ve only had one employee be rude to me. When I notified Southwest of the incident, I received what I considered an honest apology and explanation. United Airlines, you should really REALLY check out how they train their people. They really know how to treat customers and you know what, when they screw up, they make it right. united Airlines did not make it right; Brian didn’t even attempt to.

This story does have a happy ending. As I sit here and watch my US Air to Charlotte leave, my damsel on her gray steed is speeding her way to me. Wife 1.23, the lovely and talented Kathy is coming to pick me up. See, it turns out that the round trip by ground from Nashville to Louisville is faster than flying to Charlotte and cooling my heels for 3 hours and then flying to Nashville.

To the very nice ground crew for US Air and especially the nice lady manning gate B4, I’m sorry if I was rude. I know I said it to your face but I’d like to make sure everybody knows that US Air was blameless in this entire thing. You seemed like you were genuinely concerned and apologetic.

So to wrap this up, I’d like to ask the powers that be at United Airlines a favor, remember that survey I filled out on the London->Chicago flight? I’d like to change a few of my answers.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=

DISCLAIMER: The thoughts and opinions expressed above are mine. Go get your own.

5 thoughts on “Same Underwear, Different Day

  1. It has always amazed me how the individuals we encounter in our journey through life can either create mountain top experiences or hell.
    No matter what others do to us our goal should be to create mountain top expeiences for all those we encounter in our life journey.

  2. Rudy,

    It is amazing. I met hundreds of new people on my trip to the UK and most didn’t even register in my mind. The ones that did register were the ones that went out of their way to either be naughty or nice. One other player in my little farce that I remembered after posting that deserved mention is the shuttle buss driver for Marriott O’Hare. I believe his name was Jim. Jim was up early on the morning of Feburary 26, shuttling people, mostly like me, weather castaways, from the hotel to the airport in bad weather conditions. (It was still snowing a bit, the roads were slushy and it was all around miserable.

    Jim, had a good attitude though, helped those of us with luggage, smiled at us, greeted us warmly when we got on and off and even found a shortcut to get around the 40 minute traffic wait to get to the Departure Lounge doors.

    Jim was a nice guy and he didn’t have t be. He could have just driven us. I’m sure he doesn’t get paid by the number of smiles he generates. So I’d like to give a big shout-out to Jim and the the O’Hare Marriott staff for hiring people like Jim.

  3. Cal,

    What was really infuriating down here in Nashville was that UAL was showing tickets for purchase online SDF-ORD-BNA that would have gotten you back sooner :)

    From Eric Smith:

    I’m not sure if this applies everywhere, but in the Boston Delta ticketing counters it is apparently the case – there is a class order amongst the ticketing agents…

    …”He did!” said the other lady, then noting “But what do you expect from a kiosk agent, she had no idea. And no wonder – there is a reason they put them over at the kiosks – they are useless!”
    The lady helping me apparently agreed since she replied “You are preaching to the choir here.”

    Eric’s observation generally applies everywhere as far as I can tell: the lower-level agents either don’t have access to, don’t know how to use, or don’t bother to use the routing tables to find what they can do from you.

    Now, for the days you could still telnet into SABRE and construct your own routes, then hand the record locator to the agent …

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