I had the misfortune of traveling on United Airlines for the first time after the “new” combined UA/CO system was put in place. I have been reading post on United’s facebook page, flyer talk and mainstream media about all the issues United was having with this “new” system. Reports of just poor customer service, odd things happing online, upgrades not clearing, massive delays and other issues just to name a few. I have been a loyal 1k with United for years and was thinking to myself could it really be this bad?!?!? After my trip this weekend, yes it can. It is clear that one hand has no idea what the other is doing at this airline. Staff and crew have a very vocal “Us and Them” mentality. Before I get into the nitty gritty of the trip here are some quick fun facts:
I had 6 segments booked, I never boarded one of these originally booked segments.I had to make 7 phone calls, with a total of 5 hours + on the phone.I arrived 8 hours late on the outbound and 5 hours late on the return.
Here is what my original booking looked like:
Here is what I flew:
So how did this all happen?? Lets start 2 days before the flight when I was happy to get an email confirming my upgrade to Business First. My co-worker who was traveling with me was not so lucky. During my online check-in process, I picked my seat in business, and then was offered to buy business for $699. This flight was operated on a B757 and it was clearly a 2 cabin aircraft. My co-worker who was still in Economy was offered to buy a Business seat for $399. This is just an example of how f-ed up the new united.com is. Confused by this odd offer I checked out the available fare buckets online. I was shocked to see R2 (R is the upgraded space for business). I called UA and got a former CO agent who told me that he would clear at the airport, if he was going to get it. I did not like that answer so I called back and back and got a legacy UA agent who also could see the 2 “R” seats and confirmed him. Cool! I was happy about this and he was thrilled!!! Then at 0545 in the morning at my airport hotel in Manchester, UK; I checked my email and United sent me an email with a flight delay of 1 hour, due to late arriving aircraft. I checked on the United mobile app to see the status of the inbound EWR to MAN flight. I was shocked to see that aircraft was sitting on the ground in Boston. This was 3.5 hours before my scheduled take off time, so I knew it was going to be more then an hour delay.
I once again called UA to see what options we had, as if we were going to connect in Europe we needed to get out of Manchester in the morning hours. The first 3 agents were all former CO agents who told me, your “flight is only delayed Sir”, we cannot do anything unless it is canceled. I tried to explain I was on a Y class flexible ticket and wanted to reroute. All these helpless agents kept telling me was to get to Newark and they will rebook you. At this point the “system” rebooked us on a EWR-SEA flight that was scheduled to depart a half hour after our new estimated arrival time. This was also the last flight of the day. After a few more calls I got a United agent in Dearborn. MI. It was night and day, this agent was so helpful and apologetic. She noticed that we were both in Business class over the Atlantic and in First for the original domestic flights. She said, “let me find space for you in upgraded cabins” After 15 minutes she found:
MAN-FRA on LH op’ed by bmi (Economy Class)
FRA-SFO on UA (R class – Upgraded Business)
but could not get us from SFO to SEA
She then worked some magic she opened up space in Y to then upgrade us to First. (Both premiers booking a Y class we were eligible for premier instant upgrades)
I found out at the end of the call this super helpful agent was in fact a Global Service agent who just happened to get my call.
So everything looked good at this point! Went to the LH desk in Manchester to check in, the agent only could see the MAN-FRA flight and nothing about the FRA-SFO-SEA flights in her system. She told us, this was a new problem they kept having with United bookings. She forced checked our bags to SEA and we got to FRA 20 minutes early. As we approached the United gates in FRA it was a mad house, hundreds of people yelling, crying, screaming, pushing and fighting to get to an agent.
This trip from hell story will continue in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.