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Friday, March 13, 2009

United Airlines--So NOT the Friendly Skies!

Perhaps it's because I've worked in customer service or maybe it's because I'm from Texas where everyone is warm and welcoming, but I really dig good customer service. Now I know that no one likes bad customer service, but I've found that it tends to annoy me more than it annoys the folks I'm with. A recent example...

Ricky and I headed off last week to North Carolina to spend some time with his family. We left our apartment in plenty of time, had our cab driver drop us at United Airlines at O'Hare and headed to the counter. It all went downhill from there.

At a semi-roped off United counter stood 2 workers chit-chatting. When we were finally able to drag their attention away from their conversation and on to us we discovered that this was the counter to check in if you had no luggage. If you had luggage (we did) you had to head to the building next door.

Fine. Off we trek.

We get to the correct area and hop in line waiting for a kiosk. When we get our turn at a self-check kiosk I am told (via the computer) that I can use our credit card to find our information. I swipe our card and am told our reservation can't be found.

No problem. I have our confirmation number.

I plug that in and am again given an error message. At this point I turn to the 4-5 United workers standing behind the counter. This was my big mistake. They were so engrossed in their dissection of the last episode of A Baby Story that all I was able to get out of one of them was "try your credit card." Then she turned her back to me and went back to her oh-so-important conversation on reality TV.

Now keep in mind that I already tried my credit card, but I thought "what the hell" and tried it again. For whatever reason it worked this time so we plugged ahead. We only got a few more steps in when we received ANOTHER error message.

I dragged a different worker away from The Baby Story coffee klatch, explained our problem and received the dullest, "which way did he go" look I've ever seen in my life. Finally she pointed out a woman at the end of all of the kiosks who was helping another customer and said that she would have to help me.

Seriously? There are 5 of you behind the counter, but only one lone woman can help ALL of us in line?

Well, alright.

We finally get the very busy, over-worked woman's attention and she discovers that our machine is broken. She moves us to another one, gets us checked in and then we are turned back over to the fine crew behind the counter to check our bags.

Let me take a moment to assure you all that I am not a terrorist--you know that, I know that. The good workers (do you hear the sarcasm?) at United do not! Yet they never asked for my ID. This concerns me. Who else are they not asking for ID from?

Anyhoo, bags checked, we make our way through security (ID is checked there) and head to our gate. Our flight to Philadelphia is pretty uneventful until we land.

We get off the plane and head to the TV monitors to find our next gate. Our flight isn't listed. We turn to ask the gate agent where we just disembarked. He vaguely waves down the terminal and says we have to go to "mumble, mumble, mumble" for that information.

At this point I am quite underwhelmed with United Airlines' customer service. Is there anyone here who knows what the fuck is going on? (Besides the lone woman who helped us at the kiosk?)

We finally find where we are supposed to be, grab a sandwich (how sad is it when the best customer service we received all day was from the effing sandwich shop in the airport???) and get on our next flight.

You know how they always tell you to turn off your cell phones? Well, as the flight attendants were going over the safety instructions (the ones that include turning off your cell phones!) one of their cell phones kept going off.

I can't make this shit up, folks!!

All I kept thinking as the evening progressed is that there are thousands upon thousands of people out of work right now and these idiots all have jobs?? I'm sure there are plenty of unemployed folks who would love those jobs at United and would actually pretend to give a damn about the customers.

On the flip side, we flew US Airways on the way home where we got to sit on the runway for over an hour once we reached Chicago because there wasn't a gate available. At this point I also discovered that I had been sitting in gum the whole flight! Now you would think that this would warrant more bitching on my part, but no! The flight crew were so kind and apologetic that I was totally okay with the gum and the waiting.

See what a little good customer service will get ya, United?

I'll tell ya what your bad customer service got ya--2 less passengers from here on out. We'll be flying the friendly skies with folks who actually take the time to look at me when I speak to them and attempt to answer my questions.

It's not like the economy is bad or anything. It's not like you, like all other businesses, need all the customers you can get. Right, United? RIGHT???


SoMi's Nilsa said...

I feel your pain. I really do. But, ya know what? I've had similar service on American. Not quite so many stumbles all at once. But, I blame the unions. Seriously. They're the ones who state who can do what and when. It's all their fault. =) Oh, and by the way, US SCAREways? No thank you!

Lucy said...

I know, I was pretty shocked that the good service came from US Airways!!!

I think what bothered me about United is that it was just one disinterested employee after another. One I could have handled, maybe even 2, but EVERYONE I came across? Geez...

TNBuckeye said...

The curses of working in the customer service industry. You need to lower your standards! (rolling eyes)

Do you remember my frustration that first season at you know where? Now you know how I felt!

I've only flown Continential lately and they were great. But I don't fly very often, but I do the exact same thing you do. For me it's really bad with hotels. Should make my trip to Cincinnati this weekend really interesting.

Don't forget....lower your standards!

Vic said...

That kind of stuff ALWAYS gets a boycott from me. Mimi and I have said that when we get old, we won't do business with anyone, because we will have boycotted them all. I've got a short fuse, so it doesn't take much. If you feel so inclined you could write your story to http://consumerist.com.
I don't know that there's any "results" that you could possibly get accept to spread the word about the terrible customer service you received.

Karen said...

I've had equally bad results with US Airways, they're all the same it seems! Although I've heard British is great (haven't expereienced it firsthand).

In general, it seems like customer service is a lost concept these days. Which makes me sound very old and crochety :)