Flying the not so friendly skies of United Airlines

UUGH what a day, we just landed in the US after our awesome 13 day Transatlantic cruise. This was a risky trip for us, since we would be taking “S” on such a long ocean journey not knowing if she would get seasick or even enjoy the trip. Plus we brought along my mom yes voluntarily. I’ll save the vacation posts, pictures and details for another time, but as I sit at 37,000 feet in my not so awesome middle seat, I reflect on the not so friendly service that United Airlines provided our family of four.

I bought these tickets about 6 months ago mainly for two reasons, a direct flight from Ft. Lauderdale to SFO and for the fact that I could upgrade us at time of booking to first class from coach with miles or coupons. I thought that this would be a nice ending to our trip, and for a 6 hours flight, would make the ride a little bit more comfortable. In this case I rolled the dice and only upgraded the other three and hoped I’d get a freebie, but if I didn’t I’d gladly sit in the back in my extra legroom seat, or sit with the munchkin upfront if my wife wanted peace and quiet.

As usual I checked in about 23 hours in advance, I wanted to make sure that we had our seats and all was good, I’m also OCD to a point that I checked our seats weekly. UA as many frequent travelers know loves to bump your seats it’s just one of the many enhancements that CEO Jeff Smisek has added to this once great airline. Well, at the gate we hear an announcement looking for volunteers to give up their first class seat for $250, and my wife and I just laughed. Not for a 2500 mile journey. So sure enough we get to the gate to board and my mom and daughters tickets chime and they spit out new seats for them. They were in row 1 and 2 respectively with mom supposed to sit next to “S”, but “S” was moved to row 34 and mom to 24 booth middles. This was no joke. WTF. So for the next ½ hour the agent and I were trying to sort this out. She said we were on free tickets and it was the luck of the draw and that everyone else 13 passengers in first all paid for their tickets, this I find very hard to believe. Forget the fact that a computer takes a 2 ½ year old and moves them to the back, really. United you really sucked the big one today. Then the brilliant gate agent, and I use that term ever ever so loosely , tried to give my mom and daughter the same seat. I tried to explain to her that this would not work. I kept telling her we had four seats, and she thought my daughter was a lap child, forget the fact that the FAA requires all children over two too have their own seat. So again we were scrambling to get seats. The agent finally gave us two seats together in first for whomever wanted them, and the other two were seated in coach, mind you in the mean time they had moved my seat 2x and my mom’s about 4. She just could not get that we were all family members with the same last name but different first names, so she kept reissuing tickets and seats for the same person in one of our already occupied seats. OY are you keeping score at home.

Then she said for our troubles, read that our troubles we would get $250 bucks, what are you kidding me. Sure $250 is $250, but I paid for my upgrades fare and square, and that was NOT enough, she even had the audacity to tell me that another passenger would get $500, because they paid for their ticket and mine was free. Oh I was boiling, and it took all of my strength to not jump over the counter and yell at this lady. So with everyone on the plane except for mom and I, she finally issues us two seats in the back, and the ladies two seats up front, bad then started to process my compensation, which she said would be $500. All this while I have the diaper bag and child entertainment in our carryon suitcase, and I’m freaking out that they will make me check the bag, since they had to gate check about 10 bags. I calmly told them this must be one the plane. Because they were worried about space they had me sign the compensation form, and board sans my receipt. With the assurance she would come on board and give it to me. Well three hours onto my flight I’m still waiting. I want to hope that when I get off the plane, the SFO agent will have it for me, because w/out the receipt as far as I know I can’t claim the credit. But right now all I can think is that the agent will delete the paperwork and move one to her next task. Why do I think that, because the whole process was shady, there’s no reason we should have been downgraded. My wife is also a 100,000 mile flier and they were on the same reservation, I was the only one that was on a different reservation. Plus the fact that others got upgraded within the 100 hour window, which is when they pass out the freebies, and we had confirmed ours 6 months ago. So needless to say I currently have a very bad taste in my mouth.

Now between this incident, and all the other crap UA is pulling with the frequent flier program, I’m really starting to move away from them, but they have been my carrier of choice if I have an option and their price is reasonable. But I will no longer go out of my way to fly them. Which in years past meant if they were the same price as say US Air or Southwest, but their times were worse or forced a connection or flying from SJC or SFO instead of Oakland, I would still fly UA. But now between today’s seriously poor customer service incident and the aforementioned ones, I will avoid when possible.

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