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Last time I fly United Airlines

by Brandon on July 5th, 2006

So on Sunday I made a reservation for a flight at for July the 6th to fly to Los Angeles to visit my sister and take some much needed time off.  Or so I thought.

I held the reservation on Sunday and purchased it on Monday afternoon.  When taken to the confirmation page, I was presented with the following:

FARE DETAILS:  — JUL 06 SEA UA LAX ————— UA SEA 00000 SEALAX FARE USD 395.35 ————

The blanked out parts are random text and numbers that my eyes glossed over and I have no idea what they mean, but don’t want to post them here. 

At the time I saw “JUL 06” assuming that meant July the 6th, and clicked confirm.  When I got the confirmation mail I looked it over and saw that the times and flight number were all correct.

Unfortunately my flight was booked for the 7th.  Friday.  Not the day I wanted.  Now farther down the confirmation e-mail it does say July 7th, so I should have noticed it.  But everything else matched, and nowhere does it say FRIDAY or FRI or anything that would have jumped out at me.

So today when I went to check-in online I realized the error that had occured, so I called up United customer support.  I kindly explained my situation and was told “That will cost $100 to change your reservation, or you can talk to internet support and see if they can fix it for you.”  Okay, so I tell “Nicole” to transfer me to internet support.  A half hour later I give up on waiting for them to pick up their phone, and try the original number again.

Now I get a different representative who says that the reservation is for the 7th and he can’t do anything unless I pay $100 to change it.  After some frustration, I give in.  “So with the $100 service fee and the change in ticket price since Sunday it will now be over $200 total” I am told.  Ridiculous, for a simple error on their page (I’m certain I selected Thursday in the calendar control) not helped by a misleading piece of text on their confirmation page, which I now realize meant “July 2006” not “July the 6th”. 

So I asked if there was anyone I could speak to that might be able to help me, and I was offered a chance to speak to the legendary “supervisor.”  Great.

So I explain the situation to her, and get the same “There’s nothing I can do for you sir unless you pay the service charge and the new ticket price.”  I asked if given the circumstances they could waive the service charge and I’d just pay the new ticket price, which would at least put me close to the $100 I was originally told it would cost.  “No sir, you’re wasting my time” she says very rudely.  Her time?  She’s being paid for this, I’m not.  I’m the one that wasted an hour of my evening and had to pay $200+ to get the same damn ticket I paid $400 for on Sunday.

I’ve had airlines help me out in the past.  Once even when I got lost on the way to the airport and missed a Northwest flight back from my interview at MS.  They (and someone from US Airways I think it was) helped me get on a later flight at no charge.  It made me think “wow, there are real people at airlines after all.”

Sadly tonight I feel quite the opposite.  At least as much as it’s the money, I didn’t feel like anyone there cared that I was getting screwed. No concern for the customer.  I guess they’re just used to it.

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  1. Well, my 2 cents are that the folks who you talked to are paid to tow the bottom line. With some creative discussion with them you may have been able to get them to see your way. What I mean to say is that they hear similiar complaints so many times that they get very used to hearing them. They disassociate and turn off their ears after a very short time. They may not be paid very much. It is always better to keep your cool, phrase what you want to say in the form of a question-diplomatically and just as if you were talking about someone else or someone elses situation. You can be as right as rain but if it doesn’t fit their protocol-forget it, unless you can convince them and get them to relate to you, but you have to use other means than the – you are right approach. I wasn’t there so I really do not know what happpened. I would imagine on any day this happens many times with any given airline.

    Should they be held accountable-absolutely. I would definately write a letter to their corporate h.q. explaining what happened. Just remember, make a point paper, illustrating every reason they are right, and every reason you are right. Then attempt to understand why they feel they are right, and develop counter-arguments for each point that you can think of that they think they are right-keep these counter-arguments in your back pocket until they respond.

  2. Uhh, those two characters you conveniently blanked out before the “JUL” were surely “07” (the day of the month). That is how dates on airline tickets are always written.

    The real issue is whether the mistake was user error or website error and there’s really no way to know at this point.

  3. No Jim they weren’t, actually it was “C02” – and I think 02 is the day I bought the tickets, but it looked like this:

    C02 JUL 06 SEA UA LAX etc.

    And the JUL 06 was the only part that jumped out at me when reviewing the confirmation page.

    Surely I made a mistake in not noticing the error the instant they sent me the e-mail confirmation. It would have helped a lot if the confirmation e-mail had listed the day of the week, instead of just saying “July 7th” at the bottom. If I had seen FRI or FRIDAY (as I did when I logged in and looked at the itinerary online) I would have noticed the mistake when I got that.

    I’m not saying it’s entirely their fault. I just think the price to fix this error was way too high, especially given the circumstances (confusing confirmation page, etc).

  4. That’s why I go through Expedia. I’ve gotten Expedia to do a one time refund in the past to fix a similar error I made where I picked the wrong traveler.

  5. Ya I agree with steve,

    better use those expedia or similar sites. They do try to help you fix those kind of errors.

    Expedia will explain or correct those errors on you behalf rather than doing it yourself which proves futile sometimes.

    Jonathan Lewis

  6. And this is different in the way that your employer operates in what way?

  7. Mags –

    In what way does Microsoft operate at all like this? I’ve had nothing but pleasant experiences with Microsoft support and customer service.

  8. But of course, according to your blog, you work there. For the rest of us who live here on planet earth it’s different.
    Latest incident involved a call to them on an issue involving OneNote “Options” being greyed out on Trial Version install.
    Since I am in MS Community (for almost 10 years) I used the tech support number from the Partners Site.
    After being on hold for 23 minutes, I was able to speak to someone. Of course, they needed full details about what the issue was before they
    could determine that I was in ‘the wrong department’. So, they transferred me to a different department.
    After being on hold for only 21 minutes this time… I was able to speak to someone again. Of course, they needed full details about what the
    issue was before they could determine that I was in ‘the wrong department’.
    This time I was greeted by MS’s friendly ‘This call will cost you $195.00 per incident… please have your credit
    card ready.” announcement. I didn’t bother staying on hold. I just got off, installed my real copy and will deal
    with the activation issue upon reinstall. I was installing trial, because I have a new machine on the way…and
    just wanted to experiment with the trial.
    Don’t misunderstand me.. I don’t hate MS and am not an MS basher. As a matter of fact, I decided this week to drop
    all Linux/php/mysql/Joomla/Drupal/OpenSource/SugarCRM/Quickbooks/Goldmine/etc. support and/or projects and focus on
    MS again.
    I just don’t agree with your thinking MS operates any differently.

  9. Mike permalink

    I just flew United from Beijing to SFO. Sorry folks, but your national airline is going the way of PanAm. It’s not a case of whether it goes under, but when. The airplane was half empty – but the rear half was full. Why? $56 would get yo uan extra 1.5 inches of legroom. Did they try to sell it? No. At the check-in I asked for an aisle seat, and the guy said none was available. Did he offer me the 56$ upgrade? No.

    Would I have taken it?


    I think airlines are running a risk of being sued by someone who gets injured as a result of the seating arrangements; and losing the case.

    But I digress. Back to United flight 888. The head stewardess came on the speaker and basically said ‘Apologies for the state of the airplane, we keep complaining but they won’t listen. We’ll hand out some complaint forms and you do it instead. Maybe they’ll listen to customers’. Yeah right. Two thirds of the airplane (centre and left) had no audio, so couldn’t listen to the ‘entertainment’ (which consisted of ‘MArie Antionette’ being played twice). The first meal was really bad. ‘Lunch’ was a POT NOODLE for chrissake, and the set down meal (breakfast) was chicken and noodles.

    Hmm, yummee.

    The state of maintenance of the plane internally was really poor. It made me concerned (for the first time ever) about hte state of the airframe as we went through turbulence.

    The only GOOD thing about the flight was the route – it was a clear day and we got to fly real close to Mount Fuji. Great Photos.

    Sorry folks, but I’m never flying UNited again. They’ve got their priorities wrong. They need a huge shift in thinking or they’re going under. Fast. Bad news for the employees who work so hard, but that’s what’s going to happen.

  10. Jen permalink

    Okay, I wish I had read the complaints here about United before I tried booking with them last night!! Here’s what has happened to me:
    I am trying to book a flight for my son who is at college in California. He needs to fly from LAX to MKE (Los Angeles, CA to Milwaukee, WI) on May 9th. I went online last night around 10:00pm and found a redeye flight that would fit his schedule – went through the whole process of filling out all info, selecting seats, typing in VISA information… then when it came time to click to order the ticket, we got a screen that said “sorry but we are experiencing technical difficulties – please try again later.” So I went on this morning to get the ticket, and the price had gone from $133 to $246!! I called United Airlines customer service and spoke to two different people. I wanted them to issue me the ticket at the price I tried to book it at last night, since it was their website’s technical difficulties that kept me from being able to purchase the ticket. They refused, saying that I should have called customer service right then – BUT the message on their website did not say to call them; it said to try again later!! They also said if I had a printed page that PROVED that I had tried to book the flight last night, they would issue me the ticket at the $133 price – ??? Of course, I did not print it off last night. They didn’t say anything about printing it off. I just feel like they should sell me the ticket at the $133 price – I can’t afford to buy it at the $246 price and I feel that it was their fault. What do you think? I’ve never worked with United Airlines before, but their customer service reps STINK! I’ll never attempt to buy a ticket from United again.

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