Monday, April 20, 2009

The Trip From Hell, Courtesy of United Airlines

Well, I jinxed the trip by saying that things were going smoothly, that's for sure. From the time we got on the plane Saturday morning, very little went right.

I was all snug in my seat, already reading my book, when the pilot came on the intercom and announced that there was a little problem - a light that was supposed to come on had not come on, and it had something to do with the computer system, so they were going to turn everything off and see if that fixed things.

That didn't fix things.

So, people were called down to begin working the problem, and they tried switching out several of the computers, but nothing worked, and after about an hour or so waiting on the runway, we were asked to de-board and head down to the ticket window to check for "re-accommodations." Now, that was bad enough for me and my colleagues, who were heading from Sacramento to Washington, D.C. But I can't imagine what it was like for the hundred people who had connections, many of them international, and some of whom were heading to Europe for things like Mediterranean cruises to celebrate anniversaries and the like.

A problem with a plane, I can understand. Not wanting to send a plane full of people on a flight with a faulty plane, I can appreciate. But having absolutely no plan to deal with the people who have paid significant money and had their flight cancelled, I find unforgivable. Over the course of the next several hours, United Airlines did very little to demonstrate that they care about their customers; they did literally nothing to try and make a difficult situation less painful.

Sure, they eventually got me to my destination, even though the trip which was supposed to take a little less than five hours ended up consuming a little more than 22 hours. And they even offered some incentives to fly United again, in exhange for the inconvenience. But never, once, did I feel as if they really cared, one way or another.

People fly United because there are few choices out of a city like Sacramento. I guess that means it's OK for United to take everything for granted. Well, I think it's time to insist upon more than that. No other company, no other industry, would be allowed to exist with that kind of attitude. Even with the dismal economy, I don't understand why anyone should grant United Airlines an exemption from an expectation of professional, courteous service. And we're not getting it.

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