I am a longtime silver elite member on Continental, and have long been worried about the high standards of customer service I have experienced with that airline being diminished as the merger with United progressed. My worries came true last weekend. I should also point out that I am not a complainer, am very understanding that mistakes can happen, and have a personal rule never to take out my frustrations on the individual who is not at fault, just a representative of the company that made the mistake.
On December 7, I was flying from Washington Dulles to Las Vegas, with a connection at LAX. As a silver elite member, my suitcase was tagged with a Priority baggage tag. I arrived in Vegas at 9:30PM, and my bag was nowhere to be found. Because I had a short turnaround in LA, I assumed my suitcase missed my connecting flight. But the young man in the baggage claim office informed me that my bag never made it on to my original flight in Washington, which is mind boggling considered I dropped the bag off 90 minutes before my flight departed. Using the tracking number, he informed me that the bag was on the current, later flight from Washington, and would arrive around midnight. It would then be delivered to my hotel, which is in the suburbs of Las Vegas, about 40 minutes from the airport.
It did not arrive that night, nor did it arrive that morning. It showed up at my hotel at 4PM, roughly 19 hours after I had arrived, and I was still wearing the same clothes I had traveled in. I was thankful to have my suitcase because I had a wedding rehearsal dinner to be at, at 7PM. But when I opened the suitcase, all of my clothes were soaking wet. And they smelled, from being wet for a full day and packed tightly in a suitcase. My guess is that the suitcase was left outside at Dulles Airport, which was having heavy rain storms when I departed. One-third of my trip to Vegas was already over, I was still in my jeans and t-shirt from the day before, and now I had a suitcase full of wet clothes.
I called United Baggage claim to ask them what I was entitled to, in terms of buying new clothes for the short-term and getting some of my clothes dry-cleaned. I was told I needed to take the suitcase to the airport to get it inspected by the agent there so they could determine the damage and compensation. I drove 40 minutes back to the airport (I had to be at a rehearsal dinner at 7PM, and all I had was the jeans and t-shirt I had traveled in and had been wearing for 36 hours) and spoke to the agent in the baggage claim office. She looked at the suitcase, and noted the suitcase itself was dry. I pointed out to her that when water-resistant suitcases get wet, they dry out quickly. But not the contents. She then admitted the clothes were wet, but couldn’t really smell anything. I asked her to pick the clothes up and smell them individually, and she refused…she thought this was somehow beneath her. She asked if I had any liquids packed in the bag that may have leaked…I said no, and said I would need to have had a 3-gallon jug of water in there to get everything that wet. She then said I needed to call the 1-800 number and deal with them. I stepped out of the baggage office and did so, and this person insisted that the airport agent was the one I needed to talk to. I kept him on the line, went back into the office and asked the agent to speak to her colleague. She refused! I told the guy on the phone, and he asked me her name. She told me her name was CHARLENE. When I asked her for her last name, she said “You don’t need that”. The 1-800 guy apologized, said there was nothing more he could do, and suggested I call United customer service. I then asked CHARLENE to call her supervisor, who apparently wasn’t on location. I heard her talking to her supervisor, KATIE, and amazingly, CHARLENE was all but calling me a liar. She said the suitcase was dry, some of the clothes were wet, “the customer says they smell but I don’t really smell anything”, and they had received no other complaints of wet clothes (gee, I wonder how many other people flew from Dulles-LAX-LAS the previous evening and lost their bags). She then hung up with KATIE, and told me that all I could do was contact United Customer Service.
I am aware of the airline’s 24 hour lost bag rule and compensation. Nonetheless, I needed to purchase some new clothes and get others dry cleaned so I had something to wear on my trip. I spent the first day of my trip with no suitcase, attending a wedding rehearsal dinner in jeans and a t-shirt, and spent the next day or two waiting for all of my other needed clothes (shoes, running shoes, workout gear, pajamas, shirts, jeans, etc) to dry out.
MY TRIP WAS RUINED.
On my way home, going through O’Hare, I went to the customer service desk and spoke to a very nice lady, who did what she said was the most could do for me…she sent me a $125 voucher for my next trip. I appreciate this and her attitude, very much so, but will be requesting much more from United. My trip was ruined, and I spent $450 on that plane ticket. I had to buy $50 worth of new clothes, and $30 of dry cleaning. Worst of all was CHARLENE, who has no idea what the concept of customer service is. Never once did either she or the young man I saw on that first night apologize for my situation. I simple “I’m sorry, we screwed up”….NOTHING. And then casting doubt on what happened to my luggage, and all but calling me a liar. This is unacceptable. This is how United treats elite members? I have been loyal Continental OnePass elite member for years, but this one experience has made me seriously consider switching my allegiance to a carrier that has a better concept of customer service than United.