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COMPLAINT: United Newark Ticket Counter Supervisor Unbelievable

 
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Old Dec 28, 2011, 1:57 AM
chriscolombo chriscolombo is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 19

In general, United is my preferred airline and I am a 1K member. I have usually been treated good to wonderful by staff, never had a lost bag, and get free upgrades. However, I once had a problem with the Newark Ticket Counter Supervisor over a fully refundable ticket, and wondering if anyone else has had a similar issue especially at Newark. I purchased a deeply discounted ticket on Cheap Tickets to travel Newark to San Francisco on Us Air with a stop in Pittsburgh (this was a few years ago). When I went to check in, UsAir showed the ticket was not payed for, and the reservation cancelled. I had the receipt, and showed it to the agent, who quickly put me on the phone with Cheap Tickets. Kudos to the US Air agent for quickly finding the problem, and literally calling Cheap Tickets and handing me the phone. Indeed, Cheap Tickets made an error, and never forwarded payment to Us Air. Resultantly, Cheap Tickets was compelled to purchase the fully refundable round trip fare, which in total was more than $2,000.00. Considering I only payed $350 for a non-refundable round trip, I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, by the time the issue was resolved, my US Air flight from Newark to Pittsburgh had departed. Again, the ticket counter agent came to my rescue, and informed me that a refundable fare was endorsable to other airlines, including United and Continental. The ticket did not have to be re-issued (he is absolutely correct about this), and a full fare refundable ticket in coach on US Air was upgradable to first class on Us Air, United, and Continental. He actually booked a non-stop for me on United from Newark to San Francisco later in the afternoon. Since I had no bags, I strolled over to the United ticket counter for check in.

When I got to United, the agent said she could not accept the ticket. Furthermore, she said the ticket had to be "ruled 240" over by Us Air. In other words, the ticket had to be endorsed by Us Air. However, on a fully refundable ticket, any airline that has an agreement with Us Air can accept the ticket. This is part of what is called an interline agreement. Regardless, the United agent said she would not accept the ticket, and in essence was denying a quick $1,000.00 which would have been added to United's bank.

I called United reservations, said I had a fully refundable one way ticket on Us Air valued at over $1,000.00. I was informed the ticket was fully endorsable, and the reservation record was documented as such that the ticket agent must accept the ticket. Moreover, the fare qualified for first class, and I was assigned seat 2B. The reservationist apologized (though not her fault) for the lack of training by the ticket counter agent, and politely informed me that there would be no further problem.

I went back to the counter, was met by the same agent, and was told again she would not accept the ticket. I asked her to please read my passenger record which was documented by reservations. She said that the airport can over rule anything put in by a reservationist. I asked to see the ticket counter supervisor. Again, I really do love United, and this incident remains the only time I ever encountered a rude employe. This woman was sarcastic, berating, and intimidating. She said she would never accept a ticket from US Air unless it was "rule 240'ed" over, which is absolutely false. She cancelled my reservation, and sent me back to Us Air.

Accordingly, I went back to Us Air, waited on line a second time, but did not see the wonderful agent who helped me earlier. Instead, I was greeted the ticket counter supervisor, who was aware of the $1,000.00 fully refundable ticket. Evidently, the incident made for good gossip amongst employees. The supervisor re-assured me a fully refundable ticket is valid on any airline that has an agreement with Us Air, including United, American, Delta, and Continental. He apologized (although not his fault), and informed me that a rule 240 ticket is only used on excursion fares, typically when a flight is cancelled and US Air needs to put passengers on another airline. Moreover, he stated fully refundable fare is like cash. Accordingly, I asked if I could cash my ticket in, so I could use the money on United. He politely, and correctly, informed me that tickets are refunded to their original source of payment, which in this case was Cheap Tickets. Therefore, it was best to hold on to the ticket, and use it on another airline. He again apologized that US Air had no more connecting flights to San Francisco thad day (not his fault), and re-booked me back on United. He even picked up the phone, and called United reservations, ensuring the my record was documented. Very impressive!

I went back to the United ticket counter, and there were my two new friends, the untrained ticket counter agent, and the rude supervisor. Again, both refused the ticket. This time I picked up my cell phone and called United reservations in front of her. I asked for a supervisor, and explained the situation in front of the Newark agents. The reservation supervisor was incredibly nice, but very upset at the ticket counter supervisor. Imagine, a 1K member who wants to dump over $1,000.00 into United, and their employees don't want the money. With a mindset like that, neither one of the Newark agents would ever work for me. It was as if these employees would rather have a seat remain empty then sell it at full price. I started to loose my cool, because we were 45 minutes from departure, and the line at security was building. I bluntly asked the reservation supervisor to "inform and educate your employees at the Newark ticket counter." Yes, that was rude of me to say that right in front of them, but I don't regret it. The ticket counter supervisor agreed to talk to the ticket counter supervisor on my cell phone.

I can not begin to tell you how funny it was to hear a conversation between two supervisors, where one was clearly right (reservations), and the other clearly wrong (ticket counter). The rules are clear cut, and the ticket even said fully refundable/endorsable right on its face. During the discourse, the Newark agent rolled her eyes as her supervisor yelled (seriously, she yelled) at the reservation supervisor. "We don't take any tickets from Us Air, and I will not accept this." It was actually funny, because this woman was completely ignorant of her company's own policies pertaining to fully refundable tickets. She kept insisting the ticket needed to be "rule 240'ed over from Us Air," when clearly it did not. Now the ticket counter supervisor became belligerent, and said if I don't leave the ticket counter she would call security. For what? Because she made a major mistake, and needs to save her own face? Again, this is the ONLY time anything bad ever happened to me on United.

After this pathetic exchange, I realized I would not get out on any United flight that day. The supervisor would ban me from flying. Without any other options, back I went to US Air ticket counter. The supervisor apologized for the inconvenience (though not his fault), and even apologized for the behavior of the United employees (totally not his fault). He said forget about United, because Continental has a flight departing to San Francisco non-stop in 90 minutes out of another terminal. The US Air supervisor quickly booked me on Continental, and explained my fare qualified for first class, which was available. He handed me back the ticket, and directed me to the airport's monorail which would take me to Continental's terminal C. Moreover, he instructed me to bypass same day check in, and go directly to the domestic first class ticket counter.

I got to terminal C in a jiff, and went directly to the first class counter. No wait, no lines, fresh flowers, red carpet treatment. Very nice indeed. There I was greeted by Xena (I will never forget her, so pleasant), an exceptionally polite, efficient, and professional ticket counter agent. I immediately asked to see a supervisor, but Xena assured me she would handle any situation. She accessed the reservation, and her eyes literally lit up when she saw I had a fully endorsable full fair ticket from another airline. She realized that Continental had struck gold with me. Xena immediately handed me a first class boarding pass, and expressed gratitude for choosing Continental. She extended a courtesy by offering me a pass in their President's Club prior to departure. I don't really fly much on Continental, but a free pass is a free pass. The lounge was beautiful, with panoramic views of the tarmac. What a difference in the treatment between Continental and United that day. The United supervisor had no idea what she was literally throwing away. United's loss was Continental's gain.

The rest of the trip was thankfully uneventful. First Class on Continental, called Business Elite, was very nice. Professional service, good food, personal t.v., and sundaes before you land. I still prefer United, but this incident always puzzled me. Why on earth was United's supervisor so ignorant about her own policies? Why did she refuse a fully endorsable full fare ticket? Why was she so arrogant about it? I can understand the ticket counter agent, who may not be as knowledgeable, but the supervisor did a great disservice to her company. To this day, I never knew what the problem was. I did write to United, but just received a generic response.
Moreover, I can't believe how nicely I was treated at Continental, which for as long as I can remember was never really that great of an airline.

Now for the most interesting part. I had a one-way fully refundable return ticket issued by US Air between San Francisco and Newark. I called United reservation (1K members have their own line, and it's pretty darn great), and booked a first class return. I again explained the situation, and was told there would be no problem. I show up at San Francisco United ticket counter, and proceed to the First Class check in line. I'm greeted by a very pleasant gentleman. He looks at the ticket, looks at the reservation, and hands me a first class boarding pass. Like Xena at Newark, he goes out of his way to thank me for Choosing United (even though he knows I'm a 1K member), simply because the ticket is from another airline. 10 minutes later I'm through security (first class has their own line, very nice indeed), and pre-boarded on a 757 to Newark. No hassles, no fuss, just great professional, friendly United service. Go figure!

As mentioned, United is still my #1 choice for air travel. I've had bad experiences on Delta, Virgin America, Jet Blue, and Frontier, and no longer fly those airlines. This is primarily unprofessional staff issues (especially at Delta), and numerous lost bags at Virgin America. But I never would have guessed that a customer paying full fare would be rejected by United. Why would a United employee send $1,000.00 walking to another airline? Has anyone else had a similar situation? Furthermore, has anyone else had difficulty with United's ground staff, particularly the ticket counter agent/supervisor at Newark? One month later I flew on United from Newark to Los Angeles in coach, and everything went just fine. My two ticket counter agent friends were not there, thank goodness. Weird indeed.
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  #2  
Old Dec 28, 2011, 10:50 AM
azstar azstar is offline
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 375

A big problem at ALL airlines is that so many employees don't know their policies, don't know what they're talking about, and don't bother to check. It's easier to say "no" so that someone else can't come back to them later and say "why did you do that?" I was traveling with a friend on Northwest from MSP one time. She had a full fare, refundable ticket. As soon as she checked in that agent said "that'll be 50.00 because you changed your date." I spoke up and said "no, there isn't. It's an unrestricted ticket. Please check the rules." He spoke to a supervisor, then comes back and says "I've spoken to the supervisor and she's agreed to waive the fee". There shouldn't have been a fee to "waive", so I wonder how many unsuspecting people pay fees they're not required to pay just because some employees don't know, or verify, what the fare rules are.
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