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COMPLAINT: How United Airlines stole our Christmas

 
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  #1  
Old Dec 24, 2010, 4:20 PM
frustratedpassenger frustratedpassenger is offline
 
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My teenage children and myself, living in the US, were going to spend Christmas with our family in France. We got tickets to fly from Boston to Paris via Washington Dulles, leaving on December 23, the last day of school, and arriving the next day.

On December 23, we arrived at the airport four hours early, ready to start our holiday. Our problems started when our airplane left the gate. It was bumped off its spot in the queue for taking off, and spent time off to the side. When its turn came back again, a mechanical problem, caused by a flap that wouldn't close, caused it to return to the gate. After mechanics had closed it manually while we waited anxiously, we finally took off, a little after 4pm (our scheduled departure time was 2:16pm). During the flight, one steward gathered information, told each person their connection gate, suggested we study the map of the airport in the flight magazine, and, upon arrival, pleaded for other passengers to let the ones in a rush go ahead and make a run for it.
"As soon as we become aware of a service interruption, we will relay information to affected customers, and we will work proactively to help them reach their intended destinations."
It was 5:09pm when we landed. Eight passengers were going on to Paris, with a connection at 5:25pm. After taxiiing, the door opened, we rushed out of the airplane and ran madly to our departure gate. Fortunately all of us arrived before 5:25. But to our great dismay, the door was closed! In fact the first two of the eight had arrived early enough to see the door closing in front of them! We stared at one another in disbelief. How could that be? Impossible! We begged the staff to reopen to door, but to no avail. They said that they had received a "direct order from Chicago" to close the door. One passenger, flushed by her run, got out her asthma inhaler and took deep breaths. A child was bravely putting on a good face, silently holding back tears. As our little group was standing angrily in front of the closed door, we were advised to go to customer service. We were told that we were just wasting time by staying there, diminishing our chances for a good alternative flight plan.

At United, the only acceptable customer experience is one in which you arrive at your intended destination safely, comfortably and on time. When events and obstacles beyond our control, such as severe weather or Air Traffic Control delays, prohibit us from achieving this standard, we strive to minimize customer inconvenience however possible.


At customer service, we joined the long line. The representatives were busy rescheduling people on flights for the following day. We would leave on Christmas Eve, on the exact same flight but 24 hours later than originally planned. We would spend the evening and night of Christmas on the flight, and arrive in Paris on the 25th.

The service representative gave us a hotel reservation and a $15 meal voucher for dinner. "What about breakfast and lunch?", I asked. "I'm sorry, but we can only give you one meal voucher", answered the United airlines representative. "What about our bags?", I asked. "I have already rescheduled them and you will get them when you get to Paris." Apparently other people were given the choice to wait for their bags and pick them up, but not us.

"In the air and on the ground, online and on the telephone, our customers have the right to expect — to demand — respect, courtesy, fairness and honesty from the airline they have selected for travel."


I left the customer service counter seething with anger. We waited in the cold for a shuttle, that took us to an upscale golf resort twenty miles away. Meanwhile I decided to calm down and try to make the best of it. "Life is a journey, travel it well", says United in their slogan. At the hotel, we spent a small fortune on ill-fitting swimming suits and relaxed at the pool for a while. After a dinner at the one place at the hotel that was still open (and where the cost of three sandwiches easily exceeded our vouchers), we paid another $15 to watch a movie before calling it a day. Since we had no toiletries with us, I asked the front desk for help, but theirs were only available for purchase. I noted that it violated United's written policy to provide stranded passengers with complimentary toiletries, but to no avail.

This year, for us, there will be no decorating the tree, no putting together the creche with our cousins, no singing carols, no midnight Mass. Instead, there is waiting in line in the hellish atmosphere of a crowded airport.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ. In the mayhem of holiday airport travel, when I think of United slamming its door to our face, it calls to mind the innkeeper in Bethlehem who refused to make room for a 9-month old pregnant woman.

And that is United Airlines's way: "Fly the friendly skies of United". Merry Christmas!
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  #2  
Old Dec 24, 2010, 6:46 PM
mars6423 mars6423 is offline
 
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I'm missing new years....completely as in I don't see midnight :/ I'm flying from Newark to Singapore and due to time zone changes when the plane is in the sky I miss new years

It sucks that this happened to you and on Xmas but they are not allowed to reopen the doors due to security reasons

I flew to Singapore via London 2yrs ago and my flight from Newark was delayed and we landed and parked next to the Singapore airlines a380 that we were supposed to be on and we saw it push back from the gate and this was on the 23rd of December so we took the next flight out in the morning and arrived on the 25th due to the 13hr flight and time difference between London and Singapore
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Old Dec 25, 2010, 2:52 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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It is not true that "they are not allowed to reopen the door due to security" that is just the lie airline personnel use to avoid the hassle of redoing the manifest, paperwork and the possible delay caused by opening the door. Airlines are machines and they care little for the customer. US based airlines are particularly bad at this. At especially sensitive dates such as Christmas , thanksgiving and new year they should show a little more compassion.
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Old Dec 26, 2010, 3:02 AM
HoustonFlyer HoustonFlyer is offline
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Originally Posted by mars6423 View Post
I'm missing new years....completely as in I don't see midnight :/ I'm flying from Newark to Singapore and due to time zone changes when the plane is in the sky I miss new years

It sucks that this happened to you and on Xmas but they are not allowed to reopen the doors due to security reasons

I flew to Singapore via London 2yrs ago and my flight from Newark was delayed and we landed and parked next to the Singapore airlines a380 that we were supposed to be on and we saw it push back from the gate and this was on the 23rd of December so we took the next flight out in the morning and arrived on the 25th due to the 13hr flight and time difference between London and Singapore

Wow, Mars. Our punctuation classes have been helping. You are not fully there yet, but it is a vast improvement. And I hope you have been enjoying our cheeseburgers. Because I know you can't bring your own.
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Old Dec 26, 2010, 7:22 AM
mars6423 mars6423 is offline
 
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Jim... I was sitting at the food court mcdonalds at ewr terminal b last week and a tsa agent and another security official were talking about some guy who got to the gate as the doors were closing and they were saying security reasons don't allow doors to be reopened......overheard but I can't be 100% sure


Houston.....cry me a river about punctuation lol I get the point across that's what matters, I'm not at work, school or anything that requires perfect punctuation and if you don't like it than too bad and skip what I write if it bothers you
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Old Dec 28, 2010, 12:44 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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TSA guys were talking nonsense. I would not have a huge amount of confidence in the stupid TSA staff, who are essentially as knowledgable as the McDonald's staff who served the burger. It is airline policy which enforces this. The airline must meet security requirements for dispatch, but believe me, if the CEO of the airline arrived 5 minutes late with the door closed, he would get on and the paperwork and security requirements would be met. The airlines choose to adopt this policy, which suits them and possibly inconveniences the least number of people (ie, 2 people might miss it, but 180 get an on-time departure). There are no specific TSA or security regulations which prohibit an airline from taking passengers after the door has closed.
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Old Dec 28, 2010, 3:07 PM
Gromit801 Gromit801 is offline
 
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Funny, I happened to be waiting for a flight out of SJC, when Bill Ayers, the ASA CEO showed up a few minutes late, and couldn't board the flight. He took it in good humor, knowing he cut it too close.

And BTW Jim, on international flights, and this customer was heading to Paris, it IS a Homeland Security regulation that there will be a positive match between passengers and checked luggage. If checked through luggage can't be transferred from the domestic flight to the international flight in time, those passengers don't board anymore.

Last edited by Gromit801; Dec 28, 2010 at 3:11 PM.
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Old Dec 29, 2010, 12:25 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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Gromit,
You appear to be missing my point. There is a regulation about positive matching of baggage, but there is no rule that the door cannot be re-opened. The reason it is not, because the paperwork and the work involved would cause an inordinate delay to the flight. The TSA do not prohibit it, they just require all the records match up.
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