It’s been widely remarked upon that passengers are unhappy with airlines, and that many passengers seem to be particularly unhappy with United Airlines. Deeply, particularly, bitterly unhappy.
I’m broad-minded enough to be unhappy with lots of airlines, although I have great sympathy for their long-suffering employees. United offends me mainly with its brutal seat pitch in economy class, which I view as an attempt to torture me into paying for its extraordinarily irritating "economy plus" category. Which I shall never do.
But that is as nothing to the complaints of many loyal United fliers who believe that customer service has tanked.
The husband’s recent experience with United may illuminate the matter a bit. He had reservations on United this past weekend but he didn’t actually manage to get on a United aircraft because, well, the airline just couldn’t seem to fly him anywhere.
First, United canceled his outbound flight and endorsed him over to USAir – but failed to issue a new ticket. So he couldn’t check in online at USAir, and two calls to United’s customer service center got him nowhere. So on the morning of his flight, he had to wait in line at two busy counters at Bradley – United’s to get the new ticket, and then USAir’s to check in for the flight. The return trip wasn’t much better – United announced a one-hour delay in Charlotte, and again had to sign him over to USAir.
The real problem, in the husband’s view, was that United’s telephone customer service representatives were poorly trained and simply didn’t know how to get the information he needed. When he arrived at the airport, the agents at the counter were able to straighten out the mess in a few minutes. United has acknowledged some problems with its overseas outsourcing of customer service.
Still, it doesn’t help United that it had a massive computer failure that canceled all its flights nationwide for two hours on Wednesday.
Hey, at least the sewage plane was Continental’s bad.
Added 6/22: Not to rub salt in the wound, but the husband sent me a link to this YouTube video of a 1971 TV commercial for the United Airlines DC-10.