A story so hard to believe you wouldn’t even be able to sell it for a movie…
On the 16th of December 2012, we were supposed to fly United to go to Buenos Aires in order to attend to a big show organized by a friend of ours on Monday night (the 17th) and visit the city for three days.
Starting our journey from Brussels, we decided to first have a long connection in Newark in order to have about 8 hours to visit Manhattan. Such a big mistake…
We arrived in Newark on time Sunday morning and had to be back in the evening for our flight to Buenos Aires. After a quick visit of New York, we were back at the airport for the next flight (UA 847). The crew calls for the boarding, we wait a little and when there’s only about twenty people left waiting we stand up and go the line. What a surprise when we are told by the flight attendant that the plane is now full and we have no seats on this plane! A group of about ten to fifteen people are told that “due to a technical problem, the plane had to be changed by a smaller one”… First of all that sounds a lot like overbooking and secondly, why on earth didn’t they announce that before the boarding so that people that are not in a hurry to fly back just volunteer, get a refund and fly the next day which is as far as I know standard procedure and also so much more customer friendly. But no… we were taken by surprise and had no choice but to take seats on the flight the next day, if only the problems stopped at that point…
I must be honest and inform you that the customer service of United is so poor, it feels like being back at stone age! After many discussions and a lot of time, a (crappy) hotel room is booked and some food vouchers are given. They also make some very long phone calls in order to figure out how much our ticket is worth. They decide it’s about 504$ each (while other people get 1300$ but let’s forget about this…). As we are unfortunately the last ones in the line, by the time we get to the counter, the airport is empty. We are then told that in order to get our check, we have to come back to the customer service the next day because the flight attendant cannot do it for us (I will learn later that this is not true, anybody can do it, they just have to go to the UA office, but I guess they wanted to go home…). I tried to get a proof that we were still supposed to be refunded but they say “no don’t worry it’s in the system just come back tomorrow and you’ll be taken care off!”. Yeah right…
So we come back the next day. We go to customer service and the guy we meet first doesn’t see anything in the system… this is a good start! After a while and a few phone calls he finds us back and agrees with the fact we still have to be refunded. BUT, jee he forgot his stuff and he doesn’t have checks, so we have to walk all the way to the other end of the terminal to another customer service. I don’t want to leave and I insist but the guy doesn’t change his mind, he just promises me it’ll all be all right, I just have to go to the other desk. So we go. Once there we start our story again but the lady doesn’t see anything in the system (even tough I give her all the references the first guy found for us). We couldn’t get on our plane, we missed our friend’s show of Monday night in Buenos Aires, we haven’t slept long (the fire alarm went off at the hotel), we missed a day already for the visit of the Argentinian capital and it doesn’t look good for our refund, so my fiancée starts crying… At my great surprise, the lady starts shouting at my fiancée, saying that she shouldn’t loose her temper and that if she cannot remain herself she should go “for a walk”… My goodness UA can be so happy I’m such a calm person! So I remain calm and explain to the “nice” lady why my fiancée and I are a bit edgy. She starts her research and tells us: “I’m sorry but I see in the system everybody else got the refund so you must have it as well”. I pinch myself JUST to make sure I’m not dreaming, then I explain to her again why that is, that we were the last ones and that it was late etc. It is now 12:15PM (we arrived at the airport around 10:30AM) and we are told that the people from last night should be here at 12:30PM, so we can wait until then and if our story is true they will remember and all will be all right. So we wait. The customer service lady gets the other lady from last night on the phone and… she doesn’t remember, she says we all got the refund ! This is definitely not a dream, it’s a nightmare! Then, miracle, the phone rings, it’s the lady from last night, she remembers! We are still entitled to a refund, but the lady from the desk doesn’t have checks and the colleague next to her doesn’t want to take responsibility for it if she doesn’t see anything in the system… When is this going to end?!
The guy from the first desk (who promised it would all be ok) is called and he says he’ll come and sign the damn check. We wait another 15min and we FINALLY have our refund. We go back to Manhattan for what’s left of the afternoon and come back for the flight.
At this point you think: “jee, that was bad but it is finally coming to an end!”. Well… no.
The flight attendant calls for boarding; we are the first ones to board this time!! We sit in the plane and listen to the captain saying there’s a little problem with the plane. The technical crew is taking a look at one of the engines. Two ours later, the flight is… CANCELLED. I must admit that by then we were resigned. We got out of the plane, got back to the same crappy hotel (but no refund this time! Is that even legal?). We come back the next day early in the morning for a flight organized for the occasion (the fire alarm of the hotel went off, again, and we slept some three or four hours).
We arrived in Buenos Aires on Tuesday the 18th at 11PM. I forgot to say that during this we didn’t have our luggage. I asked twice in Newark where they were and twice I was told they were still here and that they would be on the plane. That was also a lie, they were already in Buenos Aires and we had to look for them for about an hour.
Thanks to United we started our holiday exhausted and frustrated, and we didn’t get to see anything of the city.
“Thanks for flying United, we hope you enjoyed your f(l)ight and hope to see you soon”… Really?
We understand technical problems are hard to foresee. A good customer care is then the only way to ease the frustration a little. In this case, there are just no words to describe how bad yours is… It is for us quite frustrating when people ask us how the holidays were, as we have to start by explaining why we couldn’t see Buenos Aires. I’m surprised to hear from many other people similar stories… with United… It means there’s really something going wrong with this company and you better fix this before it’s too late.
I honestly don’t know what I could ask from UA to make us a bit less frustrated, money just won’t help the fact that we went to Buenos Aires for nothing… Free tickets to Argentina maybe… Looks to me like it is the least you could do. It is really up to UA now to see what they are willing to do to make very disappointed customers a bit less frustrated.
Thank you for reading, if you have.
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