New 1K: Need Advice

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Black Cloud, Apr 4, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    Let me preface this by saying it is not my goal or intention to turn this into a CO v UA discussion. I'm a "new" UA 1K via flying over 100k miles on CO last year and although I've flown UA several dozen times, this was my first as a UA "elite."

    Connected via ORD to EWR and as EWR is prone to do, we had an ATC delay. In the RCC at ORD I asked to be moved to an earlier flight (which happened to be op'ed by CO) and was told that only CO could confirm me on it. I called CO who snagged me a seat, but they said UA had to "unseat me" from my UA res. Because I had taken a segment that day on UA they couldn't force me off, only UA could.

    So, I asked the folks at the club to unseat me. One agent flatly told me no, because my ticket was issued on 005 stock (despite the fact that I was trying to be removed from a UA flight op'ed by UA). The next agent down the counter said she'd help me. She typed for a few minutes and sent me on my way.

    At the CO gate they said I couldn't get my BP because I was still on the UA flight. Back to the club I went - more typing, and was told I was good to go. CO said no. Like a yo yo I went back and forth a few times. Finally at the CO gate a UA supervisor appeared. I asked if he could help me and he said "no" because he couldn't work the CO computers. He sent me to another gate who refused to help me because I wasn't on the flight they were working on.

    yadda yadda yadda. I finally found a UA agent who took care of my request and "unseated me" from the flight. I got back to the CO gate just in time to watch the plane push. So, I missed the flight. I missed the flight entirely due to a lack of several agents in the RCC, at gates, and a UA Supervisor's inability to fulfill a simple request.

    I emailed the 1K email (the web-form didn't work) and have yet to receive a response. I tried calling the customer relations number and got through to the ICC who told me I flew on the flight I was booked (which is technically true).

    So what on earth do I do? Where did I go wrong? And how can I better navigate UA's system so I'm not stuck in a web of stupidity and complacency next time I experience Irr.Opps? And does UA have a functioning customer service mechanism?

    Thanks.
     
  2. sfogate
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    sfogate Gold Member

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    I am really sick of reading/hearing about who's ticket stock it is.....it doesn't matter for domestic flights. Because you were 'checked in' CO could not take control of that segment ticket and all UA had to do was un-check you in and mark the ticket segment unused. Sorry you got the run around but I have seen and heard that this does happen alot with UA, despite what channa/hannaman says.
     
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  3. Hartmann
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    Hartmann Gold Member

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    This is due to the culture of "you're perfec.....

    Oh, wait.


    The main problem is that you were too nice. You should have stormed off saying "as a 1K for three days I can't believe I'm being treated like this". The heavens would have opened and you would have been showered with miles and praise.
     
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  4. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Can't comment on the ticket mess.

    But 1KVoice should get back to you, but it may sometimes take a few days or even a week. How long ago did you send your email?
     
  5. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    I honestly think there was an element of that. I didn't challenge any of the agents and accepted what they told me at face value. By me not being forceful, I suppose I share in the culpability in missing my flight.

    I guess I thought being a 1K, nay, a paying customer - entitled me to not being lied to / arbitrarily have someone refuse to help me.
     
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  6. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    Friday. I'll wait as long as it takes for them to get back to me, seeing as there's no other obvious channel to go through.
     
  7. Hartmann
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    Hartmann Gold Member

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    Negative Ghostrider.

    You're just lucky you made it out of there with your wallet. You did make it out with your wallet right? Check your pockets.


    In all honesty, I would have been just as nice as you. I guess as a professional I expect people in the service industry to be professional. ;)
     
  8. joediver
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    joediver Silver Member

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    I'm really surprised the agents in the RCC couldn't handle your problem. I've had help from agents at all the RCCs in ORD. I know the RCC across from B7 has a dedicated CO agent stationed there as well. That is usually the best place when you have the UA vs CO issues as they can talk to each other without having to call in for help. 1K voice always responds. If you don't like the answer you initially get, write again stating you are not satisfied with the solution they come up with. I'm not sure what type of compensation you're looking for and I know they are going to be getting tighter with those $200 "I'm Sorry" vouchers but it's worth a few emails.
     
  9. mherdeg
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    mherdeg Silver Member

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    It sounds like what you wanted to do was:
    1) Get a CO agent to put you on a flight.

    And the CO agent told you that they could not do that unless:
    2) Somebody cancelled your check-in on ("offloaded" you from) another flight.

    Sorry to hear that the CO agent gave you the runaround and the UA agents were no help, either. It seems a little weird that they would value "getting the process right" more highly than "getting a distressed passenger to their destination."

    Of course without looking at the record it's impossible to tell which magic incantation the CO agent was looking for and why multiple UA agents were unable to deliver it in their first few tries. Why couldn't the RCC agents just call up the CO gate and ask what they needed to see to get you on your way?

    To answer your first general question, I have had great luck during United irrops calling their main reservations line (1 800 UNITED 1) and asking for help. How the conversation usually goes:
    1. Please enter your MP#. (Actually this never happens -- the system recognizes my phone# and I just press "1" or say "yes" to confirm that it's me.)
    2. Dial 2 or say "reservations".
    3. Dial 1 or say "yes," I am traveling within the United States.
    4. Wait on hold, 10 seconds-2 minutes, or up to 10-15 minutes during severe irrops.
    5. "Hi, I'm calling about a current itinerary. I have the record locator, if it helps.
    6. [ agent says that helps ]
    7. "Great! My PNR is ......."
    8. Agent notes that I'm [going to misconnect / have misconnected.]
    9. "Yeah, I know, it looks [ tight / too bad ]. Could you protect me on UAxxxx if there are still seats available? [I use the UA codeshare number for CO-operated flights and things work out OK.] Great, thanks!"
    Total time: <5 minutes.

    To answer your specific question, a few ways you can cancel your check-in on a United flight (kind of a weird thing to need to do!):

    1. Any ticketing agent, RCC agent, or even UA gate agent should be able to do this. Sorry you got a disappointing lack of performance; I have no idea why. It's super easy to "offload" someone or "cancel their check-in". I do find it helps to know exactly what to ask for, but I'm sure you did this too. The only advice I have for you is that the "phone agent rule" applies in person too: if someone should be able to help you but can't / won't, thank them politely and go find someone else, quickly, before you waste too much of your time with them. Just "hang up" without getting emotionally invested; you can score some "I was right" points later when time permits. Holds true in any customer service profession -- airlines, hotels, casinos, gondola operators, grocery stores, petting zoos, funeral homes. Total time: varies.
    2. If you can check in online, you can cancel your check in online! Visit united.com, go to "check in", type in your PNR and name, and click the "cancel check-in" button next to your flight number. It's unbelievably easy, and you can even do it from a Kindle (free 3G wireless everywhere!). Total time: <2 minutes.
    3. Not near a computer? United.com Web Support can cancel your check in and generally do all kinds of magical things that "normal" reservations cannot, like help you select seats on wonky codeshare flights. They're at 1-800-589-5582. There is a special pool of Web Support agents allocated to 1K members. They're all very sharp; in my experience they may spend 5-10 minutes on hold with a supervisor for complicated questions (cancelling check-in is not complicated) but will always get it right and get back to you quickly. They are empowered to do almost anything and are very accommodating. Not the same as regular reservations! Very powerful people! Total time: 5-15 minutes.
    To answer your very specific question, what would I have done?
    1. I would have stayed right where I was at the gate for the CO flight I wanted to take.
    2. When the agent said I needed to cancel my check-in, I would have taken out my laptop and done that. If I didn't have my laptop handy, Kindle.
    3. No Internet? United.com Web support. I would have done this within earshot of the agent and ideally gotten the CO agent to talk to a UA agent to exchange whatever handshake they needed.
    4. No good at all? I would have asked the CO agent to do whatever they needed to, to get me on the flight -- after all, Star Alliance carriers are empowered to assume a ticket from another *A carrier during irrops and help a distressed passenger continue travel. Surely CO participates in this *A irrops policy, right? No point in leaving the gate for the RCC; the RCC agents aren't controlling the passenger manifest on the aircraft that can take me home :)
      I don't know whether this would have worked.
    To answer your last question about whether United has a functioning customer service mechanism -- hard to tell. I write in (mostly compliments) about once every two months, and some time in February of March, the responses started to sound like canned, formulaic restatements of my e-mails. I'm no longer sure that my written praise is helping an excellent agent's career.

    Others have reported that UA has adopted the "we're sorry you feel that way" style response, even when they reported pretty bad things. (This style has sometimes been attributed to Continental's customer service and is contrasted with the "old" UA style "we're sorry we did a bad thing, and while we can't make it better, here is $100 to fly with us again.") The move is not said to be universal, but some (rather mercenary!) reports elsewhere in this forum say that the "average compensation amounts" have decreased recently.

    Those people have mentioned that if you call United 1K Reservations and ask to be transferred to the customer relations desk during business hours, you may still be able to talk to someone who may be swayed with sympathy for your plight.

    A good letter to customer service should be short and to the point, devoid of extraneous detail:

    ""I have flown many, many miles with Continental and was looking forward to moving business to United. Friends have told me that United does an excellent job of handling delays and helping people get home quickly. Unfortunately, that was not my experience: when I misconnected due to a delay, I asked three agents for help six times, each one said they had helped me, and each time, that turned out to be wrong.

    Whatever technical or personnel problems the United agents had, they kept me from getting home, leaving me stuck in ORD for X hours and unhappily surprised by how poorly things ran and how poorly I was communicated to.

    Some more details: my ticket number was xx, my PNR was yy, I missed flight UA zz and wanted to take flight CO zzz, the CO agent told me I needed to get 'offloaded', a fairly minor task, I talked to 2 agents at the RCC and one supervisor a total of 6 times, each one told me they had "offloaded" me, each time the CO agent told me they had not, on the 6th try it worked but I had already missed my flight. My Mileage Plus number is ####. Please help these agents understand how to do a better job of taking care of passengers during irrops; my request should have been minor but for some reason it did not work.""
     
  10. Rob
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    Rob Gold Member

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    I'll point out that while an RCC agent *should* be able to do these things, sometimes it's been so long since they've worked a gate that they forget some (in my opinion) pretty basic stuff. An example: a couple weeks ago at IAD I VDBed off a flight - gate agents were having computer issues and asked me to go to a customer service center or the RCC to get my travel certificates, accommodations, and new boarding pass. I immediately went to the RCC to do so where neither of the two agents had any idea how to do any of that and even told me that I hadn't been protected on another flight (even though I knew I had been). Looking through a customer's record to see what flights they're booked on should be pretty basic but they managed to screw it up. This case doesn't sound like malice or being lied to, just general ignorance.

    One bit of confusion might have been asking to be 'unseated' versus 'offloaded'. Unseated could be as simple as removing a seat assignment, but still leaving you checked in for a flight. Offloaded means taking you off the flight.
     
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  11. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    Thank you very much for your very detailed and helpful response.

    When I called UA they said "the flight is under airport control, please speak to someone at the airport." Because I was already at ORD I figured this was a suitable response. In regards to the CO agents sharing some blame in this -- I agree. I'm just not sure where their blame lies, as I really don't know what prevented anyone from getting me on that flight. CO did put me on the other flight - everyone agreed on that (even the UA agents).

    I don't think anyone will doubt the process is very broken. What really rattled me was the gruff and simple "no" answers I received from a handful of UA agents.

    I think you may be on to something here. I was using the term I was told by a couple agents at CO as to what I needed UA to do, unseat. They probably just took me out of my seat assignment but didn't offload me from the UA flight.

    This is really what I was after in this thread. Hopefully one of the CO/UA folks that lurk these boards will take this data point, research it, and maybe issue some sort of memo to agents across the board to help prevent confusion between the two carrier's lingo. If it can help another passenger in a similar mess (although it sounds like a complex problem, I imagine it happens daily) then I'm glad I invested the time in starting this thread and I sincerely appreciate all the helpful responses.
     
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  12. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Last time I had CO changing a reservation that was in progress I, too, got the "you need to be offloaded" bit and the operating carrier (TK in my case) insisted that they had done so and CO insisted they had not. Apparently the CO systems were caching the reservation somewhere and a supervisor had to "refresh" it somehow to see that I was actually offloaded. Of course, if the UA agents never did offload you then that is a different problem, but it could have been the CO agents not seeing it correctly, too.

    As for agents being unhelpful, plenty of those throughout the industry. I haven't found that they are isolated to any particular carrier or airport.
     
  13. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    Interesting...
    Thanks.
     
  14. IndyDavid
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    IndyDavid Gold Member

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    Thanks for this great discussion. I'm a new UA 1K too and I'm having a hard time navigating the United universe. I also asked to be un-checked in recently and the agent I spoke with seemed shocked. "Oh, sir, I have no way to do that!" Maybe saying "offloaded" would have helped!
     

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