Posted by: wrmcnutt | April 9, 2009

Why I Hate United Airlines

So there I am – on my vacation in the medieval city of York, in Yorkshire County, England.  And we’re having a great time.  When you get off the train in York the first thing you see is the medieval city wall, 80% of which is still standing.  It’s cram full of medieval buildings, museums, castles, and what-not. We’d walked the walls, seen the column surviving from the Roman fortress of Euboricum, and seen the sarcophagus of St. William.  But there’s a problem:  much as we don’t want to go home, we have to.  We need to get home and make more money so we can come back.

And I have made a mistake.  We’re flying out on a Sunday, and the first train from York doesn’t get to Heathrow Airport until 20 after our flight leaves for New York.  It should be really simple – call United Airlines and move our tickets to another, later flight.

So I start by going on-line.  The fee is £100.  Wow.  So I call United on the phone, thinking I can do better.  No.  It’s £100, even if I call the main office in the USA.  At this point I’m getting a serious sinking feeling.  But I’m in London for one day, so I figure if I show up at the airport and they have to look me in the eye, maybe I’ll get a better deal. No. £100.  There are eight of us. That’s £800!  At the exchange rates of the time, over a thousand dollars. 

Now, mind you, back in the day, changing a reservation involved many phone calls and dozens of clerks running around adjusting manual manifests.  It was expensive in terms of man hours, and, done close to flight time, caused logistical problems with connecting flights, fuel consumption, and so on.

But those days are over.  Nowadays, it’s one clerk twiddling a couple of bits on a computer screen.  Anything more than a nuisance fee of $20 or so is robbery.  I had eight seats to re-schedule, and nobody at United would even admit that they had the authority to give me a reasonable price, let alone actually give me one.

For half that, I was able to charter a taxi for eight to drive the entire length of the Kingdom of England.  So I did it.  I hired a car, driver, and paid for fuel and still spent less than that mess of sky pirates wanted to gouge me for.

Since then, I have not allowed my shadow fall across their door.  They haven’t gotten a dime of my money, nor have they gotten a dime of my Department’s money.

Customer Service at United Airlines stinks like yesterday’s diapers.

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  1. You hold a grudge well. 😉

    • I’ve had to let go of the ones from 1969 and 1970. When you can no longer remember who your are mad at, or why you are mad, there’s no chance of payback, and it’s a waste of energy. On the other hand, if you can remember either of those things, the other one might come back, so you might as well hold on to the grudge. I didn’t have any in second grade, so 1971 is clear. From ’72 on, I remember every single person who has done me ill, and what they did.

      Which explains why my family still considers Sherman’s March Through Georgia a War Crime.

      Any guesses as to who taught me to hold a grudge?

  2. […] I made the mistake of flying with the Organized Sky Pirates, or, as they prefer to be called, United Airlines on my last trip to England.  Follow the link for details, but I try not to accidentally let my shadow fall over their counter […]

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