President Obama grounded our United plane. Apparently

We had the most amazing two weeks in Florida on holiday.
A real Family Holiday.
And it was only marred by one thing. One Big Thing really.
Our flight home.

Not something I would ever blog about ordinarily, but sometimes service is SO bad, you have to say something.
Because when it comes to airlines and holidays, people are spending a LOT of money. And not enough people say something when service is bad. They just put up. Chalk it up to experience. And the bad service goes on and on.

I took to Twitter and Facebook about our experience with United Airlines and was amazed to see just how many people have had similar nightmares with them.
People asking for help and not being given it. Others saying they would NEVER fly with them again. People saying they find the staff rude, unfriendly and have been made to feel small because they were asking for help.
And a visit to the United Facebook page. Oh. My. Goodness. So many many many complaints from people saying the same thing. The staff are plain RUDE. And none of the posts get answered.
Then my husband, who travels a LOT with work, announced that the only time he’s lost his luggage and had to climb a mountain to get it back, was when he travelled with United. “I didn’t tell you at the time because I didn’t want to make things any worse.”
Great.

I didn’t pay for this flight. I won it. But they didn’t know that. As far as they were concerned I was a paying customer, travelling with my family and expecting the same service I’ve had when I’ve flown with the likes of KLM, Lufthansa, Virgin, Emirates.

I know all airlines have their problems. I’ve flown with Ryan Air, which was also an awful experience. But, still, not as bad as this one.
I know all transport has it’s problems and there are delays and mechanical problems etc. But I believe it’s how companies deal with these problems that sets them apart.
United have a very very long way to go.

I visited the United Facebook page to see if anyone else has had problems. Oh yes, they certainly have!
On top of that, their latest post has them asking for feedback on great customer service so they can reward nominated. CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD? You have GOT to be kidding me.
See what you think:

My family and I are travelling from Orlando to the UK. We need to go via Newark Airport in New York.
As we’re waiting to take off from Orlando at 4pm there is a storm in the vicinity so we sit on the plane for an hour or so. The pilot keeps us informed. We’re bored and worried about making our connecting flight at Newark for 7pm, but all is OK.

We take off, land in Newark at 7pm.
The pilot tells everyone needing to make a connecting flight that there will be a United rep waiting for us as we disembark to guide us.
Err, no there is not. And when we ask at the desk about our flight we’re told it’s gone. In fact the woman says out loud: “Oh shit it’s gone”. My 9 year old son is not impressed. He doesn’t like swearing.
We stand there like lemons. “Soooo, what do we do now?”
Go to Customer Services, we’re told.
Oh. Dear. Lord. In all my years of travelling I have never met such rude, unhelpful and unprofessional staff! And I used to work in journalism. Everyone is rude to journalists.

Stony faced, and without a shred of emotion or warmth the lady behind the counter tells us that it’s not their fault we missed our flight and they’ll get us back to the UK but it will be tomorrow afternoon. And they won’t help us with a hotel room.
Fair enough it’s not their fault. But then it’s not ours either. I point out we’re travelling with two young children and doesn’t she understand why we’re upset? My 9 year old is on the verge of tears when she says they won’t help.
Swear to god, she said ‘no, I don’t’.

My husband takes over and calmly but firmly says it’s not good enough and we want her to try and get us home tonight. At least LOOK for something.
She accuses him of being rude and discourteous and unless he listens to her and stops talking she will no longer be able to help. She points a lot and is so rude than even my children start to comment on it.
We look at each other in bemusement; WE are being RUDE to you?!
I would describe her as obtuse. I don’t think she likes us. Or is she like this with everyone?
She then jabs her finger at me telling me that ‘OUR President landed here in New York today and ALL airspace has to be shut for that. You understand THAT don’t you?’
I’m baffled because our flight was delayed by a storm in Orlando. Is she referring to when we landed and maybe our landing had to be delayed? But the connecting flight we wanted to be on from that airport took off OK. And that took off as we were landing.
Has she just made something up to shut us up? Would Mr Obama be happy with being dragged into this issue and blamed for us not getting home?

I actually feel utterly deflated at this point. It’s 9pm. I’m tired. The kids are tired. We have no way of getting home tonight, no dollars left because we didn’t expect to be at this airport for any time and I feel like no one has the slightest interest in helping.

So. My husband takes over. He races round the airport finding flights which are leaving that night which are going in our general direction and demands for us to be put on standby for them.
We sit and wait for a flight to Edinburgh at 10pm. No seats left.
We sit and wait for a flight to London Heathrow. It’s delayed. Four hours. We get seats. Only 3 seats, but one is on standby. It’s looking good.

So we board the flight at 1.45am heading for the UK (it was supposed to leave at 10pm). Not Birmingham where we need to be, but at least we’ll be in the UK.
The boarding staff are equally rude. No real apology for the delay and then they proceed to faff about even more and delay the boarding. They’ve had 4 hours to prepare for this.
We get on the plane and the screens on one side of the aisle don’t work so half the plane don’t see the safety video. Which makes a bit of a mockery of the whole thing.

We land in the UK and they have lost all our luggage.
Brilliant.

This wasn’t just one flight and one member of staff. They were consistently rude, unhelpful and unprofessional. Friendly staff were the exception rather than the rule.
We had to pretty much beg customer care (CARE!) to find us a flight home and ended up running round the airport ourselves at midnight looking for suitable flights because they did the bare minimum required to get us home.
Information was inconsistent, had to be DRAGGED out of them and while there were people waiting at the customer service desk, clearly distressed at missing their flights through no fault of their own, the staff were laughing and joking loudly amongst themselves instead of dealing with the people in front of them. So so unprofessional.
I’m sure United President and CEO Jeff Smisek – who also raves about all the new innovations they’re carrying out at the start of the video safety message – would be appalled. I hope he cares enough to be appalled.

I’ve travelled on many many airlines over the years. Never have I received such poor service. And this is a major airline.
Lufthansa, who are also part of the Star Alliance, and have always offered brilliant service – even when things go haywire.
I know things go wrong. I know it’s not always their fault. But rudeness and downright unprofessional behaviour is never ever acceptable.

Oh and by the way, to date, THREE of our four missing bags have turned up . . .

There is a slight silver lining; Lots of people pointed me in the direction of this video, United Breaks Guitars. It’s already gone viral over the years, but it’s still brilliant even now.

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