Sunday, April 15, 2012

United Airlines - 3 Hours Is Not Worth It

United Airlines - A Lesson in Awful Customer Service 

My good friend's wife gave birth this past Thursday and his son's bris is this Thursday.  I decided that I would try to come in to New York to make it.

A few months back, I signed up for the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card.  I got 30,000 miles for my first use of the card and adding an authorized user within 2 months.  There is an annual fee to the card, but it is waved for the first year and I figured I would use the miles and then cancel the card.  The flights were $400 roundtrip and I still had 26,000 miles left so I decided to try to use the miles.

I found flights that "cost" 25,000 miles and $80.  I booked them and only realized later that I must have clicked the wrong button because my email conformation says that my tickets cost over $600.  It was the same day so I called up and figured I could change it pretty easily.

This is where the fun begins:

I called up and was told that there would be a 3 minute wait time.  No big deal.  I put my cell phone on speaker phone and went on with my day.  After about 35 minutes, I was starting to get annoyed.  I don't care much if I am told that it will be 20 minutes and I have to wait 25, but if I'm told it's only going to be 3 minutes, I expect a very short waiting time.  After 57 minutes, someone got on the line to answer my call.

I was annoyed, but I told her that I wasn't angry at her, I was angry at United Airlines.  I was hoping that by waiting so long and saying I was annoyed I might get something for free.  She pretty much ignored my complaint.

After about 30 minutes of getting my conformation numbers, cc numbers, billing address etc, she put me on hold so that she can cancel my current flight and get me the same flight but for miles instead of money.

Another 15 minutes passed and someone new came on the line and asked "How can I help you?"  At this point, I was angry.  I had spent the last hour and 45 minutes changing my ticket and I was about to start over.  They said they don't know who my last agent was so they couldn't transfer me back so I had to start over.

They put me on hold for another 30 minutes (I had to now recharge my phone after I had already charged it the previous night) while they were once again canceling and rebooking my flights.  After 3 hours total (thankfully it was the weekend so unlimited minutes on the cell :), I was done.  The ticket was successfully changed, but I wanted to speak with their manager.  There was no way I was going to leave empty handed from this fiasco without a fight.

The manager apologized profusely for how horrible United's customer service is.  He told me that everything is recorded and he would  listen to the tapes and make sure this will not happen again.  I told him that it was unacceptable.  My time is valuable and I cannot imagine using United Airlines again if it will take me 3 hours for a simple change to my ticket.  His response was that he could give me a credit to my card or miles as an apology.  I said that I certainly don't want miles after what happened, but I would take a credit.  Phew, at least I didn't completely waste my time.

While I certainly would not have signed up for a credit and have to go through the aggravation and time I wasted, but it's better than no credit at all.

The important lesson is that large companies are often willing to give you something for free if they mess you over and all you have to do is ask.  You hope they don't mess you over, but unless you ask.

The next time a big company wastes your time or your money, tell them you and your time are important and that you deserve something for the way you are being treated.  You would be surprised what you might get in return.