I am not happy.
If I ever provided this kind of customer service, I’d be in so much trouble.
This is the tale of my United Airlines travel voucher and the time and effort wasted because of it after its issue. I’ll keep it short but you can imagine what a big pain in the ass this whole episode has been.
A few weeks ago, I was issued a $400 travel voucher after being bumped from a flight, even though United did not, according to the DOT rules, owe me anything because the reason was a switch to a smaller aircraft. I have no idea how I got chosen to be bumped along with some other folks; I bought the ticket early, I checked in early and I was at the gate early.
The gate agents practically begged me to take a different flight with an extra leg and backtrack to my original destination, 5 hours longer in total. They also offered me the voucher, which they said would be issued at the new gate. Problem was, they waited until the very last minute to make this offer, and I had to run about a mile to get to the new flight, now waiting for only 1 passenger – me.
Once I got to the new gate, the agents didn’t believe me (“Why would I lie? I just want to get to my destination.”) that they had to issue me a voucher, and only after a few phone calls, the old gate agents told them to do so. Then they literally shoved me onto the plane because they were in “mad scramble mode” for the now-late push-back, and I didn’t have a chance to check my voucher like I usually would until I sat down, because I never trust people in these situations.
The voucher was issued in the wrong name.
After an e-mail seeking advice on how to get this rectified followed by an 11-day wait, the reply was that I could only go to the issuing airport to have it re-issued. Well, thank God I actually live in the same state as the issuing airport.
At the issuing airport, I had to produce the e-mail to refute the ticket counter agents’ claim that only “Headquarters” can re-issue vouchers before a very helpful agent, after working on it for 20 minutes behind closed doors, handed me a re-issued voucher in my name.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago. I drove to a nearby airport to pick up a different round-trip ticket I had reserved because, somehow, travel vouchers can only be processed in person. A bit ironic, since vouchers are basically how an airline begs you to fly with them again after they fuck you over, so why not make it inconvenient to redeem one?
It turned out that was not the only ironic part. Just when I arrived at the ticket counter, a baggage agent came over and asked the only ticket counter agent to cover at the gate before turning to me and saying flatly, and unapologetically, “She’ll be back in 20 minutes.”
“Err… I’m just here to pick up a ticket.”
“Yeah, she’ll help you when she gets back in 20 minutes, OK?”
“Do I have a choice?”
And they both bailed. Not a soul was present at the counter. The screen on the wall behind the counter read:
Even better, all over the ticketing area were posters and signs of various sizes stating, “United. #1 in on-time arrivals…” I don’t think it matters if I can’t even get a ticket, does it?
I did not see either of those two agents again.
In my anger, I phoned the listed reservation number and asked for any kind of customer service number so I can rant at someone. Anyone. Not productive, but I just wanted to. Besides, I didn’t bring a book and I had nothing else to do. Well, the obviously overseas call center had no idea what phone number there is for customer service.
I sat down, and another man with his young son showed up. He was there to pick up a ticket using a voucher as well, just like I was. He wondered where everyone went too. I told him.
A full 37 minutes later, at 2:47pm, a very helpful agent showed up, and it appeared she was starting her shift. I was polite, since she had done nothing to me and was clearly a nice lady. She admitted that to get a $400 voucher in the first place really meant someone really fucked me over. She got me what I needed, and I was on my way.
The only problem is that now I still have a balance of $15 on the voucher, and the only way to redeem it is in person. But do not think for one second I’m willing to forfeit it. Not after this.
Of course I wrote United. Five days later, I received the following message from United:
Not only did they not have a response to my multiple complaints, they made another boo-boo again! I’m usually pretty easy-going, but it’s almost like they just want to keep giving me something to complain about!
They wrote back with an apology 4 days later. Along with a $150 “Goodwill Electronic Certificate.” I feel a little bad that they gave me that, considering how much blog mileage I got out of writing about the whole incident, and considering how easily they kept giving me legitimate reasons to complain. It was quite therapeutic. At least it’s an e-cert.
Until the next time they fuck me over.