Saturday, August 24, 2013

United Airlines: Hell in a Very Small Space

We'd booked First Class flights from Halifax to Newark, and then from Newark to Phoenix.
Several weeks before we left home, I got an email saying the flight from Halifax had been changed, and was now a tourist class flight.  I called United Airlines to find out what was going on, and spoke to a representative (who of course, did not possess a surname) who assured me that I would get a refund for the First Class flight I no longer had, and that I still had my bulkhead seat.
Not true.  None of it.
Xingxing and I were crammed into a space so small that if I put both of my feet on the floor in front of the seat there was no room for Xingxing.  There was barely room for me.  They knew I was traveling with a service dog -- suppose he'd been a Labrador?  Where would they have put him?  In an overhead locker?
The airplane wasn't full. I could have been given two adjacent seats -- but a young man (clearly a friend or relative of one of the snotty cabin attendants) carrying one of those huge backpacks -- no way that would fit in an overhead locker -- was given those two seats to himself.  He and his illegal backpack were given every consideration.  I was treated like a piece of dirt.  One of the cabin attendants did her best to step on Xingxing's tail every time she passed.  Xingxing was a really good sport.  Xingxing is always a good sport.
I'm not going to dwell on the Dantean horrors of Newark Airport, or the hostility and unhelpfulness of each and every United Airlines employee we encountered during our very long stay there.  United Airlines employees are not happy people, and they take it out on United Airlines customers.  
Hours and hours and hours later, we were finally in our First Class (but not bulkhead) seats on our United Airlines flight from Newark to Phoenix.  Did I want dinner?  Absolutely.  All that's left is pasta, I was told.  We go by priority.  The other passengers have priority, so they got first choice.  You get what's left.
I always thought a First Class ticket was a First Class ticket.  Silly me! But there is nothing on the United Airlines website explaining that there are different priorities of First Class service.  I didn't realize that I'd paid top dollar for a low priority First Class ticket.
United Airlines doesn't have a Vice President for Customer service.  Instead, they've got a Vice President for Customer Experience.  And he doesn't answer his mail.  He passes it on to underlings, who are as snotty and unhelpful as everyone else.
If you want a "customer experience" fly United Airlines.
As for me, one "customer experience" was enough to last a lifetime.  I will never fly United Airlines again.  If you're smart, you won't either.  Especially if you're traveling with a service dog!

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