The Running Commentary

United Airlines not the way to fly……


I have just returned from a trip to the United States. The trip to Las Vegas was to attend an XMPIE users conference.  I had the misfortune of having to fly with United Airlines for my legs internal (USA). Our flight from Washington Dulles to Las Vegas was uneventful, but I was worried about the plane which appeared to have done at least 50 years of flying.

My fear confirmed on the return leg a week later when the plane went technical on us (I don’t think it was the same plane!). We arrived at the airport and were advised that the flight to Washington would be delayed by 3 hours! We therefore would miss our flight to South Africa on South African Airways. United advised that they could route us through Heathrow. With no other options available we took this suggestion.

We then board our flight to Washington and after sitting on the plane for 45 minutes we are told that we need to all leave the plane. Apparently the work that had been done the previous evening would appear not to have been completed. There were now 3 issues that needed to be fixed before we could fly. We get into the airport again and pandemonium breaks out. Two count them Two customer service people to help 200 people who are all highly ticked off by the fact that they have missed or are going to miss further flights.

I eventually (20 minutes later) say to one of the customer service people that they need to speak to the captain of the plane to find out when the repairs will be effected. Until this point we have one of the two people stuck on the pa system saying “we apologise for the inconveniece and we appreciate your custom” She made this announcement no less than 5 times in 10 minutes. I think that this was to escape the rampaging crowd. 

She thinks that my suggestion is not a bad one – more so to run away from the maddening crowd than anything else I am sure. The captain returns, with Coke in hand, to say “hey folks the repairs were completed 20 minutes ago” I came close to smacking her!

Some poor sap had just been moved to a later flight and then had to be moved back!

Well we get on the plane and eventually get to Washington.

We catch the United Flight to Heathrow (now upgraded to premium economy!) Well when we got on board, premium economy equates to a couple of inches of extra leg room and zip else. Service is poor and the plane is probably older than me! By the way you want a beer, you need 6 dollars please! Shocking

We arrive in Heathrow and I go to United to change from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Well we cannot do this, you will need to check with SAA. SAA say hold on you need to speak to United. Fortunately the SAA guy was on the ball and eventually managed to get the United clerk to see the error of his ways. Finally onto a flight to Cape Town, but only after an 8 hour lay over. I did manage to finish a good book though.

In all United seemed very poorly prepared to deal with their issues and genuinely seemed unable to help us. It appeared you were only able to move in a defaulted pattern and nothing else would do. They are a Star Alliance partner but I must say that SAA certainly proved to be the best airline on this trip.

I did get an on-line voucher to redeem, pity I canno use it!

So you guessed I award United the dung ball for poor efficiency and shocking customer care.

Las VegasSAAStar AllianceUnited AirlinesXMPie

Mike • June 1, 2009

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