Dear United Airlines,
I wrote you two emails about how much I hate you, and specifically your baggage handlers, but now I want the world to know (or the ten people who still check this blog) why.
When I packed for my fabulous trip to Europe (yes, it was fabulous…minus the part where I left my passport in a taxi on the way to the airport to fly from Berlin to Paris), I was sure to pack a change of clothes in my carry-on. This is something my mom taught me and on my last trip to Europe it proved helpful since my bags got left behind during a transfer. So, when I arrived in London and my bags didn’t, I wasn’t angry, just slightly frustrated. I mean, my flight from SLC to ORD was an hour late (oh, by the way, this hour delay was due to your baggage handlers in Salt Lake City taking their sweet time to load our baggage onto the plane…not weather or anything else…I actually sat on the plane at the gate for an entire hour) and I was lucky to make it, so I wasn’t really expecting my bag to have made it on the plane. I reported the bag as “delayed” (isn’t that a nice PC term for it) and was told that it would be on the next flight out (later that same day) and arrive the next morning.
Well, the morning came and went…and the evening…and I finally tried calling the number I had, only to find out the local desk closes at…wait for it…3:45 pm. Who the crap closes at 3:45 pm at an airport? So, I then proceeded to call the 800 number (a number which is not toll free from the UK). I went through all of the ridiculous automated crap I had to go through in order to talk to a human and was told I was being transferred only to have my call dropped. This happened FOUR times. Finally, I found a different number for United and called that, got a hold of a live person who then gave me a direct number. At that point (six phone calls later) I finally talked to someone who could give me any kind of information. This is now 36 hours later and my bags? Still in freaking Chicago!
This is when I started to lose it. At this point, I was leaving London in less than 24-hours, I had had to wash some clothes out in the hotel sink and hang them dry (shampoo has so many uses) and I was pissed off. I was assured that my bags would be at the hotel before I had to leave for the airport (5 pm the next day). I didn’t have much faith in you, but there wasn’t anything I could do at that point so I tried to just enjoy the rest of my time in London…wearing the same freaking hoodie I’d been wearing for three days.
When we got back to the hotel the next day to pick up our bags and head to airport, my bag was finally there. Finally! And it had only cost me $115 in international phone calls to find out what was going on and force someone to do something about my bag.
The rest of my trip included three flights on other airlines and not one of them managed to misplace my bag. Amazing, right?
After 12 glorious days in Europe, I was heading home on Friday. I packed my now two bags (I always pack a duffel bag so that I have plenty of room for the return when my luggage is full of gifts for my darling nieces and nephews) and headed to the airport. I was a little concerned about my connection in Chicago because it was only an hour and 20 minutes and I knew I was going to have to pick up my bags, clear customs, and recheck them. I was delighted to hear from our pilot that we would be arriving an hour ahead of schedule. There were no weather issues in Chicago. We arrived an hour early. I got my bags, cleared customs, rechecked them, and went to wait for my final flight home.
The flight from Chicago to Salt Lake was 30-minutes late. I knew that the baggage handlers were going to have to flip baggage quickly, but I assumed that my bags (having been checked over two hours before the flight) would be with everyone else’s and make it onto the plane. I was wrong.
I arrived in Salt Lake only to discover my bags were still in Chicago. Yeah, seriously. I filed yet another report and was told they were checked in for the earliest flight the next morning, would arrive in Salt Lake by midday and to my home by late afternoon. So, when 5:00 came and went I decided to check your crappy website (did I mention this website was not at all helpful when I was in London either?). No information to be had. Shocking.
I called the baggage help line, went through the whole process of talking to a machine again until I was finally transferred to a real person. Now, I’m not racist or culturally insensitive. I love to travel. I love languages. I love other cultures. However, you might want to consider hiring people who speak understandable English when they are answering phone calls from what are guaranteed to be frustrated and possibly angry customers. Yeah, the accent was not helping me in the slightest. Basically this person said that my bags were still in Salt Lake and she would call someone (I couldn’t understand whom) to find out what was going on and get the website updated…which finally happened at about midnight last night. This is also when I sent you my first angry email (an email in which I tried to be as understanding as possible, and in which I did not swear once).
My bags were listed for delivery between 12:30 and 4:30 am with a statement about the delivery service calling to schedule a convenient time. Yeah, well, said delivery service didn’t call until 4:40 am, at which point the guy was at the gate on my street unable to get in. Are you kidding me? 4:30 am. I am a person, not a freaking hotel. I have jet lag and I’m angry. But, whatever. So I walk to the front door and waited for the bags to be dropped off. No, I didn’t open it. I didn’t want to talk to this guy. I just wanted to get them once they were there. Well, get them I didn’t because there was only ONE FREAKING BAG! I quickly called the delivery guy back and he said, “Yeah, there was only one bag. I imagine when they find the other one, they’ll get that delivered.” When they find the other one??? What the…?
So another phone call to United (this one irate) after checking the website and seeing that, yes, both bags were still listed as being delivered between 12:30 am and 4:30 am. I finally talk to someone (another person I can barely understand) and am told that he will check it out and be sure the website gets updated. Time for another email. In this one, I was less than understanding.
I couldn’t get back to sleep. I’m exhausted and totally jet-lagged. It’s not 11:17 am and, guess what, still no update on the website. Another phone call and, oh, my bag appears to be in Salt Lake, because it’s no longer listed as being Chicago (that’s some interesting logic) but the barely intelligible person can’t be sure (really, is it that hard to hire people who are understandable over the phone? I mean, they can still be non-native speakers, but an accent that isn’t so strong to be unintelligible would be nice) and then tells me that “sometimes the bag tags don’t get scanned properly or can get ripped off accidentally”. Great, just what I wanted to hear.
So he said he’d have someone go around and look for my bag in Salt Lake and update the website. No one can call me back (which I’ve asked for multiple times), but I can keep checking the website.
I am beyond pissed off now…yeah, when the guy thanked me for my “patience”, I cut him off and said, “really, there’s no need to thank me for my patience because I have lost all of it with your airline.” I then apologized and told him I realized it wasn’t his fault but that I pretty much never wanted to fly United again. At this point (four phone calls later on this end of my trip) he asked me if I wanted the phone number for complaints. Um, hell yes!
So, once I’ve calmed down a little I’m going to call and tell you just how frustrated I am. Basically, I want to be reimbursed for all of my phone calls (fat chance, you guys don’t even give money to people anymore to purchase a few essentials when you leave their baggage behind) and if I am every going to fly on your effing airline again, it will only be because you also gave me a round-trip ticket voucher.
Here are my parting thoughts. Your baggage handling process sucks. I mean, first you can’t get my freaking bags on the plane even though you have plenty of time, then you can’t get both my bags on the same plane forcing you guys to pay for two deliveries to my house which is an hour away from the Salt Lake airport. It’s no wonder with such a process that you guys have had to operate under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Also, what about empowering your freaking employees to call someone back? Or managing expectations? Or having a website that actually provides information? Oh, and your economy class has the worst leg room of any airline I have ever flown and it’s ridiculous to make people pay an additional amount for economy plus just for five more inches.
Basically, I seriously hope that I never have to fly United again. Not only that, but if I’m ever in a position of power at a corporation (which I fully plan on being) United will never be our airline of choice. While we’re at it, I’d like to also mention that with my three fly back interviews in the fall, not one of these Fortune 100 companies flew me out on United. Not one. Delta was their airline of choice (as it is mine when Southwest doesn’t make sense…yes, I would choose Southwest over you!).
So, hopefully I’ll get my bag today sometime (considering I start school tomorrow and three of my four pairs of jeans that fit me right now are in that bag along with my two most favorite pairs of boots and a hair product I really need) and then I’ll never have to deal with you people again! EVER!
With more frustration and anger than most people even think me capable,