Bumpy Rides on United Airlines

by brian d foy

I finished my R&R leave two days ago and have finally made it back to the Middle East. At least I do not have to dread that anymore.


Not everyone on leave was so fortunate. The domestic airline, United Airlines, was code-sharing with a foreign carrier and somehow horked the reservations of a lot of soldiers. I was able to get my state National Guard headquarters involved to fix my problem since I had called up the airline the day before to verify my reservation. Soldiers who simply showed up at the airport ended up stranded at various places, and not just their point of origins, despite several empty seats on the flights.


We do not have to wait for that Terminator 3 moment when the machines take over, at least not for United Airlines, because they aleady let their machines rule them. Almost every customer service person blamed the computer in some fashion: insufficient access privileges, my record is locked, it is somebody else's system, unscheduled updates, and so on. When that failed, they just told me "We do not do that." The person checking in next to me at O'Hare, a German fellow I think, was having the same problem. They kept telling him that the computer said the opposite thing than his ticket. Snags are not so bad---stuff happens---but the ticket agent just kept saying "But the computer says..." without even listening to him.


My problem got fixed by force of will. The State just called the airline and said "Look, this is how it is going to be, I do not care what your computer says". That fixed that. The stranded soldiers do not have anyway to bring that force to bear when business hours are over, though. In my experience, United Airlines would rather believe its computers, and stick by that, than actually help the customer. I was actually surprised at how hostile some of the representatives were, especially considering since I normally just say "active duty in Iraq" and companies fall over themselves trying to help me.


When that is the way the business runs, someone needs to take the computer aside and give it a spanking. The computers should work for us, not us for them. Customer service people should not be simply data entry technicians, and gate agents are not just ticket tearers, that is, unless they let the computers be the boss.


I should not be surprised at that though. I have seen a lot of places where people work within the limits of the computer vendor they have locked themselves into, rather than using what actually works for them. It still boggles me, though.

Have airline computers horked your travel plans?


7 Comments

anonymous2
2003-12-08 05:24:00
It is indeed sad
I recently traveled domestically and, due to weather delays, missed my connecting flights coming and going. What should have been a 4-5 hour trip turned into 15 hours one way and 13 hours the other. I received the same runaround (from two airlines). What ticked me off the most was that not one person ever apologized. I didn't do anything wrong; the airlines had inconvenienced me and for that should have had the decency to say that they were sorry. Perhaps if they're concerned with liability they can find a way to phrase it that absolves them from litigation, but I don't see that as being the main concern. They just don't seem to care about their customers.
mylasticus
2003-12-08 14:13:24
Airlines don't control the weather
The airlines didn't inconvenience you, you wretched snivelling twit! Perhaps you know of industries that do control the weather but no one else does.
It is unreasonable to expect anything from the airlines other than them trying to reroute you as best they can with available flights. Now, if the plane is broken, that's different. They at least have a chance to control that.
But, hey, there is always this option: start your own airline. Give it a shot! Hey you're the unknown genius that can make everyone happy all the time. The hundreds of thousands of people doing the work now, they can't possibly be in anything but the most dire need of being directed by your sublime omniscience.
Or you could give reality a chance and let it into your life. You'll probably hate it at first because you won't be the center of the known universe, but after a while things get better.
Until such time as either event occurs, please, by all means, remain comfortably oblivious to the fact that you demonstrate admirably the truth that most people never let ignorance get in the way of voicing their opinion. And like the monkey you are descended from, go back to shrieking and flinging dung as a substitute for anything intelligent to say.
Respectfully yours,
One who wishes you a miserable middle seat between infants for the rest of your life.
anonymous2
2003-12-08 20:03:02
Airlines don't control the weather
Is it really too much to ask that you actually *read* brian's original post before foaming at the mouth? Go on, try it: you might then contemplate an apology for the irrelevant drivel above.


mylasticus
2003-12-08 23:22:11
Airlines don't control the weather
After having been contacted by Derrick about my post, I have to admit that what I had written wasn't understood to be regarding the previous poster who felt that the weather was something that should be apologized for by an airlines.
I haven't had much success with the reply before, which is why I posted it. I had thought that if Mr Foy's article, with which I have no contention with, never mentions weather, while at the same time the previous post does, it would be understood as regarding that.
In any case, I have to own that as being my own fault. My apologies to you for that, as well as to Mr. Foy.
For the drivel. No. From drivel it came, and to drivel it returns. I spent too much time in the airlines to have any sympathy for anyone incapable of understanding the weather is not something any airline can control, hence it is ridiculous to view one's self as being inconvenienced by the airlines. Rest assured those people in the airport have everything to be gained by getting said traveler on a plane and out of their hair. Were it in their power, they would do so.
For the record, though, I wholeheartedly regret any confusion that anyone may have had about my post. I emphatically did not intend it to be understood as directed towards Mr. Foy's article.
I chose to post and this seems to have been the source of this confusion. For this I take the blame and must acknowledge the replies that come my way as being something I earned.
anonymous2
2003-12-09 10:46:09
Airlines don't control the weather
This is why the message forum should put the last-posted replys at the bottom.
brian_d_foy
2003-12-09 19:57:23
It is indeed sad
I think someone just saying sorry and acknowledging that they are engaged in a human transaction would help things. Like I said, things happen and the airlines cannot control everything, but they can at least be human.
brian_d_foy
2003-12-09 20:00:07
Trackback Message
Bucky Fuller's comments are spot on. For some reason a lot of people accept the world on its terms and try to work around what exists without changing it.


I could drag out that old Shaw saw, but I won't, although I just got the text of Larry Wall's last State of the Onion, and he used it.