May 18, 2013

I'm done with United

I used to love flying. It was magical, an occasion. Now, thanks to obnoxious security measures and increasingly incompetent staff of certain airlines it's a chore. Vacations no longer start at the airport, they start at the destination and end in the cab to the airport before departing home.

As a kid we always flew Star Alliance, they were/are the easiest way to get to Canada and back. The Air Canada / Lufthansa hubs in Frankfurt, Munich, and Toronto had the shortest flights and best connections. Star Alliance carried over into my adult life where I simply book Air Canada to get back to Germany, and around the world.

Sadly, using Star Alliance means I have to use United when I fly to the US, which always ends up with me being frustrated, today pissed. UA, consistently, is the airline that loses my luggage, overbooks flights and bumps me to standby, and sets the bar for airline staff incompetence and rudeness.

I'm prepared to avoid the entire Star Alliance if it means I don't have to fly a connection operated by UA (or its connection partners). I'm prepared to fly a UA code share if the flight is actually operated by Air Canada or Lufthansa.

After an awesome vacation and conference in San Francisco I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare to get checked in, through security, and hang out at the gate. I got to the check in counter and checked in - already frustrated I had to pay $25 USD to check one back. When a staff member came around to tag my bag I was asked if there was anything fragile in it. I answered there were two bottles of wine, so I'd appreciate a fragile sticker. I've flown with bottles or cans in my checked bag for years and have never had a problem. I was told that due to a new policy I can no longer transport bottles in my suit case (and thanks to the TSA I can no longer take them as carry on), and would have to go back to the main entrance to get the bottles properly packed - for a fee - return here and check them - for a fee.

Off I go back to the main entrance to find an airport-owned store, the "Airport Travel Agency", buy a $26 box, pack my wine, get the box taped and shrink wrapped, and head back to the UA counters to check it.

I got to the front of the line and asked an agent what to do to check a second bag into an existing check in. In response all I got was "Move it along, go to the machines, they're open. Keep the line moving, folks." And no response. As always when I'm frustrated I swore under my breath "Thanks for fucking listening." - not my best trait.

Oh goodie, that got the attention of the agent! A loud conversation at the front of the line started telling me to just use the machine, with my questions going unanswered - I have no idea how to use UAs check in machines to check an additional bag to my existing check in. Granted, I could've just tried, but good customer service, to me, is having my question answered rather than being ushered through a line to a machine like cattle.

I don't care if the agent has answered the same question a thousand times that day, as the face of UA it's an agent's responsibility to make me feel welcomed.

I finally got all my items checked - oh, the second bag costs $35 to check - and am now fuming at myself why I (by flying Star Alliance code shares, or having work book my flights) continually enable UA to receive money and business they simply don't deserve for their quality of service.

I'm hoping to use Delta for more US destinations, WestJet as a backup. Anything to avoid UA operated flights.

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