I shall not reprint the texts messages, emails and furious calls from my better half the past day. We departed from Moline, IL (MLI) on separate flights to Shanghai, me on Delta from a previously booked business trip, she on a United + ANA award.
I have been experimenting with United on a 1K challenge. Out of a small sample size I had been chalking up my string of irregular operations to bad luck, however how United handles these situations has been quite a shock. I always hesitated to test out United because everyone extolls MileagePlus and their Star Alliance partners but few voices have anything good to say about actually flying United.
My first impressions in about a dozen flights, a mix of international and domestic, business and economy, is that they are operationally disorganized and inefficient. The decrepit planes I can live with, I was a NWA flyer after all. Check-in is gruff. The boarding process is often a mess. Meal services can take ages with flight attendants following processes that seem to take twice the steps of other airlines.
Now I have had a string of mishaps and most dramatically (for me), my wife’s flight today from Chicago to Tokyo-Narita was delayed for mechanical and then crew time out. Initial estimates were 2 hours, bounced around, then eventually was 5 hours. Meanwhile I was on Delta winging it to Seoul.
What’s worse is that I had actually convinced my wife to move to that United flight from Asiana when availability opened up the day before because the timing and connections were better. She will not forgive me this one.
Delta is really good about immediately calling and emailing every contract method in my profile. Maybe I do not have the settings right, for instance I now see on the United phone app that the default is bizarrely set to NOT push notifications. The fifteen minutes we lost between the initial delay announcement and the time I checked email cost us the only earlier option out of Moline, IL (MLI) that could have got her on alternate flights. That and the 15 minutes on hold while I had to pull up options because the 1K agent could not see what I saw on the website.
And that is my big frustration with United. I am getting the 1K agents who should be good, but this is where United has disappointed me the most. Slow, slow, slow. Everything takes the traveler to be proactive. Everything takes prolonged holds. I have been disconnected far too many times on different occasions to be accident or phone connection.
Then, like this morning, after all that hold, the conclusion was the agent telling me that she could not change anything so we would have to go to the airport. Later the airport contractor put my wife’s Tokyo – Shanghai segment in economy by accident, we discovered it when she was in Chicago and the United Club said only the 1K line could fix it. Everyone seems to only be clear that whatever is needed must be done by someone else. Each step of the way we had to proactively book alternates until the flight was so delayed there was no flight left from Tokyo to Shanghai and finally the United system did something and put her on the first flight tomorrow morning.
I highlight again that my sample size of a few months is small, though I don’t like the pattern: Call. Disconnected. Call. Told nothing can be done. Point out what can be done. Told not authorized or someone else needs to do it. Disconnected again.
The one fast response in this was an email offering 15,000 miles, $350 voucher or 20% discount, the latter two good only on flights in the US, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and must have a credit card with US billing address. Offering US only restrictions to someone on a flight to Tokyo, for heaven’s sake.
My wife has opted out the United experiment. Should I?