I wish I could always take the same airline(s) for my travels, but unfortunately, due to business constraints there are times when I’m forced to use a specific one.
If you read my blog, you’ve seen me post articles about the challenges of United WiFi. (United Airlines WiFi – Still 50% bad)
This time I was on a business trip, one night, up and back to Newark. Short two-hour flight where I was actually able to upgrade my seats to Exit Row for $100 or so. I had a carry-on bag and a laptop bag with me.
Flight to Newark
This leg was reasonably uneventful except that despite paying for better seating (Business Class/Exit Row), I was assigned to Group 5. That’s the last group to board. The reason for this? United wants you to purchase their early board package for $50+. So despite paying the premium for better seats, now there’s a premium for boarding early. It used to be that simply having the United Chase Credit Card (which I own) and its $100 annual fee, you were able to board in Group 2. Now, you have to actually pay for the flight on that card before you are moved to the better boarding group. Great. My corporate travel policy prohibits me from paying for flights on my personal card. So forever on United, I’m stuck in Group 5.
Anyway, surprisingly, after boarding in the last group, I found storage for my roll-away carry on. Once on board, the only other challenge was getting on WiFi (as usual). Well after we were at cruising altitude (10,000 ft.) where you can usually jump on WiFI right away, it took another 10 minutes before access was granted. Further, the sign on process asks you to sign in with your United credentials or log in as guest. I tried using my credentials – that didn’t work so I signed on as guest, which ultimately gave me WiFi access. The speed was okay though it hung up a number of times as we progressed toward Newark.
The flight attendants were efficient, friendly and professional.
Terror on the flight back to Orlando (UA434 – March 11, 2017)
Same complaints about boarding in Group 5.
Once on board, I walked to my Exit Row seat and said hello to the short, young female flight attendant. Her response, nothing. A blank, irritated stare. So I took my seat and settled in.
Being in the Exit Row meant that I was to be asked by the flight attendant whether I understood the responsibility of being in this section. This same flight attendant asked the row in front of me (I was in the second row exit row) and one poor guy happened to have headphones in and staring out the window. He didn’t hear her. She said even more loudly and in a borderline snarl “sir? could you please get your headphones out so that you can hear me??” He heard and politely said “yes”. She muttered something about “people not caring about their own safety.”
She turned to my row, same unhappy face, and asked us. We all politely said yes and she walked away. We all glanced at each other with the “what’s her problem?” look.
As the plane boarded, she stood in the empty exit row across from me. The last few people boarded and I said to her “is the cabin door closed because I might sneak over to the empty row?” She did not make eye contact with me and said “clearly it’s not closed, sir”.
The aforementioned empty Exit Row filled, the cabin door closed and we took off.
When drinks were being delivered to the cabin, this same flight attendant and her assistant (a young man) asked me what I wanted. I said “Coke Zero” and he poured the drink for me. As he handed it to me, the bottom of the cup hit the serving cart and he sloshed the entire drink on my laptop, and it splashed up onto the back of the guy flying with me in the seat in front of me. He said “I’m sorry” and handed me napkins. I immediately forced-powered the device off. This also soaked my pants. They brought me a cloth napkin and offered water to rinse off my pants.
After letting the Coke Zero drip out of my laptop and wiping down the face, I powered it back on and thankfully it worked. My traveling companion mentioned to the female flight attendant that his back was soaked and she actually said “no sir, I don’t think it splashed on you”. When she left, he stood up and showed me that his back was soaked.
The young male flight attendant brought me a “We’re sorry for the inconvenience” card and a warm cookie. The cookie was nice.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, except that as we exited, this same snarky flight attendant was at the front of the plane and just stared at the floor.
Filing the Inconvenience Form
Now, two days later I’m on the United sight at In Flight Response Link and entered the details which included my name, flight date, contact information, description of the problem and a way to upload an image of the damage.
I entered all the information but when I selected “Confirmation Number” as the identifier, I received an error message. It was the correct confirmation number. So then I selected “United Miles Number”, put in my number and again “error”. I didn’t have my ticket number so couldn’t enter that. I scratched my head and decided to consult my Apple Wallet boarding pass to look for ticket #. I didn’t find that, but I did find that the flight date was actually shown as the date before (3/10/17) instead of the actual flight date (3/11/17).
I corrected that and this seemed to work. The site then took me to a login page where I logged in with my United Miles credentials.
Then I was taken to a screen to confirm my information and load an image of the damage. I took a picture of my Mac Air, which I had already cleaned and wiped down when I got home. I uploaded it and pressed “submit”…. nothing. No error message, no progress bar on my browser, nothing.
I hit the “refresh” button on my browser and… I was taken back to the first screen! Great.
I re-entered all my information. Same thing. Could not get past the final confirmation screen. I clicked the “back” link on the page (not the browser button) and… it took me back, correctly. I proceeded through the process and was stuck again at the end.
Attempt 3 – Success?
I clicked their back link again and this time selected “no damage”. I entered the exact same description but it did not ask me for an image upload.
I hit submit and it took the submission. So apparently the image load is the problem, but now they don’t have an image of my Mac Air, though the potential damage is now internal and not obvious from a picture of the outside.
Is this an attempt to force me to select “no damage”? That would be an interesting tactic.
I’m not sure why I have these issues with United. Last flight was American Airlines. No problems, friendly staff, solid WiFi, early boarding for upgrading seats. Before that, Southwest – also very friendly staff, no problems.
It’s no wonder that in May of 2016, a J.D. Powers study found United last in customer service. (JD Power: United Airlines Last in Customer Satisfaction)
As I’ve noted previously, United used to be my “go-to” airline back before they merged with Continental. I’m hoping someday that there is a return to this same level of quality. I don’t fly United very often, but the fact that each time I fly I encounter problems further reinforces the J.D. Power survey.