Comically bad service: united airlines.

Good morning. It is 6:30 am. Did I mention it’s 6:30 am? Oh my god it’s 6:30 am.


So I’m flying on United Airlines on January 5. You may be aware that this is in the future. Quite a ways, in fact. So I signed up for “United flight alerts” or whatever so that they can call me if my flight gets delayed. I don’t usually, but I figure, well I guess I will want to know if my flight changes.

I get a phone call at 6:30 am. I go straight from deep sleep to high alert, because I am on call right now for work. There is a possibility that an automated system from some unknown phone number will call me and say “wake up, Dan, time to fix Google!” Aaah, the call is from an unknown phone number! And it’s a mechanized voice saying “fix Google”… oh wait, no it’s not. It’s United Airlines, saying there’s a schedule change to my upcoming flight. ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff– I didn’t mean to type those f’s, I am just so tired my finger fell on them and I couldn’t pick it back up.

united airlines what is it! i am not flying within 24 hours. it is not acceptable that you are calling me at 6 am when it is not urgent urgent urgent. aaargh
but I guess I’m awake, I might as well figure out when the flight is. I’m listening, automated system, when is it? “please call United at 1-800-…” what? you’re making me call you to find out when it is? aargh I will check online.
Online: what’s your frequent flyer # and password? here. No, wrong password, okay, there. On the itinerary: “there has been a schedule change. please call united.” Argh! You can’t just tell me here what it used to be and what it is now? gggggg

Okay I call United. I tried to zero out their system by saying “operator” in my I-am-tired voice. It tricked me! “Before we can connect you to an operator, we need to know what this is about. Is it about arrivals and departures, frequent flyer, …” it even got me playing that game for a while, before I realize “I’m still fighting with a menu even though I said “operator!”” So I groan again. Operator. Oh please.

A nice Indian lady answers, and I’m like “do not take this out on her do not take this out on her do not take this out on her” so I’m about to start a reasonable request but unfortunately the first thing out of my mouth is “It’s 6 AM where I live and this system has just woken me up” and so whatever, now she’s in for my whole sad story whether either of us wanted me to tell her. luckily it is a short story: “The system said call United to find out what my schedule change is.”
her: “first of all I want to apologize that this system has woken you up, it’s an automated system that just keeps calling people” etc
me: “okay, right, file a bug because this is unacceptable.” (did she think I’d just say “oh well, those rascally computers”?)
her: “let me look it up, what’s your confirmation number?”
her: “okay. while it’s loading, would you be interested in something something rental car?”
At this point I bust out laughing. Somehow I manage to sputter: “No! I am– I am– very mad right now! And you’re trying to sell me something–” “I’m sorry sir–” “No! No thanks. No rental cars. Oh my geez."*
her: “okay. your flight change is: " and she describes the change. My flight is getting moved back FOUR MINUTES. And so is the connecting flight! I cannot imagine who would care about this!
me: (laughs and tries to make up for being an angryman on the phone, because that’s a lame thing to do), “okay, sorry to take this out on you, goodbye, have a nice morning, or evening”
her: “okay, thanks. yeah, it’s evening.”

* the frustrating thing about interacting with people on scripts is that you have to be on a script too. I’m sure there’s something on her flowchart that says “you may only respond with apologies and restatements of the question. you may not move on with this conversation until the customer says specifically ‘yes I want a rental car’ or ‘no I do not want a rental car’.”

Anyway, everyone knows United Airlines is the Worst Company, unless maybe it’s US Airways, and yet we’ll probably keep flying them and cursing them because they own the airplanes. So it’s not even worth cursing them out here, or trying to convince you that they’re terrible, so, two points only:

There’s something poignant, or whatever the right word is, oh my god I’m tired, about this huge brutal system annoying me in Seattle and making her put up with annoyed people in India.
Did she really try to sell me a rental car?!

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