It’s unfortunate that United really has hit rock-bottom with customer service and bad press. As a former United 1K, and someone who is Newark-based, I still seem partial to the airline for whatever reason it may be, despite my own frustrations with United employees I’ve had over the years. Maybe I feel that there’s a glimmer of hope that change is coming with the way they treat passengers, but after today, I’m not the slightest bit convinced.
Please allow me to vent from my seat on my flight from EWR to SFO now, as I just experienced an incident onboard that truly showed United’s terrible customer service at it’s finest.
Since the EWR to SFO flight is a premium service flight, with no complimentary upgrades given to elites, I booked a paid seat in economy and had a friend apply one of his Regional Premier Upgrade certificates to my reservation.
I didn’t clear before departure, but as I boarded the flight, my upgrade cleared into seat 2A. Absolutely thrilled, I walked to my new seat and was immediately told that I was not able to sit there. I asked why and was told that the passenger in seat 15L was a “paid” passenger, who was more important, and was upset that his light didn’t work in his seat. I responded politely and said that’s pretty unfortunate, but 2A is my seat now.
While I was waiting for the gate agents to figure it all out, I saw that 15L wasn’t actually a paid business class passenger, instead also upgraded just like I was. So in that case, we are both equally “paid”, which is besides the point anyway.
I waited patiently to sit in 2A and was rudely told that I needed to hurry back to economy and that I was never upgraded. Huh? My paper boarding pass was in the hands of the purser, and my mobile boarding pass clearly had my name and “2A” on it.
When I showed my mobile boarding pass (since I felt they were purposely holding my paper BP from me because that was “proof”), the agent didn’t know how to respond and quickly came up with,”well you were upgraded for free sweetie, this person paid, now go take your seat”.
As polite as I could be, I responded, “actually it seems that both of us upgraded using an RPU, and there are no ‘free’ upgrades on this flight. My seat right now is showing as 2A”.
I was then told to step off the flight while they tried to figure out how to cover up their faux pas. One gate agent was trying to explain “upgrades 101” to me at a kindergarten level while the others tried to figure out what to do with me.
Feeling rather annoyed at this point, I offered to take 15L, the seat with the broken light. The flight was already 30 minutes delayed over this, and I just wanted to get moving.
They told me that it was not an option, and the seat would be blocked off.
Traveling with just a backpack, I offered to be accommodating – I could take the next flight in 30 minutes, or really any other flight if they could confirm me in a seat within the next 5 hours. Still, it was not an option and I was told that I didn’t get back to my seat in economy, I wouldn’t be flying.
So here I am, sitting back in economy over an operations/customer service issue that all of the United employees I dealt with couldn’t take accountability for. Instead, I was talked down to like a 5-year old, belittled, lied to, and pretty much left with the fear of being offloaded if I didn’t comply.
At the end of the day, it’s not about the seat, and the purpose of this post is not to come off as “poor me, I’m in the back”.
As much as I’d rather be sitting in the front right now, this just further shows just how terrible United’s customer service has become. How much more can it go downhill? For whatever reason, the person with the broken light was so much more important that it required removing me from a seat, lying to my face, and communicating with me disrespectfully.
It’s really upsetting that United has truly hit rock-bottom with the way they treat passengers. On the plus side, the FAs in economy on this flight are really nice and pleasant.
For now, I think I need wine. Thanks for listening and happy travels.