Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dear United Airlines

Dear United Airlines,
I’m not one to complain and I appreciate that merging with Continental is a tad bit confusing – I got sent away from the United check-in desk for my United flight from Raleigh to Houston and had to check in at Continental and then get on a United plane! Not confusing at all. A very smooth merger! One big team!
I don’t want to take sides but the Continental staff were very helpful. They fell for the ‘I don’t know how to self check-in, I’ve never done it before’ and did all that tedious crap for me which was good because my outward bound seat allocation had  not seated me with my children who are 9 and 6. Whilst this may have given me a peaceful flight, staff at check-in shared my concern that my children really did need to be sat with me on the flight for the peace and wellbeing of other passengers and for their own best interests. They relocated our seats without hesitation. The flight was full so changing seats was not without consequences for them to resolve at the gate with all those awkward miserable business travelers (I can’t call them twats because that is apparently very offensive in America! – Actually I think it might be offensive everywhere – just less used in the US)  who expect to sit alone. It could have been worse. They could have had my son sat next to them!
The return journey wasn’t so good. I’m really not one to complain and I appreciate that in today’s climate of political correctness you have to have old, fat, ugly trolley dollies, I do! But do you have to have so many and do they have to be that mean?

What’s the difference between a United air-stewardess and a rottweiler? Lipstick!

At check in, Bulldog #1 didn’t buy my ‘I’ve never used the self service check-in before, can you do it for me?’ and made me do it myself. The trouble with self check in is that lone travelers do not consider that passengers may want to sit together and take up single seats in the hope that they will be sitting alone. What they don’t particularly want is to find them selves sat with an unaccompanied 6 year old but that’s what they end up with by taking one seat up in every row. Passengers are not necessarily the best people to decide where best to sit.
I wasn’t anxious about the seating as it had been so efficiently sorted by continental staff – and you’re the same company aren’t you?  I was wrong.
Reality check #1:
At check in I was told by Very Fat bulldog #1 that I would have to ask for my seats to be reallocated at the gate.
Reality check #2:
At the gate I was told by Very Ugly Bulldog #2 that I would have to wait until I got on the plane. As all the platinum frequent flyer arses get on first, I was concerned that it would be too late once passengers were seated. I asked was there anything she could do to help me.  She said she could page the staff on board and ask them in advance but she was too busy… she didn’t seem that busy.  She seemed to be having a laugh and a chat with two other staff employed to tick the ‘politically correct’ employer box.
Reality check #3:
I pointed out that safety was the number one priority for airlines and that my 6 year old son’s safety would be compromised in the event of an emergency as I couldn’t expect a stranger to help him. She said at 6 his age was not a concern. I think she needed a reality check! I do not consider my son, at the age of 6, responsible. There was something more worrying than his safety in the event of an emergency. My real concern was that he would cause an emergency! He is a lively 6 year old! I pointed out that I could not be responsible for him if I was not sat next to him. She turned her back, walked through the gate and closed the door (I may have been ranting at this point) Still – she had told me they would sort it on the plane!
Reality check #4
Upon boarding Very Old Bulldog #3 told me to sit and they would sort it when everyone has boarded. Yeah, cos everyone is happy to move seats at that point! Boarded, belted and ready for take-off… That’s when she remembered to check (well – she was very old)!  She declared ‘oh good, you’re all sorted’. We were ‘all sorted’ and sat together because of the good sense (rather than an act of kindness I think) of the other passengers. They took one look at my son, unaccompanied, and next to them and immediately swapped seats until he was nowhere near them!

Maybe I was wrong earlier. Maybe passengers are the best people to decide where to sit.

So – United/Continental, I don’t know what your policy is on minors and where they sit but that isn’t really the issue.  The relevant point here is that you were mean to a passenger (me), anxious to sit next to her young son- for good reason! Next time I will not complain (because I’m not one to complain!). Next time I will let him sit where he is allocated and I will sit back and enjoy the experience. Next time I fly – it won’t be a 3 hour flight; it will be a 9+ hour flight. I’ve a feeling that my son, sat a distance from me,  is the best way to give the United staff a reality check on their customer service!


  1. They would soon change their minds. It should have never happened in the first place.

  2. well. UA agents didn't have the initiative to use their personal judgement on every situation necessary to secure the comfort and security of their passengers. On the other hand they might have their company policy which limits them to do such action.I guess if you tried to say you'll be paying United if they will assist you, in just a second you'll see your children seating beside you=)