Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dear United Airlines...You Suck

You've heard of the play, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change?" United Airlines version is "I Don't Like You, You're Less Than Perfect, You're Awful, You Have to Change." My open letter and trail of frustration to Ms. Linda Jojo. Linda is the current and third CIO of United Airlines since their merger with Continental in 2010. I'm sorry to have departed (poor choice of words) my running blog for an airline story, but many of my run adventures require flying the friendly skies. Who can forget my camel ride in Cairo or running (like an idiot) in front of the Kremlin.
United "pushes" their priority boarding card...everywhere...

Let's start with I'm a million mile flyer (approaching 1.4 million miles) with United Airlines. I don't want a medal, but I got a nice paper certificate that went into a folder. I have been flying for work since 1985. I "dated around" with other airlines, but towards the end of the 80's (back when I had "big hair") I began my loyalty and "love-hate" relationship with United. I have lifetime "gold" with United, but 600,000 miles away from lifetime platinum. I hope to be retired before I hit that ugly number (2 million miles.) By comparison, I was an early loyalist to Hilton hotels, but switched halfway through my travel career to Marriott. I am already lifetime "Platinum" on Marriott which has incredible perks. Lifetime gold on United? Not so much.

But that's not my biggest beef (nearly unattainable lifetime status worth anything on United.) Bear with me...I'll get there. Prior to 2016, I was a back-to-back 1K member on United. With my accident
A typical Boarding Group 2 line
in 2014, injuries and surgeries in 2015, I dropped to "gold" status on United. While it may seem by name that it still has its privileges, it does not. At least for me, the biggest "perk" on United is pre-boarding. Why? I don't check bags as I want to get in and out of the airport as fast as possible. United has seen more of me over the years than my own family has. I'm not asking for sympathy on that front, but that's why getting my bag in an overhead bin could mean getting home for dinner with my wife or hearing about the school day that evening. It's a big deal.
Trying to tell United their feedback site just doesn't work.

That brings me back to my not-so-great gold status. United in their infinite wisdom has a credit card promotion--you've seen the ads on t.v. With a United credit card, you get priority boarding. For United, that means boarding group #2. If you've flown recently, that line is longer than the free Justin Bieber concert ticket line at your local jr. high school. So essentially someone who has never flown a single mile on United can get the same status overnight as I do. Cats (yes, the domestic feline versions) have been offered credit cards unknowingly by credit card companies--in other words, any idiot can get a credit card and rub elbows with million mile flyers. You too can do that without the loss of hearing I have from thirty years of flying, countless missed plays, first words, and dinners. Each time I've boarded this year, it's bothered me that it didn't somehow feel fair so I took my grievances and suggestions to my twitter account.

I "bitch" to United over the twittersphere. They have (I'm assuming) a platoon of people that reply to such tweets. They replied right away. Timely and polite I might add. I had some ideas about how they might change the boarding, rewards, and priorities. United politely pointed me to a feedback site which "flat out" does not work. Yes, I've tried different browsers, and different machines. It has that handy "reCAPTCHA" button to avoid spammers. Their version prompts you to identify which photos show food, flowers, or bridges. I've tried a dozen times.

One of my attempts to try and communicate to the "Black Hole".
I follow up with tweets.
They send me to another website to input to customer service.
I then get another boilerplate email saying they've notified IT of the issue.
Three weeks later, I try the original feedback site again. I pick the pictures that have flowers, and once again, I get errors saying "this field is required" for fields I've filled out.

At this point, I don't know what to do as I'm sitting in my crappy middle seat in the back of the plane with my bag that couldn't get in the overhead bin so they checked it...on the day of my wife's 40th birthday. Yes, the dinner will be cold if and when I get home.

My idea or input was rather simple. Perhaps have a simple criteria that awards a different (higher) status for a million mile flyer that "hit" at least gold miles the previous year (which is still a lot of miles.) Simple enough feedback, but I am unable (Linda--I'm now talking to you) to merely input the idea to any of their systems.

The more I write, the angrier I get. At least Marriott "gets me" and rewards me. Perhaps Linda would too if I could ever figure out how to get ahold of her.

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine