I have been reading threads about the awful experiences people have been having on United since 3/3. I traveled with them JFK-SYD on 3/4,in economy,and actually had no problems checking in at JFK. Both flights (JFK-SFO,SFO-SYD) were smooth,and on the SFO-SYD flight I actually had a very pleasant flight. Of course,the fact that the flight was practically empty and I had a row to myself helped. it also helped that I assisted with a (minor) medical issue during the flight (I'm an RN) and the FA's were appreciative,ad thanked me with a bottle of Chardonnay!
I was scheduled to fly home from Cairns on 3/18.This was originally going to be a LONG day. I flew from Cairns to Sydney via Qantas at 6am,arriving at 10:30,with about 4.5 hr layover at SYD before my SYD-SFO flight 870,followed by SFO-JFK. 29 hours from door to door-I was tired already!
I admit,I made a mistake. I had a call the night before from United,and deleted the message,assuming it was the usual 24 hour check in call. BIG mistake-BIG.
Upon landing at the domestic T-3 at SYD,there was a shuttle bus that transported intl passenger to T-1.In theory,this is a decnt setup,however,the shuttle bus goes on the tarmac and we literally had to follow some planes heading to the hangar,which made the ride much longer than it needed to be.
Once I arrived at T-1,I looked for the United ticket counters,and when I found them,I saw an empty line and an angry mob clustered to the side. Not paying attention,I approached the counter and was told that the United counter would open "at 11:20." So,with forty minutes to kill,and nowhere to go,since I needed a boarding pass to clear security, I went over to the mob. I should have thought that 11:20 was an unusual time to open the counter....
As I stood by the crowd,I chatted with a woman who had been on a LA bound flight that was canceled,and was standby on my flight. I looked up at the monitors,and saw it...
"United 870 San Francisco Canceled "
(Now I got the angry mob,and was regretting not listening to the message)
I immediately got in back of the angry mob-line,and dialed United,where I proceeded to wait for 45minutes,unanswered.I vented along with the crowd,as we all watched a cluster of UA employees huddled together until 11:30. Before this,the line opened up,and it was then the the mob was split in two-the LA bound canceled flight was in one,the San Francisco bound was sent over to the huddle.
I actaully made it to the front of that line-no,I didnt race or shove. It just seemed like others didn't realize that they were supposed to go over to the other line quite as quickly as some others and I did. We waited,and like i said, at 11:30(still on hold for United on the phone) one of the agents waved me over with a grimace on her face.
I knew that it was going to be a long,rough stretch for them,and I knew what my options were likely to be,so I remained calm as I approached. I didnt mind staying an extra day or two,as long as they provided hotel vouchers,or going on another airline. So I presented my documentation and asked what the plan was. She told me that I had been rebooked on the next days flight and started to give me a voucher for the Meriton Sydney Airport. I asked if I could split the room with the fellow stranded passenger I had been chatting with(who was on her second canceled flight,and supposedly refused hotel vouchers-I offered to share with her and she offered dinner. At Sydney food prices,it seemed like a good deal). The lady started to agree,but then tapped some more keys and said that I was going to be on a flight today with Qantas.
OK,this was still a decent trade-after all,it WAS Qantas. I checked to make sure that I would still be able to connect to JFK,and that my luggage(which I was told in Cairns that it had been checked all the way through to JFK) would make it as well. I actually had a claim recepit from my first Qantas flight that I was supposed to present to United regarding this,which i did. The poor woman sighed frustratedly,and proceeded to call another agent over to help her. Several minutes later,they were both fumbling with switching the ticket over to Qantas. I did find out during this time that the flight WAS on the A380,so I was actually pleased with that!
30 minutes from the time I stepped over to the counter,they called over a third person to help. I had been quiet,but was starting to get concerned.The third agent said that they were trying to get thos eout who needed to today and were giving others hotels for the flights out Monday/Tuesday,etc. I told her that if it was easier,I could take the original offer and fly out the next day(after all,I hadnt balked at this originally).She glared at me,and said,"What DO you want...we have the Qantas flight ALMOST BOOKED!" I said that was ok,was just trying to make it easier-also,the Qantas flight left at 2pm,it was past noon,and I still had to get to the Qantas counter AND through security.
About 10 minutes later,they had a faux boarding pass for me to take to Qantas. The first woman hurriedly showed me my connecting flight info in LA,and when i asked about my bags,she told me that "its been checked and will be on the Qantas flight." Since I was running low on time,I didnt ask much more and ran over to the Qantas counter.
Luckily,there was no line-unluckily,there were only middle seats left!!!! The agent told me to take a middle seat in a middle row,saying it was a better set up than a middle in a 3 seat row.I proceeded to fly through to security,where people didnt seem to know where to go.I found the gate,and had about 30 minutes prior to boarding,so I got some food and supplies for the long flight ahead.
(I'll post a separate review of the Qantas flight).
Side note:I ran into the former stranded passenger at the Qantas gate. For whatever reason,United refused to give her hotel vouchers and wouldn't reschedule her until Wednesday's flight,so she purchased the Qantas flight on her own.
Upon arriving at LAX,I received the first of two unpleasant surprises-my bag DIDNT make it,nor did several other rebooked 870 passengers.We were redirected to the baggage claim office,but I headed to the United terminal first to check in for my next flight,which was leaving at 4:30,according to the printout from the Sydney ticket counter.
And here came unpleasant surprise #2. I wasn't booked on the 4:30 flight that day-I was booked on the 8:30 AM flight THE NEXT DAY,landing at 4:30!!! Believe me,I was arguing at this point,after traveling for close to 24 hrs with only a few hrs broken sleep(no empty row this time
. I asked for a hotel voucher,but was told that I "should have noticed the discrepancy and straightened it out in Sydney before I boarded my outbound flight." The best that they did was give me a discount voucher where I could get discounted rooms at select hotels(I chose the Ramada Inn for $55).
Heading next to the baggage office,I met up with an agent who couldn't care less about my issue,and tried to pawn the problem onto Qantas,saying that the bag was THEIR responsibility. Several minutes later,she made some calls,and told me to check with the agents at JFK upon my arrival.
Exhausted and defeated, I headed for the hotel.
The next morning,I arrived early,had an unpleasant experience at security(see my airplane etiquette post). Prior to this,at the check in kiosk,it asked if I wanted to take a later flight for $250,which I considered,but the ticket agent told me not to do this,since it was "spring break,and I'll never get out." Sure enough my flight was crowded,and I had been stuck with another middle seat,which was still a middle seat,despite the PS flight. At least these flights had those comfy blankets...
This flight was late departing,due to soem electrical problems(announced by the pilot). he also announced that "the smoke you see coming out of the left engine is normal,and is needed to start the right engine." if I hadn't been so flippin exhausted,I might have been more concerned,but we took off,i slept the entire time,and we made it safely to JFK.
At the baggage claim here,the agent was way more polite,and wrte up a ticket on my lost bag,saying that it would probably be on that night's 870 flight,and would be delivered to me in Connecticut shortly after.
It is now Friday morning,and my bag has yet to arrive.I've called every day,and have been told each day that it was still in Sydney. On the third day,I was told that "no one put in a request for it to be sent." I'm guessing the international tag or the JFK sticker weren't any indication that I wanted it here??? Finally,yesterday I was told it arrived at JFK and it is now Fedex's responsibility to get it to me. At such time,I'm supposed to call United for a "goodwill gesture."
I did,however,receive an apology voucher(as did everyone on 870 in Sydney) that gave me the choice of a $100 e-ticket discount,20% e-ticket discount,or 5K miles. I took the $100.
So that's my complete United review...hope it was useful!!! I apologize for the length!!!