Old Jun 17, 14, 3:36 pm
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 1
Denied boarding because didn't have Visa for China, though only connecting there.

Letter Of Complaint to United Airlines
June 8, 2014 at 9:03pm

I, [pax. name deleted by Moderator], would like to file a grievance withUnited Airlines. On May 9, 2014 my father, youngest brother, my boyfriend and Iall arrived at Sky Harbor International airport to start our travel to the Philippines. My stepmother had already been there for a few weeks and waswaiting for our arrival. My brother, from Austin Texas, had left the previous day with his girlfriend and was arriving in Manila that same day. When we went to the ticket counter tocheck our bags the system was not processing our passports so a woman came overto assist us. After looking at our passports and itinerary for a brief second,she asked us where our visas were. We were all surprised and explained that wedidn’t have visas and didn’t know we needed them. Not one of our family members who had traveled needed one and our travel agent had told us we didn’t need one. (We were flying United from PHX to SF, and from SF we wereflying AIR CHINA to Beijing. From Beijing to Manila, Philippines. Once wereached Manila, the following morning we would fly to Cebu.)

The woman did not say anything, only ushered us to another line where we talked to another woman behind the counter. She asked for our passports, and proceeded to ask us for our visas as well. She stated, “You needa visa to go to China.” We explained the same thing… “We don’t have them. Our travel agent didn’t tell us we need them. We are traveling to the Philippines, we have a 3 hour layover in China.We aren’t staying in China it’s only a layover.” I asked, “Isn’t there anything we can do? Do you mean to tell us that our whole trip for our family is offright now?” She stated “Sorry it’s their law.” She stood there for several minutes just looking at us as we talked amongst ourselves trying to figure outwhat to do. I started trying to call Air China (the airline we were taking fromSan Francisco to Manila, Philippines. It was 5am and I could not get a hold ofanyone from the airline or the travel agent. The woman just stood there waitingfor us to figure out a plan without offering any assistance. The only thing she said was we could try and fly to San Francisco and see if they could re-routeus somehow through another country.

Of course, this sounded like a long shot to us consideringthat these kind of trips take months of planning and we could not guaranteethat it would even work out. Not to mention the connecting flights that wouldnot work out once we got to the Philippines. After some time of talking out ouroptions, trying to get a hold of our family in the Philippines and trying toget a hold of anyone from the air lines or travel agency to help us with noluck, we were hopeless and decided to go back home. Our trip was off.

When I arrived home it was 7am and our flight would haveleft at 7:45am. I started making phone calls. After 7am I was able to get ahold of a representative from Air China. She told me that we did not need avisa to fly to China. There was a grace period for travelers with layoverswhere there was no visa needed. I looked at the clock only to see that ourflight would be leaving to San Francisco in the next 15 minutes. It was alittle to late for that information.

I immediately called United Airlines and explained what had happened. The representative I talked to argued with me saying that I did infact need a visa. After arguing, he said, “Give me a minute let me check onthat.” He came back after several minutes and said, “My apologies and so sorryfor your inconvenience, it is true that you do not need a visa if you arestaying in the airport for less than 24 hours.” We calmly told him that becauseof their mistake we had now missed our flight and needed them to make it right,by getting us to the Philippines by the next day or refunding us all of ourmoney. He put us on hold for a while and returned stating. “Don’t worry, wehave the exact same itinerary for you tomorrow. All you have to do is call AirChina and make sure it is set up on their end and everything went through.”

We were so grateful even though this totally messed up our travelarrangements, connecting flights etc. We were just happy to be going. However,as soon as we called Air China, they told us that there was only one spot available on their flight. Again we were devastated.
So again, we called United Airlines to talk with yet another person, tell the same story, and wait for them to put us on hold while theyfigured out a solution for us. After 5 hours total of being on the phone that morning, it ended with the United Airlines rep, telling us to file a complaint with Air China because they owned the tickets and that they would do an investigation and decide if we would get a refund or to go to the ticketing counter at the Airport to work it out. They would not help us any further.

Devastated, I made the call to the travel agent to try and cancel our flights so that hopefully we could at least get some of our money back. She helped us, but we paid $300 dollars each in cancelation fees. We also had tickets from Manila to Cebu and back for 4 people that were all non-refundable.We lost over $600 for those flights along with hotel accommodations for 4 people for 10 nights in the Philippines that we lost because of this error that United Airlines refuses to make right.

At the end of the story, our family trip, a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us, was ruined. All of us had to pull major strings to work out a time where all of us could go together. We traveled from differentparts of the country on different dates only to find out that 4 of us would notbe meeting them there. We took time off of work and lost money and vacationdays. I will never get that experience back. Hopefully one day I will be ableto return and meet my family over there for the first time, but for now, I want this wrong to be made right.

I have never sued anyone, written a letter of complaint or spread the word to never go to a certain business, but I will do my best to tell any person I ever come across who is planning to travel, to never, everfly United Airlines.

[Name deleted by Moderator]

Last edited by Ocn Vw 1K; Jun 17, 14 at 4:53 pm Reason: Minor style changes for readability and per FT Rules.
ginanellis is offline