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Mr Pillows Gets the Boot

Mr Pillows Gets the Boot

Old Jul 25, 07, 10:14 pm
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Smile Mr Pillows Gets the Boot

It certainly looks like Kiwiflyer is going to be very busy with his hosting duties for a while, as numerous FTers descend upon AKL, courtesy of the full C fare on UA described here. I had landed in AKL on June 29 and planned to fly to SYD on the 4th of July and, as luck would have it, several other FTers planned to be in town on my last night in Auckland. So we agreed to hook up for dinner at Kermedec on the evening on the 3rd. And I was happy to learn that Mr Pillows himself would be in attendance and we were both staying at the Hilton. He was planning to fly back to the states on the 4th.

We had been at the restaurant for about an hour or so, chewing the fat while chewing our food, when Mr Pillows received an Easy Update message on his cell phone. We all knew intuitively that this could not be good news. It certainly would not be a seat upgrade message given that Mr Pillows had already staked out his favorite seat in row one. Perhaps the flight would not have sufficient pillows and milk? However, it was a flight cancellation message. UA had been cancelling flights from SYD back to the left coast quite frequently of late and it looks like they had done so again. Tomorrow’s SYD to LAX flight had been cancelled and, unless UA had protected him the SFO flight, it looked like Mr Pillows was getting the boot.

The paramount question, at this juncture, was whether UA had already made alternative arrangements for Mr Pillows? As a high mileage and high revenue global services customer, if UA did not look after a flyer like him, then who would they look after? Besides, isn’t this part of UA’s commitment to their stable of UGS flyers?

The most difficult and disturbing issue at this point was simply not knowing the outcome for sure. Perhaps UA had protected him on the flight from SYD to SFO? But if they had not already done so, his options would be dwindling fast as seats began to fill up with the derrieres of other disserviced passengers. And fighting for space amongst a dwindling supply of seats is never fun. Despite trying many different ways to contact the global services toll free number in the states, he was unable to do so with his cell phone. A non-toll free number would have worked but he could not recall the number. Connex2me had recently moved to Auckland from Europe and handed over his cell phone to Mr Pillows, suggesting he use it to try reaching UA’s local reservations number. But he added a very important admonition, that he must get through to UA by 9:00 PM, after which the office will be closed. Or do they turn into pumpkins? I don’t recall which. But, despite attempting to get through for over an hour, a reservations agent never responded. He had successfully made it into the queue, entertained with the sounds of Gershwin, but the experience was far from a rhapsody. No one ever did pick up the phone.

As the UA commercial intones, “Where you go in life is up to you, there’s one airline that can take you there … United.” Perhaps UA should also include the addendum, “But don’t try getting back home.”

After dinner, we all trundled over to a nearby pub and ordered a round of drinks, still on hold in the UA queue all the while. Eventually, 9:00 PM rolled around and that was that. His beer glass was empty and so was UA’s commitment to proactively care for one of its most valuable and important customers. It was quite clear to all of us at that point that UA was never going to pick up the phone but they still seemed quite happy to keep Mr Pillows waiting in a queue indefinitely, a queue to a call center that clearly wasn’t staffed at all.

At this point, it seemed that the only viable solution was to contact someone in the states and ask them to call the global services number on his behalf. However, AKL is 19 hours ahead of the left coast and 16 hours ahead of the right coast. It was now well after 10:00 PM so he would most assuredly wake up anyone who he called. One would imagine that they would need to be very good friends to be called at that hour.

With the drink glasses empty, we decided to beat a hasty retreat and reorganize outside the pub. Besides, a singer crooning with a very high noise to signal ratio was making things very difficult to think clearly. And all the ethanol in the pub would not have helped at lessening the impact. Once in quieter surroundings outside the pub, we discussed our options briefly at the threshold to the Princess Wharf and then decided to head back to the Hilton and continue our efforts to reach global services from there.

After we entered the Hilton lobby, Mr Pillows made a bee line for the business center, where he would be able to log into ual.com and pull up his itinerary. However, when he did so, it seemed quite clear that UA global services had done nothing to look after his needs and make alternative arrangements.

On the other hand, I suppose it was possible that ual.bomb was simply wrong. For example, when I showed up in SYD for my return trip to LAX on July 10, UAL.bomb was listing my flight as delayed and the flight to SFO as on time. In fact, it was the other way around! How can they be so wrong? How can they be so frequently wrong? Incidentally, it turns out that UAL.bomb’s questionable reputation is quite well known amongst other carriers as well. When I tried opening Ual.com from a computer in Air New Zealand’s lounge at SYD, it refused to load the page, stating that www.united.com is “inappropriate for you to access.” I felt all warm and fuzzy knowing that NZ was looking after my welfare in this manner.

It was now nearly 11:00 PM and we decided to martial our resources and relocate to my suite at the bow of Hilton and make that the base of our operations. Mr Pillows quickly set up his command post and settled in to do battle with powers that be at UA. All of his minions gathered around to observe the man in action. And those were the circumstances for the charter meeting of the Professional UGS Kombat Enterprise (PUKE). And if things did not quite work out the way we had all hoped, we had even acquired our own boat, located in the harbor just around the corner from the Hilton.

Shortly after settling into the captain’s chair, Mr Pillows sent an email to a friend in Hawaii, hoping that he was still awake. He asked his friend to contact the global services desk on his behalf and, a short while later, a return call was received from a global services agent in Detroit. Unfortunately, that did not exactly improve things. The unsatisfying discussion was already well under way when I realized that I should be recording the interaction for posterity.

He was able to confirm that UA had not protected his upcoming travel in any way but he had profound difficulty convincing the global services agent that it would not be acceptable for him to fly out a day later. Could the global services team not grasp the fact that a high revenue flyer might have important business meetings that required his attendance?

Nor did it seem particularly clear that the global services desk fully grasped the fact that he was already at his destination and was looking to get home. Perhaps a map would have helped the global services agent appreciate the location of Australia and New Zealand down under.

The global services agent at first insisted that there was no way he would be able to get home as scheduled. Mr Pillows explained that he had important business obligations that day, not to mention other unrelated UA flights that were already scheduled. After much coaxing, she ultimately backed off a bit and asked him if he could fly Qantas in business, which he explicitly and unequivocally refused.

The global services agent placed him on hold and there we all waited in limbo for 11 minutes without so much of a status update from the agent. Ultimately, Mr Pillows opted to put the phone on speaker because his ear was beginning to hurt from hanging onto the phone for so long. After another few minutes on hold, the agent returned to the phone and proudly announced that she is confirming him in Qantas flight 11 for today. He asked her if that is in first class and she replies, “Yes, its in business class.” That is an exact quote.

After once again patiently explaining why Qantas business is not acceptable, he was once again placed on hold. By this point, it was getting very late and his dire travel situation seemed no closer to satisfactory resolution. I tried to fortify our energy levels by passing around the small dish of white chocolate truffles that Hilton had left as a small amenity in my room. At one bite per person, that did not provide much of an energy impact. Mr Pillows mentioned that he was in the mood for some donuts but, for some strange reason, I did not have any donuts handy.

I was able to locate some other munchies, however. Given UA’s decision to no longer serve pretzel’s in coach on flights less than a few hours duration, I have taken it upon myself to distribute snack’s to passengers in Y on UA’s behalf. During a recent visit to a RCC, I had assembled a very nice care package, which I distributed to the back cabin as soon as we had leveled off. I thought it was very nice that a RCC staff member was appointed as a pretzel guardian to ensure that there would be sufficient pretzels available for me to distribute next time. I still had a couple of bags left over and offered them to Mr Pillows as sustenance.

Nevertheless, it was fast approaching midnight and soon the team began to disband. gvdIAD ambled wearily to the door, saying that he looked forward to hearing about the final resolution in the morning.

Another 12 minutes on hold had elapsed and Mr Pillows noticed that power levels of his phone were beginning to dwindle, with only one power bar left. We joked whether the agent was waiting for the power to be out and I quipped that perhaps he had been mistakenly been routed to IGS, Indian Global Services. He reasoned that perhaps it was taking so long because she had to call the Qantas version of the ICC. Well, if nothing else, at this point she should be quite clear that Qantas business was not under consideration.

The minutes slowly ticked by and when the agent finally returned to the phone, she said, “Thanks for holding…you are now confirmed in Qantas flight 11 in business for today…” We all looked at each other in disbelief. Mr Pillows reiterated that he had explicitly told her that he would not take Qantas in business and she replied that, in that case, he would only be able to travel the next day. At that point, Mr Pillows asked to be transferred to a service director.

And so we were plunged back into the depths of the holding queue. Eight minutes later, a service director picked up the line and Mr Pillows patiently explained the situation and listed his acceptable options, hoping to ameliorate any disinformation that the supervisor might have acquired by talking with the initial agent. He specifically asked the supervisor to look for first class availability on the UA flight from SYD to SFO and we resumed our turbulent holding pattern. We just hoped our diminishing fuel would hold out for the duration.

Five minutes elapsed and we were wondering out loud why he was on hold at all. It’s a UA metal flight so the requested information should be readily and quickly discernable. Two minutes later, the supervisor returned to the phone and announced that she can confirm him on the SYD to SFO flight. ^

In C.

He carefully explained that he had chosen his initial flight specifically for the opportunity to upgrade to F. He then asked her to contact Air New Zealand and inquire about business class seating there. She agreed to contact the airline and to find out whether they are willing to accept the ticket.

During our more than ample time on hold over the last hour, Mr Pillow’s P.U.K.E. team had been debating the pros and cons of taking the NZ flight direct from AKL to LAX. Even though it did not depart until the early evening, dropping SYD out of the mix meant that he should still be able to arrive at LAX with sufficient time to connect with his domestic UA flight back to ORD. Also, although only a two class configuration, the staggered seat layout of NZ’s C cabin meant that he could be assured a small degree of privacy and that he would not need to climb over anybody in order to get out of his seat. We had heard that the AVOD was great, the food good and that the flight attendant service levels were quite a bit different than they typically are on UA. And, best of all, the NZ C seat was purported to convert to a fully flat bed.

A few minutes later, the supervisor returned to the phone and it was a done deal. He reviewed the flight details with her and that was that. Well in excess of five hours had elapsed since the initial Easy Update flight cancellation message but at least he had a mechanism to get home on time and in a modicum of comfort.

We then stumbled out of the command center and took the elevator down to the lobby, where Mr Pillows explained his 7:30 PM delayed flight to the front desk clerk, who happily obliged him with a late checkout. ^ We were all pretty bleary eyed at that point and decided to try to grab a few hours of sleep before reassembling the next morning for breakfast.


Still sleepy from the hours-long marathon battle with the global services desk, I met with Mr Pillows and gvdIAD for breakfast the following morning. We were all quite hungry, as you can see from the food gathered on our table. My 1:00 PM flight to SYD was much earlier than his evening flight to LAX, so I cannot personally attest to how things worked out for him in the end. Was he able to get back home within a reasonable amount of time? After the smoke had cleared, did any heads roll at UA in general and at global services in particular? And, not insignificantly, how well did he endure his two class flight on Air New Zealand back to the states?

Although I lack first hand information, I was able to garner some additional details from one of my top secret contacts who actually staffed the business class cabin in which he flew on NZ. This information took quite a bit of time to get back to me because it arrived only just now via Carrier Kiwi and it evidently took a very long time to get the normally flightless bird sufficiently trained and fueled for such a long journey. According to the candid picture, it looks to me like Mr Pillows did just fine, securing a safe and secure place at the pointy end of the aircraft and with sufficient pillows to meet his exacting needs.

And shame on those at global services who had not adequately cared for the needs of this very important passenger. They should remember this event well before ever trying to give him the boot again.
riphamilton likes this.

Last edited by LarryU; Jul 3, 08 at 11:32 pm
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Old Jul 26, 07, 7:31 am
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That was hilarious. ^
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Old Jul 26, 07, 7:44 am
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This is a fine report, the likes of which we've rarely seen since the dueling days of QuietLion and Jailer. And oh, the pathos - Mr. Pillows and his consignment to C.
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Old Jul 26, 07, 8:01 am
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Thumbs up

Great recounting of the tale! And you get extra points for choosing just the right illustrations.

And to think I was lucky enough to be a part of it.
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Old Jul 26, 07, 5:08 pm
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An excellent read ^
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Old Jul 26, 07, 5:26 pm
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I always like trip reports with plenty of pictures to help tell the story!
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Old Jul 26, 07, 5:51 pm
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you need a new hobby

that was hilarious.
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Old Jul 26, 07, 7:58 pm
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Lol...hilarious. I loved the pillow fort.

("Those aren't two pillows!"...name that movie) and I <heart> Mr. Pillows.
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Old Jul 26, 07, 8:30 pm
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Nice report.

Originally Posted by BoyAreMyArmsTired View Post
Lol...hilarious. I loved the pillow fort.

("Those aren't two pillows!"...name that movie) and I <heart> Mr. Pillows.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
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Old Jul 26, 07, 9:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Kiwi Flyer View Post
Nice report.

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Very good! You win!
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Old Jul 27, 07, 6:28 am
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That was great!!!
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Old Jul 27, 07, 7:05 am
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Mr Pillows couldn't get on the SYD-SFO because I was in 1A.

Great report!
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Old Aug 7, 07, 6:42 am
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wonderful report, thanks...i laughed, i cried.

(the kiwi video was delightfully poignant!)

hysterical. glad you boys survived the trip.
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Old Aug 7, 07, 2:56 pm
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Great read. Thanks for the

Consider yourself invited on the Brooklyn Tour for the 3rd time; and bring iluv2fly for his 5th tour. @:-)

How can anyone not like people like this! ^ ^
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Old Aug 8, 07, 12:29 am
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THAT was a trip report!

Thanks for keeping the Mr Pillows legend and the dream alive!
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