bizarre denied boarding?

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Old Feb 18, 19, 9:08 am
  #31  
 
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Three thoughts:

==

In hindsight, here is one thing you could have done:

(1) Book a refundable ticket for an 18 year old with your daughter's name out of ROC (any destination, any flight same day departing after yours). Check in online.

(2) Transit security with your family's boarding passes, including the unusual one for your daughter.

(3) After security, cancel and refund that ticket (UA rules say within 7 days this may be nonrefundable but they do not yet enforce this rule).

(4) Visit the boarding gate for your flight and ask the gate agent to make sure your daughter is checked in for the same flight as the rest of you. You're sorry, but travel with kids is hectic and you don't have the boarding pass. You're not sure the check-in agent got everything right and just want to double check.

(5) Hope the check-in agent isn't also the person handling boarding for your flight.

This would certainly constitute a violation of United's contract of carriage on your part, but since they were kinda doing that at the check-in desk too by failing to staff their desk with a competent agent, it would satisfy the time honored playground principle of "I'm rubber, you're glue".

==

Per your description of the situation, you were not involuntarily denied boarding under the ordinary meaning of the phrase. The obvious next step from United's point of view is to lobby the DOT for an official definition of "bad customer experience" which excludes your situation, so that we can say with certainty that you did not have a bad customer experience.

That would certainly be the simplest, cheapest investment -- just one lobbyist -- that could greatly reduce the number of bad customer experiences people have.

==

There are at least two schools of thought on how to respond to this situation.

One is that you should really give United's customer service team an opportunity to make things right; document your damages and ask them to make you whole.

Another is that you should immediately escalate via a DOT complaint, which will get more senior UA CS eyes on your complaint but will also generate a more final response (you had better be very sure of what you are asking for). Empirically I have found in similar situations that when United agents "incompetently deny boarding" and a DOT complaint is filed, UA sometimes voluntarily chooses to offer customer service compensation as though the situation were an IDB; that compensation strategy may not actually pay for your damages.

There is another school of thought that involves publicity (i.e. publish your 17-second video to /r/PublicFreakout and respond to reddit users' questions with your story), but it's very hard to get that right and I think unfair to the employee. Sure, you missed your flight, but what if they were having a major mental health crisis -- would you really want one bad day to ruin someone's career?
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Old Feb 18, 19, 9:11 am
  #32  
 
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I don't think buying a fraudulent ticket to get through a TSA checkpoint is wise. The TSA won't like it, and making a complicated situation with UA even more complicated seems like moving in the wrong direction.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 9:23 am
  #33  
 
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I wonder if you could have checked in on the phone, by providing the agent your two PNRs. Once checked in you'd have a BP on your phone to get through TSA and to the gate, or "re-print" from kiosk.

If not checking bags, I would have tried this.

As others have noted not IDB. but no one has explained the reason, which is VDB/IDB rules and compensation were put in place by the gov't to provide an incentive for airlines to be more conservative when overbooking. They weren't put in place to provide compensation for random customer service failures like this one. That's why you get situations that seem silly from the outside, like that there is no penalty for cancelling a flight outright but they pay thousands of dollars per overbooked cust for an equipment swap. Or, in this case, no penalty for (essentially) refusing at random to check people in.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 9:40 am
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Originally Posted by narvik View Post
UA could fire or retrain the contractor.
Which is what they need to do in this instance.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 9:44 am
  #35  
 
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I would have recorded it, discreetly. Otherwise, it is your word against theirs, and who knows what a troubled employee might claim. I might not immediately post it anywhere, but make a fact-based claim to UA and ask to be made whole. I get that a corporation might not be able to control all of its employees, but they can always rectify things. And if that did not work, then I might post it to bring publicity and get the airline to do the right thing. If the description is accurate, I would have no problem letting the facts speak for themselves if that is what it takes for the airline to pay attention.

I've seen enough things go wrong while traveling that over time I have gotten to be that paranoid flyer who tries to proactively avoid any issues. I always check in online at the earliest opportunity and print out a boarding pass. I babysit my reservations and seat assignments. Get premier access to check in at a faster lane (I realize ROC probably did not have that). Have TSA Precheck and Global Entry. Upgrade so you will be treated better in IRROPS and board earlier to avoid seating issues. Admittedly, this particular occurrence is not one I would have anticipated, but that is the point - you never know what is going to come at you, so be prepared.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 4:30 pm
  #36  
 
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Dunno if it's the same contractor all over upstate NY, but the contractors handling United ops at Ithaca airport were all very nice and competent the times I have been there.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 6:15 pm
  #37  
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United customer care just deposited $250 in vouchers per passenger, in response to my brief complaint saying I missed my flight because agent wouldn't check me in. I am out some serious cash! I think that I will send a more thorough letter with receipts.

In response to a comment above, I did try to check in online and on the phone, but was told I couldn't for a reservation with a child and no adult.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 8:37 pm
  #38  
 
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Did the credit card you use to book this vacation offer trip insurance? Sounds like this could be covered.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 8:38 pm
  #39  
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No. The airline tickets were with miles. I rented a timeshare with a check.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 9:03 pm
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Is there literally no one else above the wing for UA at ROC? I'm not terribly familiar with small outstations, but to me it beggars belief that an agent was loudly swearing in public and ignoring pax at a kiosk for 45 minutes without anyone firmly confronting her, or seeking to inform the station manager (no idea if such a thing exists at ROC) or another responsible party.
-------
That was going to be my comment at the end of this thread........what was she, an army of one for heaven's sake ?? There are managers and supervisors on duty. Calling the police ??....they have absolutely nothing to do with the actions of an airline employee - what are they going to say to make her do her job? Goodness, people, go find a supervisor or manager. Infuriating that one person can mess up the lives of dozens of people.

----
Just realized this is Rochester so a contractor is being used.......low pay, no benefits, no job security.....no wonder she was ranting. Probably asking for a contractor supervisor (if they could even be found) would be just as useless. Call me crazy but having worked that side of the counter for many years, I can't stress enough to family and friends and anyone that needs to know -- get to the airport VERY EARLY because anything can (and will) go wrong. Time is needed to fix things and especially where there are inexperienced "agents" with little or no power to think out of the box. We now live in a time where it's pretty much all on you. It's now becoming like cruise travel - you basically have to stage yourself at the departing (cruise) airport/city the day before you travel - in this case having to change from one airline to another at a connection point with not an excessive amount of time was an accident waiting to happen. I feel sorry for this traveler and her family, not their fault. Preventable is my point.

Last edited by FlyingNone; Feb 18, 19 at 9:14 pm
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Old Feb 18, 19, 9:19 pm
  #41  
 
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In defense of the OP, when things are going majorly wrong in a crazy way and you are gonna miss your flight and mess up your trip, all you want is to get on the plane. The only realistic way the OP was gonna make the flight was if the crazed agent helped out. Calling for the station manager, the police, taking a video, all of that is fine, but it's not really gonna help you get on the plane.I can fully understand the OP just sitting there, in a state of disbelief, muttering under his/her breath, "please choose us and check us in..."
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Old Feb 19, 19, 9:05 am
  #42  
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Originally Posted by cjermain View Post
In defense of the OP, when things are going majorly wrong in a crazy way and you are gonna miss your flight and mess up your trip, all you want is to get on the plane. The only realistic way the OP was gonna make the flight was if the crazed agent helped out. Calling for the station manager, the police, taking a video, all of that is fine, but it's not really gonna help you get on the plane.I can fully understand the OP just sitting there, in a state of disbelief, muttering under his/her breath, "please choose us and check us in..."
Exactly. Also, I was concerned about what my 8 year old was going to witness. Kids react to police showing up.
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Old Feb 19, 19, 9:13 am
  #43  
 
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Originally Posted by hooterbif View Post
No. The airline tickets were with miles. I rented a timeshare with a check.
but you presumably used a credit card to pay the fees/taxes on the award tickets. Perhaps that is sufficient for the insurance to kick in - anyone know?
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Old Feb 19, 19, 9:18 am
  #44  
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Originally Posted by notquiteaff View Post
but you presumably used a credit card to pay the fees/taxes on the award tickets. Perhaps that is sufficient for the insurance to kick in - anyone know?
Yes (at least for Chase cards)
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Old Feb 19, 19, 9:27 am
  #45  
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I think that I used Chase United Select Visa, an ancient card. I guess I need to read the T&Cs.
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