Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Miles&Points > Airlines and Mileage Programs > United Airlines | MileagePlus
Reload this Page >

Experience with cancelled flight last Sunday 19 May 2019.

Experience with cancelled flight last Sunday 19 May 2019.

Old May 24, 19, 9:05 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: ORD
Programs: Delta, AA, United, Marriott
Posts: 396
Experience with cancelled flight last Sunday 19 May 2019.

Let me preface this by saying I don't regard the following as anything like the worst experience to be had flying in this day and age. I am not after sympathy, rather I am taking a few minutes to both vent and gauge from the United experts here if what I experienced was fairly typical.

I was booked on UA 4501 this past Sunday, May 19. This was meant to depart MCI at 6:20PM for ORD. At about 3:15PM I received a text telling me this flight had been cancelled. No explanation was given, but I believe the aircraft was stuck in ELP and unable to make its route from there to STL to ORD and then on to MCI due to the wall of bad weather across the southern plaines that day. The text message I got included a link to the United website that was of no help whatsoever. A quick look showed there was not another flight that night (keep in mind the weather was perfectly fine at both MCI and ORD at this point) AND there was not a single seat available for purchase online for the following day Monday, May 20.

My first instinct was to see if AA or SWA could get me to Chicago on one of their flights later that night. Neither of their websites showed a seat, but I thought I would get them on the phone to check as I was anxious to get home that night if at all possible, even at significant expense. I talked to an AA representative, only to have confirmed that there was not a single seat for sale on their flight that night in the 7PM hour. At the same time, a family member was nice enough to call SWA and learned there was not a seat for sale on their flight to MDW that night in the 7PM hour. Now it was time to call United.

Unlike AA, United offered me the option to receive a callback instead of waiting on hold. I felt like I was off to a good start. Unfortunately it took almost exactly 40 minutes to receive this (twice as long as it took to get someone at AA on the phone, 4 times longer than it took at SWA...and of course both were also dealing with weather issues that day!) but ok. The agent who took my call was clearly overseas. Now I don't have a problem with this in principle, and as a linguist I literally have decades of experience communicating with people who have all kinds of accents. The problem was my phone agent had to ask me the current time in my location. It seems like I should be able to take for granted that someone attempting to provide service to passengers in the US would be aware of this, but obviously not in this case. My agent also kept referring to the airport I was trying to depart from as "Kansas". This is neither the name of the airport nor the state in which it is located, so I was feeling less confident by the minute. I was asked to wait, and I did this for the best part of half an hour, only checking in every 5-10 minutes to insure we were still connected. My agent told me there was not a single seat available to me the following day and that he would attempt to get me within 300 miles of ORD. As I was then sitting 410 miles from ORD, I let him know this would not represent significant improvement in my situation. Finally my agent conceded that there was nothing he could do toward getting me home within 24 hours of my scheduled arrival.

I was flabbergasted. Not knowing what else to do, I asked to speak to a supervisor. I was warned that this might take 15 minutes, but it actually took 25. Once I finally did get on the phone with a supervisor, I explained my situation. She also insisted upon calling my intended departure airport "Kansas" but within another 15 minutes or so she had magically booked the VERY LAST seat available on UA 692 at 3:20PM the following day. By this point the idea of getting home ONLY 21 hours late (and not having to contemplate renting a car and driving 9 hours) had me in improved spirits, but I had to ask the supervisor why my initial phone agent hadn't been capable of doing this for me the best part of a hour ago. She naturally had no answer.

When I arrived at MCI the following day, I was shocked to see upon check-in that there were actually a small handful of seats open on this flight! They were mostly Economy Plus middle seats, but still...I had clearly NOT received the very last seat on this flight as I had been told.

Obviously the cancellation of a flight is a rare occurrence that is unavoidably problematic for all involved. Even so, it does happen. In this case, it seems to me the ideal is to be rebooked on the next available seat out instantly. Failing that, the ideal would be the ability to rebook myself online. Failing that, the ideal would be to reach a competent phone agent within 30 minutes or so who is ready, willing and able to get me to my destination as soon as possible. This past Sunday United was not able to provide ANY of the above.

Since I moved to Chicagoland almost 10 years ago, I have been flying United regularly...but I am nothing like a "frequent flyer", especially compared to many of you here. Therefore, I would really like to know if United regulars regard my experience as par for the course when dealing with IRROPS situations in 2019. I would also be curious what anyone reading this thinks the response from United was when I explained this experience via their online feedback form.
Clay_C. is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 9:50 pm
  #2  
Moderator: United Airlines; FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: SFO
Programs: UA Plat 1.85MM, Hyatt Discoverist, Marriott Plat/LT Gold, Hilton Silver, IHG Gold
Posts: 52,065
Sounds like you were one of the many significantly impacted by the recent weather events in the mid-west and northeast. Its days like those that take the fun out of travel

Originally Posted by Clay_C. View Post
.... When I arrived at MCI the following day, I was shocked to see upon check-in that there were actually a small handful of seats open on this flight! They were mostly Economy Plus middle seats, but still...I had clearly NOT received the very last seat on this flight as I had been told...
This may not be a proper interpretation of the situation.

Open seats on the seat map should not be inferred as available for sale. Some folks don't pick seating until checking-in at the airport. Also, Basic Economy passengers may not receive a seat assignment until the gate. Or the most likely, seats had freed up (perhaps due to all the irrops) between the previous evening and when you arrived at the airport. The latter is not unusual.

Originally Posted by Clay_C. View Post
Obviously the cancellation of a flight is a rare occurrence that is unavoidably problematic for all involved. Even so, it does happen. In this case, it seems to me the ideal is to be rebooked on the next available seat out instantly. Failing that, the ideal would be the ability to rebook myself online. Failing that, the ideal would be to reach a competent phone agent within 30 minutes or so who is ready, willing and able to get me to my destination as soon as possible. This past Sunday United was not able to provide ANY of the above. ...
The recent WX situation caused major disruptions-- appears UA nor AA nor WN could provide a solution, that might suggest the degree of the major disruption that was occurring.

Plus UA was also dealing with disruptions at EWR (and EWR is a major part of the UA system) so the UA phone system was perhaps under greater stress than its competitors.

Irrops are a pain and the airlines do try to get folks where that want to be but occasionally there are these corner case events which stress the system. We have created an air travel system in the USA will very little slack and these extreme cases do become a problem

Was this on par to what is to be expected, no but not far off from what might be expected in such a set of circumstances.

Note status would have helped some on the phone delays but when there are no seats, there are no seats.

And i would expect UA to say they are sorry they could not meet your needs but if you are fishing for compensation -- very, very unlikely given the WX situation.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; May 24, 19 at 9:55 pm
WineCountryUA is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 10:00 pm
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: ORD
Programs: Delta, AA, United, Marriott
Posts: 396
Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post

Open seats on the seat map should not be inferred as available for sale. Some folks don't pick seating until checking-in at the airport. Also, Basic Economy passengers may not receive a seat assignment until the gate. Or the most likely, seats had freed up (perhaps due to all the irrops) between the previous evening and when you arrived at the airport. The latter is not unusual.
Ah, I see what you mean. There was certainly not an empty seat when the plane did eventually take off after yet another delay...and we were told we were racing another storm to get out of there. Was very relieved when we got into the air.

Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post

Irrops are a pain and the airlines do try to get folks where that want to be but occasionally there are these corner case events which stress the system. We have created an air travel system in the USA will very little slack and these extreme cases do become a problem. Was this on par to what is to be expected, no but not far off from what might be expected in such a set of circumstances.
I tend to agree with you. Honestly, I would have been basically satisfied if my original phone agent had seemed to know his rear end from a hole in the ground and had got me into my seat without having to escalate to the supervisor.

Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post

And i would expect UA to say they are sorry they could not meet your needs but if you are fishing for compensation -- very, very unlikely given the WX situation.
My complaint was nothing to do with the weather induced cancellation, it was totally down to reaching someone utterly unable to help me with my problem. UA cannot control the weather but they can control who they have on the phones. They initially responded with an apology that it took so long to speak to an agent (ie they stopped reading when they got to that part). I responded to ask if they would say United is satisfied with the service I received in this difficult circumstance. They came back a few hours later with 1500 miles.

Last edited by Clay_C.; May 24, 19 at 10:12 pm
Clay_C. is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 10:20 pm
  #4  
Moderator: United Airlines; FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: SFO
Programs: UA Plat 1.85MM, Hyatt Discoverist, Marriott Plat/LT Gold, Hilton Silver, IHG Gold
Posts: 52,065
Originally Posted by Clay_C. View Post
... had got me into my seat without having to escalate to the supervisor.
I have been in this situation and availability changes very dynamically. I have been on the phone and after some work the agent finds space and just as they are going to book it, it disappears. And the reverse, the agent is looking, looking and sees nothing and then out of the blue something opens up.

It is literately a second by second situation - there were probably at that same instance other agents looking for the same available -- such as for the plane full of people that were canceled with you and many other flights.

The key to a successful experience in this situation is never stopping looking --things are always changing. So the fact one agent did not see something but 25 minutes later another agent found something would not surprise me or cause a negative reflection on the first agent.
wcj1, dls25, writerguyfl and 2 others like this.
WineCountryUA is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 10:21 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 3,466
Might I suggest a competent travel agent who will act as your advocate who also has a 24 hour after hours service.
cesco.g likes this.
chuck1 is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 10:28 pm
  #6  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 10,469
Originally Posted by Clay_C. View Post
...When I arrived at MCI the following day, I was shocked to see upon check-in that there were actually a small handful of seats open on this flight! They were mostly Economy Plus middle seats, but still...I had clearly NOT received the very last seat on this flight as I had been...
At the time you talked to the agent, the seats might well have been booked. The weather or other factors may have led to cancellations in the interim. Happens all the time.
IAH-OIL-TRASH is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 10:31 pm
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: ORD
Programs: Delta, AA, United, Marriott
Posts: 396
Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post


At the time you talked to the agent, the seats might well have been booked. The weather or other factors may have led to cancellations in the interim. Happens all the time.
I have now seen that I was mistaken to have assumed the fact I saw free seats 90 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure means they were also available when I was on the phone with United 23 hours earlier.
Clay_C. is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 10:38 pm
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: ORD
Programs: Delta, AA, United, Marriott
Posts: 396
Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
I have been in this situation and availability changes very dynamically. I have been on the phone and after some work the agent finds space and just as they are going to book it, it disappears. And the reverse, the agent is looking, looking and sees nothing and then out of the blue something opens up.

It is literately a second by second situation - there were probably at that same instance other agents looking for the same available -- such as for the plane full of people that were canceled with you and many other flights.

The key to a successful experience in this situation is never stopping looking --things are always changing. So the fact one agent did not see something but 25 minutes later another agent found something would not surprise me or cause a negative reflection on the first agent.
I definitely get where you are coming from. Having said that, it seemed very clear to me that I was on the phone with an agent who was not in any sense equal to the task at hand. In a similar circumstance (and especially considering there was no hope at all of getting to my destination that same evening) maybe the best way to keep looking would be to hang up and wait however long to talk to someone else? I guess that is what I ultimately accomplished by asking for a supervisor.
Clay_C. is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 11:43 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 3,105
I find the strangest thing is that both agents said "Kansas."
BigFlyer is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 11:50 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: NT Australia
Programs: QF WP
Posts: 3,344
Originally Posted by BigFlyer View Post
I find the strangest thing is that both agents said "Kansas."
as an interested outsider with no horse in this race, what is the preferred name to use for MCI?
chavala and TXJeepGuy like this.
nancypants is offline  
Old May 24, 19, 11:56 pm
  #11  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Berlin, SW Florida, and Toronto
Programs: UA 1K, Hilton Diamond, Discovery Black, and assorted others
Posts: 28,191
Cunning, oh never mind! It’s been said already, but bookings are dynamic and a lot can change in the space of 20 hours.
LondonElite is offline  
Old May 25, 19, 12:04 am
  #12  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Programs: Rapid Rewards, AAdvantage, SkyMiles
Posts: 2,932
Originally Posted by nancypants View Post


as an interested outsider with no horse in this race, what is the preferred name to use for MCI?
They could've just said "Kansas City Airport" or "Kansas City International Airport". Saying "Kansas" doesn't help because it's not an airport and MCI isn't even located in Kansas, it's located in Missouri.
DCP2016 is offline  
Old May 25, 19, 12:23 am
  #13  
Moderator: United Airlines; FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: SFO
Programs: UA Plat 1.85MM, Hyatt Discoverist, Marriott Plat/LT Gold, Hilton Silver, IHG Gold
Posts: 52,065
Originally Posted by DCP2016 View Post
They could've just said "Kansas City Airport" or "Kansas City International Airport". Saying "Kansas" doesn't help because it's not an airport and MCI isn't even located in Kansas, it's located in Missouri.
Many call SFO, "San Francisco" but that is not the formal name and SFO is not located in San Francisco. These same statements can be made for many airports. Personally, I would have not been confused with the use of either MCI or Kansas in the context of the situation.
MHG, rtool, chavala and 5 others like this.
WineCountryUA is offline  
Old May 25, 19, 12:41 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: NT Australia
Programs: QF WP
Posts: 3,344
It does kind of seem like a matter of semantics, and probably something I (as an outsider) would say as shorthand (along the lines of Delhi/New Delhi etc). Is there another airport called Kansas that it could be confused with?
nancypants is offline  
Old May 25, 19, 12:50 am
  #15  
Moderator: United Airlines; FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: SFO
Programs: UA Plat 1.85MM, Hyatt Discoverist, Marriott Plat/LT Gold, Hilton Silver, IHG Gold
Posts: 52,065
Originally Posted by nancypants View Post
... Is there another airport called Kansas that it could be confused with?
Nope and the good folks of Kansas City, Kansas (the 3rd largest city in Kansas) consider MCI as their main commercial airport
TXJeepGuy likes this.
WineCountryUA is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: