In my world of frequent airline travel, now ongoing for nearly decade, it becomes easy to forget that most do not travel and many of those who do make only one or two holiday trips per year. Nevertheless, my sympathies for travel horror stories are limited. We do not live in the golden age of aviation and in exchange for our dirt-cheap airfare in the USA, we have come to expect delays and hiccups that rarely make a trip 100% smooth.
But when faced with adversity—a delayed or cancelled flight for instance—we can respond in two ways. Either we stop moping and find the best available solution or we retreat in despair or a spew fit of rage, which just exacerbates the problem.
If you’re wondering why I’d write about this, you have to read this post on Flyertalk (entitled, “United Airlines Unfair Treatment Of My Daughter 12-30-12”), posted by a disgruntled mother about her daughter’s recent trip to Sacramento on United Airlines. It’s a ton of text, so I’ll just summarize it here with direct quotes—
“I put my daughter on Flight 6202 United Airlines in Oklahoma City, OK Sunday morning December 30, 2012. She arrived in Los Angeles late so she missed her connecting flight…
“…After waiting in line at the counter was told they could get her out on an American flight at around 11:30.
“…[AA] informed her United reserved the ticket but didn’t pay for it (which they says happens all the time) and there wasn’t enough time for her to get back to United to get this handled so she would miss the flight.
“She went back to United who told her they…will get you out at 6:30 pm.
“She called me sobbing.
“I called United and was left on hold for over an hour and a half.
“My sister used her computer and bought her another ticket with Southwest
[The complainant proceeds to spend hours on the phone with United trying to get a refund, only to learn that the ticket was issued on US Airways ticket stock, so she must go through them. She calls US Airways and US Airways claims United must release the ticket. United then releases the ticket, but US Airways claimed the ticket was not released. United gets US Airways on the phone and a partial refund is issued]
“I have spent over nine hours on the phone with United. Lied to multiple times and told they will email her a $100 travel voucher.
“This one day ruined a trip for a 23 year old little girl. She tried to be an adult and handle this on her own but everytime she gathered her courage there was a United employee there to shoot her down or be rude to her.”
So now you have an idea of what happened. Delayed flight, missed connection, the “23 year old little girl” freaks out, AA has trouble validating an endorsed ticket (in my experience, this is a frequent AA problem no matter what the airline—not a United problem), the girl just buys a Southwest ticket instead, the girl’s mom spends hours on the phone trying to get a refund and finally gets one. Now she wants more compensation and some sympathy.
I know we mature at different ages and I won’t bore you with my travel exploits when I was 23 years old (not too long ago!), but the biggest problem here lies with the woman (a 23 year old is hardly a girl). Attitude is huge and when things do not go right, what does it accomplish to call mom and sob? I cannot accept that even a first-time traveler must react in such a manner when something goes wrong, because things go wrong all the time in life.
United did all it could to remedy the situation and while I do believe the woman is due a partial refund for the unflown LAX-SMF leg and compensation for the headache caused by the flight delay (assuming it was non-weather related), she is not due anything else.
I like that this story demonstrates what most “kettle” travelers have to do to get in contact with an airline, which admittedly is not easy. I do feel sorry that the woman’s mother spent (allegedly) nine hours on the phone dealing with this. I also regret that she experienced the incompetent Manila call-center at United, who should have told her immediately that she would have to contact US Airways for a refund. But this phone marathon was not necessary.
Under almost all circumstances, it is much better to deal with a live person at an airport than a phone agent during a delay. Rules can be bent more easily and more solutions are available (for example, it is easier to book on another carrier). There are also customer courtesy phones provided by United at the airports they serve which are answered immediately—far better than waiting on hold by calling 1-800-United1.
The bottom line is that incidents like this are bound to happen once and awhile. They happen to me a lot. Take it in stride and you can learn to laugh about it. It will help you mature as a person, benefiting you in areas of life far beyond travel. And parents: please don’t coddle your children. How is a 23-year-old ever supposed to mature, to be self-reliant and independent if she is treated like a little child by her parents? It won’t happen. Hopefully this flight delay will be looked back on by both mother and daughter as a stepping stone to maturity…for both of them.