Monday, March 5, 2012

Stupid United Airlines

I got that Mileage Plus credit card, for the extra 25,000 miles, so I could upgrade my flight to London on March 7. Smart, eh?

On March 3 United and Continental initiate their merger.

Saturday, March 3: My miles aren't showing up online. I call the number for Mileage Plus, the frequent flier program (800.421.4655). "We have been experiencing higher than normal call volume for several days ... you may want to consider using self-service options on" Yes, my miles aren't showing up online. So I need to speak with a person, not just "Alex" the useless online help robot.

I try the regular Reservations line.

I give up after waiting 1.5 hours on hold.

Sunday, March 4: I call the number for Mileage Plus (just in case something has magically changed overnight, like when I expect my previously empty refrigerator to magically conjure up a freshly baked chocolate cheesecake, so I continue opening the door and checking).

I am told to call back "at a later time". 

I call back ten seconds later, to the Reservations 800 number, shouting "AGENT" forcefully into the receiver, until RoboMan says "Okay, I'll transfer you to an agent". Then another robot says "Your wait time may be more than one hour." Fine, I'll just sit here and watch "Down With Love", with the phone sitting next to me.

Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger romp, tease and innuendo their way through the 2 hour movie, and I'm still on hold. I carry the phone into the office, so I can print a few hotel vouchers, and the hold promotions are still going. I go to and decide to watch "Saturday Night Live" because people said Lindsay Lohan redeemed herself. I watch for 50 minutes, and ultimately disagree with the people.

I walk away from the phone, still "on hold".

After four hours, I finally hang up. During those four hours, the hold advertiser man kept telling me about all the great things I could do with my Mileage Plus miles. Cruel and unusual. Possibly ironic.

Monday, March 5:
11:10am - I call the main number for Reservations Assistance (800-864-8331), and Recording Lady tells me that they are experiencing an unusually high call volume, and if my flight isn't within the next 72 hours, I should try calling back later. She does not have an answer for me when I yell "My flight IS within the next 72 hours - NOW WHAT?!" So, then after shouting "AGENT" enough times for Recording Man to take me seriously, he says "okay, I'll transfer you to an agent", and then hangs up on me.

11:22am - I call again, shout "AGENT" several times and prepare to throw the phone across the room, but this time I get the message "Your current hold time is 40 minutes". They are either making progress, or lying.

12:02am - (Forty minutes later) Recording Man is still regaling me with all United's amazing features and feats. Now the recordings are starting to interrupt one another. Recording Man 1 is regaling me, when Recording Man 2 bursts in to discuss how to "earn up to 40,000 bonus miles".

12:14pm - someone finally picks up. I am pretty sure he's in India. I don't catch his name, but at least he's not a robot, or another Recording Man.

12:39pm - After deducing he cannot solve my problem, India Man says he will transfer me to someone in Mileage Plus. I say "you're not going to put me on hold for another hour are you?" "No, no no ma'am, the call is coming from my phone, so someone will pick up."

12:41pm - No one picks up. I'm back in the queue. "If you are not traveling in the next 72 hours, please consider calling back..." Recording Man is giving me menu options, and I am trying not to cry. Although, "your estimated wait time is three minutes" is kind of better? Ish?

"We are investing 550 million dollars in fleetwide improvement over the next few years..." Please invest a few of those dollars in PEOPLE TO ANSWER YOUR PHONES.

In United Time "three minutes" means one hour and three minutes.

1:44pm - Pablo answers the phone. He needs details. He needs to put me on hold again and contact a different department. He needs to put me on hold several more times, and apologizes for each.

2:13pm - Pablo returns and tells me the correct number of miles should be available online "in 4-5 minutes", then explains he cannot upgrade me, himself, and will have to transfer me to the Mileage Plus department. "You're not going to put me on hold for another hour, though, are you?" I ask. "No, ma'am, I will just transfer you to the Mileage Plus department." I hear a "Beep, beep", then a click.

"We're sorry, your call cannot be completed. Please hang up and try again."

I need to eat something.

2:40pm - When I try to call the Mileage Plus department myself, and this time give the Recording Man actual answers, rather than just yelling "AGENT" at him, we go through all the hoops, and Recording Man says "I'll just transfer you to an agent to assist with your upgrade", and then I hear "We're sorry, but all agents are busy. Please call back."

2:44pm - I try the non-toll-free number (605-399-2411) "Thank you for calling United's Mileage Plus Program. Due to extenuating circumstances we are unable to service your call at this time. Please try your call later. You can also visit us online at"

"Did you know Mileage Plus has been rated the best Frequent Flier program by Global Traveler Magazine, eight years in a row?"

I realize there are no perfect airlines, however I have never had a more frustrating experience contacting (or trying to contact) a globally recognized company. Ever. And that includes Capital One, Microsoft AND Comcast. I don't recall any of those companies ever having a recording that simply said "Try calling back later", and then still being unavailable "later".

American Airlines, you are still my Numero Uno, and I'm so very sorry I did not book this flight with you. I was trying to avoid an extra stop, but an extra stop would have involved a mere fraction of the annoyance I've been through with United. 

So, I'm probably not getting that upgrade, but at least I have those extra 25,000 miles! For something!