The worst flying experience in my life so far: United Airlines

When we got to Denver international airport last night to return to Iowa, we found our flight was delayed from 8:50pm to 10:50pm. First of all, when there is no weather problems, you just don’t expect flights to be delayed. As disappointing as it was at first, we viewed it as somewhat a norm.

When we boarded the plane close to 11:15pm, the first thing you noticed was that there was no air. Everyone was hot and we waited in a complete stuffy enclosed space for at least 20 minutes before the announcement:
This is your friendly flight attendant _insert name_. I just want you to know that we are aware the air is not working on the plane. We have some technicians looking at this issue. Your pilot just left the plane and I was not told what’s going on. I have no clue and as soon as I know, I will let you know.
10 minutes later:
This is your captain. I was just told the blah blah on the plane is broken. It’s impossible to fly this plane without it. At this point, we need you to all get off the plane. We are going to try our best to find another plane.

Everyone took their stuff and exited the plane.

After about 30 minutes, United informed us they found another plane to take us to Iowa and please go to gate _insert a number_. Everyone was excited. We walked to the new gate.

They boarded us to the new plane. This plane was a little bit bigger and the air was working. YAY! The plane backed out 10 feet and stopped. We waited for another 30 minutes before the announcement:
This is your captain _insert name_. Well, folks you just are not going to believe it. There is a major issue with this plane as well. We were on the phone with the maintenance support in San Francisco. However, they are too busy to talk to us because they are trying to keep another aircraft in the air. At this rate, we cannot take off. Please get off the plane.
The plane moved back 10 feet. Again, everyone took their belongings and exited the plane.

As you’d imagine, no one’s too happy at this point. United couldn’t tell us when we were exiting if the flight was now canceled. They just told us to walk to the other end of the terminal to go their customer service.

While everyone was waiting in line at the customer service, some fat dude spoke to the intercom: Well, we think we can get the plane to take off but we have no idea when. It may be about 2 hours. Why don’t you just stay put and we will inform you when we know for sure.

“That’s complete crap!” – most of the crowd yelled.

5 minutes later, the lady in front of us in the line said the customer service representative she spoke with was unaware of the announcement that they just informed us that there is a possibility they can still take off even though this customer service representative was standing there with all of us when the fat dude made the announcement. After utter confusion for another 20 minutes, the same fat dude spoke to the intercom again: I’m sorry but I’m now told your flight is officially canceled.

The five of us finally got to a customer service representative. The first available flight going to Iowa with seats departs the following 8:50pm with the first plane we were on that was broken. HA HA HA! NO THANKS! The best alternative we decided was to take the 7:51am flight to Kansas City and then rent a car to Iowa. Once we decided, the “senior” customer representative causally typed with his one finger and started booking us on the Kansas City flight. It took literally 50 minutes to book us. Plus they couldn’t provide us boarding passes. The “senior” customer representative told us to stop by 6am at the same customer service counter to get our boarding passes. Our luggage will be transported for us to Iowa on the next flight. They should beat us to Iowa. And what do we get for all of this trouble? A $150 non-transferable credit toward an United airline ticket (not enough to buy a single round-trip ticket) and $10 breakfast voucher to use at the airport. WOOT!!!

The airport provided some “beds” for us to start our adult sleepover at the airport. It was the first time for me to see these folding beds that look like tailgate folding chairs with bags. If you are unaware, I have major sleeping issues. I pretty much cannot usually sleep without medication and I didn’t have mine with me. Without question, I knew I wouldn’t sleep. But I did lie down and tried to rest. The waiting area was extremely bright. People walked by us all night. Some other passengers also had major challenges putting together their beds. It seemed the two aluminium rods to be inserted at the ends of the bed were dropped on the floor all night to make loud noises.

It was the first time I ever slept at an airport. When my flight canceled at Tokyo due to typhoon in Shanghai, they took all of us in a bus to a local hotel.

After a long night we lined up at 6am at the customer service. No one showed up. One of my coworkers talked to an United employee walking by, she informed us that the customer service didn’t start until 6:30am. After 6:30am, still no one was there. During the wait, we tried all of their automated systems. None of them could give us boarding passes. The “direct phone line” to United reservation services had a 25 minute wait time.

A lady behind us got her boarding pass to work via the automated system. When it printed her connecting flight boarding pass, she exclaimed “you are kidding me!” Apparently her connecting flight departs prior to the arrival of her first flight. AWESOME! We wished her the best of luck.

My coworker chased down another United employee walking by. That employee informed us the customer service pretty much show up whenever they want to. Finally after 6:45am, a few customer representatives showed up and helped us with our boarding passes.

The flight to Kansas City was thankfully smooth. Our drive back to Iowa was also not too bad. When we showed up at the Iowa airport, our luggage was there waiting. That was the BEST thing in the entire experience. Another lady who took the exact same alternative route we did couldn’t find her luggage at the Iowa airport however. We were just LUCKY!

So my conclusion? I’m never flying United the rest of my life. I’d rather choose non direct flights with another airline if I have to. The good news? Southwest is coming to our airport!

9 thoughts on “The worst flying experience in my life so far: United Airlines

  1. If you give up on flying every airline just because they have a mechanical problem you’ll quickly find you’ve got no options other than driving.

    Certainly not a great experience, but pretending that Southwest (or any other airline) never has mechanical issues or delays or other flight irregularities is ridiculous. Getting out the next morning is actually pretty impressive given that the airlines are routinely running 80%+ loads these days.

    1. You apparently missed the whole point! It’s not the mechanical problem I’ve complained the whole post. It’s how they could have done so much more to make you feel better instead of making you feel completely violated. United just has a cultural of NOT CARING in customer service period.

    2. Basically what do you AFTER when shit happened…. to the customers, that’s the most important part… DUH

  2. United has the WORST customer service in my opinion. I just tried to have my wife fly in my place with our young daughter to a hockey tournament she is in. No go. They suck and you cannot even understand the customer service people who are located outside the USA and english is not their native tongue

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