The Lonesome Traveler Gets Grounded (or United Airlines Sucks)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

united-1

Do you remember the old United Airlines slogan “Fly the Friendly Skies”?  It was the tagline on most of the company’s advertising from 1966 to about 1996. They promised an idyllic in-flight experience comparable to what you might encounter at a 4-star resort.  Take a look:

Doesn’t that look like fun?  I don’t know about you, but I sure want Nancy as my flight attendant the next time I fly anywhere!

Well, let me tell you something, people.  United’s skies may be friendly, but here on the ground the airline is anything but!  In fact, this next video is a much more accurate representation of the treatment I received a few days ago when I attempted to fly to California from the Tampa International Airport. 

Yes, I said “attempted”.  That’s because I never made it on the plane.  In fact, I never made it to California at all, although not for lack of trying.  Right now, I’m sitting at home in front of my computer, absolutely seething with anger over what happened.  You see, dear readers, this Lonesome Traveler has been grounded!

It all started a few months ago when the kind folks at POM Wonderful invited me to come out to California as their guest for the first ever POM Wonderful Harvest Blogger Tour held on October 19-21.  The trip was to include a tour of POMS 18,000 acres of pomegranate orchards, a tour of their fruit processing and juicing plant, and a lot of great food, networking and fun.  There were around fifteen bloggers invited to participate and I was so flattered and excited to be one of them!

On Monday Mr. SGCC and I got up before dawn (which was a herculean effort for me), and made the 70 mile trip up to the Tampa airport, for what was to be the beginning of another Lonesome Traveler adventure.   My flight was scheduled to depart at 8:00 am, with a brief layover in Denver, and land in Fresno around noon.

We arrived at the airport at 7:00.  We didn’t want to waste time parking, so Mr. SGCC dropped me off right in front of the United Airlines entrance at the terminal.  I stood in line for for a while at the Skycap station to get checked in.  When it was my turn, I was told that they couldn’t check me in outside and that I would have to go inside to do so.  So, I went inside and waited for a while on another line.  By the time I got up to the front of the queue, it was 7:21.  I found myself in front of a scrawny, pinchy-faced, little blonde woman with an attitude.  I handed over my suitcase and told her that I was checking in for the flight to Denver.  Without ever even looking up at me, she informed me that check-in for my flight had just closed and that I wouldn’t be able to get on the flight.

WTF!!!

I started to get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and told myself that she must have misheard me.  After all, she didn’t seem to be paying much attention.  So, I tried again.

Me:  “No, I’m on the Denver flight.  It’s not set to take off for another forty minutes.”

Pinchy-Faced Snotty United Airlines Employee: “I heard you.  That flight is closed.”

Me: (incredulously) “Closed?  What do you mean closed?”

P-FSUAE:  “I mean closed.  We have a 45 minute cut off time.”

Me:  “But…I was here well before that!  I’ve been waiting in line outside and then on this one since 7:00!”

P-FSUAE: (randomly punching keys on her computer) “Well, you weren’t here.  It’s 45 minutes from the time you get here.”

Me:  “Are you serious!  I have plenty of time to make that flight!  I didn’t even know that you had a 45 minute cut-off! Every other airline I’ve flown on has a 30 minute cut-off”

P-FSUAE: (still not looking at me) “Well, it’s on our web site.  You should have checked.”

Me:  “Look.  I didn’t make these travel arrangements.  Someone else made them for me.  If I had, I probably would have checked your web site.  But, it never occurred to me to do so.  In the time we’ve wasted debating this, I could have already gotten through security and been on the plane!  I NEED to get on that plane!!!”

P-FSUAE: (as she turns and walks away) “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”

Me: (really pissed off and a little hysterical) “Listen lady, don’t you walk away from me!  I want to talk to your supervisor.”

P-FSUAE:  “She’ll tell you the same thing.  We can’t check you in.”

Me: (begging) “Please!  Isn’t there anything I can do to get on that flight (like buying you a condo in the Bahamas)  This is a really special trip?  I’ve driven all the way up here from Sarasota!”

P-FSUAE:  “No.”

Me: (thinking shitshitshitshit) “Sigh…Okay, can you get me on another flight that will eventually get me to Fresno?”

P-FSUAE: (back at the computer, clicking away) “You can go standby to Chicago, then standby to Los Angelis and then standby to Fresno.  If you make it on all of the flights, you’ll get to Fresno at 10:30 pm Pacific time.”

Me:  “That’s it?  So, what are my chances of making it on all three flights?”

P-FSUAE: (looking down again) “Not good.”

Me:  “So, there’s a good chance that I’ll be stranded in either Chicago or L.A.?”

P-FSUAE:  “Yes.”

Me:  “That’s it?”

P-FSUAE:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Whatever happened to ‘The Friendly Skies of United’?”

P-FSUAE: (blank stare and no response)

Then, P-FSUAE turned and walked away again, leaving me standing there with my suitcase, my unused ticket and an angry mob forming behind me.  I had no choice but to call Mr. SGCC and tell him to come back and get me.

I was crestfallen! I was bereft!  But most of all, I was f%@$*&g FURIOUS!!

Anger

(Photo from istockphoto.com)

When Mr. SGCC got back to the airport, we spent the next two hours running from one airline counter to the next trying to get me on a plane that somehow would end up in Fresno that day.  We got bupkis.   I do want to note, however, that every single employee we spoke to from every other airline was helpful, courteous and sympathetic – unlike those at United.  One lady at Continental told us that the United flight was probably overbooked and that they had most likely given away my seat before I’d ever even had my unpleasant exchange with P-FSUAE.  Based on P-FSUAE’s rapt attention to her computer screen, she probably already knew that while she was arguing with me!

Before leaving the airport, we eventually did speak to a rather apathetic United Airlines supervisor who told us that the reason that they didn’t check me in was because I had a suitcase to check.  She said that if I had only had only a carry-on bag, I could have still gotten on my flight.

HUH?!?!

I had plenty of room in my carry-on bag for some fresh underwear and a change of clothes.  I could have easily left my suitcase behind with Mr. SGCC and just picked up a few things in Fresno. But, I didn’t have that option, because P-FSUAE, never told me that I was being denied because of my suitcase!  Remember, I asked her if there was anything I could do to get on that plane?  Why didn’t she tell me then?

I posed that same question to the apathetic supervisor and do you know what she said to me?  You’re gonna love this one!  She looked me right in the eye and told me “Well, you should have known that.”

I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT???

How the f*&# should I have known that?  It’s not like I work for United Airlines and have anything to do with setting their policies!  I’m not a seasoned traveler who globetrots around the world and flies all the time!  I’m just a poor schlub food blogger who was given a once in a lifetime opportunity and got screwed because of a lazy and callous airline employee who never got the memo that the customer is always right!

By the way, when I finally got home and after I called Jeff at POM Wonderful to tell him what had happened, I did go and take a look on the United Airlines web site.  With a little digging, I did find the section about check-in times and yes, there is a 45 minute cut-off for baggage – not passengers. It was not listed under the Itineraries and Check-in section, which is where I would think is the logical place for such information.  Instead, it was listed in the Baggage section at the bottom of the page under the heading “Additional Information”.  If United Airlines is such a stickler on this issue, shouldn’t this information be more prominently displayed and easier to find?   In fact, why isn’t this rule printed on the travel documents themselves?

I’ve also spoken to several travel agents about what happened and every one told me that United Airlines was notorious for puling this sort of thing on passengers and that they were difficult to work with.  Each agreed with the theory that the flight was probably oversold and that they gave away my seat.

Now, I’m not saying that I am completely blameless in all of this.  In retrospect, I probably should have checked out the web site and I might have learned about the check-in rule.  Though, I wouldn’t have been looking for it, so maybe not. Since I’d never, ever had this situation come up before, it never occurred to me that this could happen.

What do you all think about it?  Was United Airlines right or wrong in refusing to allow me to board my flight when there was still time to do so?  Since I had obviously been waiting on line prior to the cut-off time, should they have tried to accommodate me?  Should  P-FSUAE have explained to me that it was my baggage that was the problem and let me have the option of leaving it behind?  Should the airline be more aggressive in letting passengers know that there even is a cut-off time?  Or, do you all think that I am a big crybaby who got what she deserved?

Jeff from POM and the other lucky bloggers who actually got to attend were kind enough to keep me posted on all that I was missing was happening.  I alternated between being happy and sad about that.  From all of the pictures and posts I’ve seen, I think they all had a wonderful time.   Below is a list of links of all the bloggers who were there. I wish I could have met them.  I hope you check out their blogs and see for yourself that POM Wonderful really is wonderful!

POM-Wonderful-logo

http://GreenLiteBites.com

http://balancejoyanddelicias.wordpress.com/

http://carrotsncake.com

http://www.fitnessista.com

http://www.thewickednoodle.com

http://livinghealthyintherealworld.wordpress.com

http://www.flanboyanteats.com

http://tasteofpace.blogspot.com

http://healthytippingpoint.blogspot.com

http://dinedishdelish.blogspot.com

http://glutenfreeeasily.com

http://www.visionsofsugarplum.com

http://ericriveracooks.com

http://heathereatsalmondbutter.com

69 responses to The Lonesome Traveler Gets Grounded (or United Airlines Sucks)

  1. On October 22, 2009 at 2:28pm, MeLissa said...

    Oh my goodness…this is so AWFUL!!! I’m so very sorry for this (not that I have any affiliation with United whatsoever…they’re lucky I don’t). Not that it will make you feel better, but here’s another video regarding good ol’ United. Maybe you should make a video, too. Maybe the guy who wrote this song would write one for you. ;) I think it’s pretty much 100% likely that I will never fly United again after the horrible customer service they are providing.

    http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/scarce/united-breaks-guitars

    *sniffling for you*
    MeLissa

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:11pm, Susan said...

      Thanks so much for this link! I’d never seen it before. Apparently, United has a reputation for bad customer service!

  2. On October 22, 2009 at 2:46pm, Amy said...

    Oh, I’ve never commented before. But, you should not be penalized because you were there 60 minutes before and skycap couldn’t check you in! The same thing just happened to my sister when she was leaving Alaska for California. She got to the airport an hour ahead of time to check in her bag (she’d checked in for the actual flight the night before on the web). There was a large tour group that needed to get on a flight that left before her, so the attendants let everybody cut in front of her. When she got to the front of the line, the woman told her she was there too late and couldn’t check in, and they put her on a later flight. My husband did some digging and the agent was wrong, my sister was there in plenty of time. She ended up writing them a letter and got a $75 voucher, but only after she said the attendants there let tons of people cut in front of her.

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:13pm, Susan said...

      Thanks for delurking, Amy. :) Your sister was lucky that another flight was available.

  3. On October 22, 2009 at 2:50pm, LizAnderson said...

    Hon, looks to me like you got the shaft. Sorry.
    I don’t fly, but if did it wouldn’t be with United. I’ll make sure to spread the word about how United treated you to everyone I know who does fly.

    Again, sorry to hear you missed the event.

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:14pm, Susan said...

      Thanks for the support, Liz. :)

  4. On October 22, 2009 at 3:20pm, Frieda said...

    I’m so sorry for what happened to you ~ It’s too bad that companies have changed in trying to keep their customers. I wish they had been more accommodating. All I can say is to chalk it up to a learning experience and thanks for warning us.

  5. On October 22, 2009 at 3:24pm, Rosa said...

    I’m so sorry to hear that!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  6. On October 22, 2009 at 3:48pm, Phoo-D said...

    I could go on and on with my awful United experiences. In the last two years I’ve been stranded twice overnight, missing entire days of the trip. Sadly I can’t say that this is a problem specific to United- I travel a lot and have had nasty situations with every airline out there except Southwest. If I could I would fly Southwest exclusively. I’m so sorry that this happened to you. What a major bummer.

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:17pm, Susan said...

      Wow! That’s awful! With such crappy service, it’s no wonder United has been in bankruptcy! :o

  7. On October 22, 2009 at 3:54pm, Tracy said...

    No, you didn’t get what you deserved. She should have explained why you were denied and given you the chance to pack your carry-on and catch that plane. And if they did give your seat away, they should have told you that too and apologized for it, and they should have tried to make it up to you somehow. I’m sorry you had to go through that – what a bummer!!

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:19pm, Susan said...

      Thanks, Tracy! :)

  8. On October 22, 2009 at 4:35pm, Romy said...

    You’re definitely not the only one with United issues… a musician named Dave Carroll even wrote a song about how United broke his Taylor guitar, have you seen it? Song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo and full story here: http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/story/united-breaks-guitars

    Sorry about your terrible experience!

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:19pm, Susan said...

      Lol! If I had seen this earlier, I’d have included it in the post. Thanks! :D

  9. On October 22, 2009 at 4:40pm, Glenna said...

    Oh yeah. They were totally oversold. So sorry! What a grea ttrip that would have been! And yeah, they definitely are not the friendly skies anymore. None of ‘em are, but in particular United sucks.

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:49pm, Susan said...

      You said it sister! ;)

  10. On October 22, 2009 at 4:44pm, Jamie said...

    I’d be sending this note to the Chairman/CEO of United. That’s RIDICULOUS! And POM should be reimbursed for the airfare they paid for!

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:21pm, Susan said...

      I do intend to formally complain to the airline. I really feel badly that POM wasted their money! :(

  11. On October 22, 2009 at 4:49pm, Maria said...

    I am so sorry you had such a nightmare with United. I can’t believe they wouldn’t let you on. That is LAME! They obviously need to promote their rules better, but even if you had known they should of been more kind and tried to help you. I am sorry you missed your trip. What a bummer. Hugs!

  12. On October 22, 2009 at 4:57pm, Lael Hazan said...

    I’m SO sorry to hear of your experience.
    Unfortunately, I’m not sure that there is an airline who “cares” right now.
    Giuliano just had a 25 hour flight back from Seattle due to airline foul ups. He flys over 75,000 miles a year, but not only was there no apology, there was no one to speak with.
    I do hope you send a note (with a link to the blog) to the United CEO (or just paste the blog on the United Comment page).
    I hope you get another chance at POM.

    http://www.educatedpalate.net/blog/

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:24pm, Susan said...

      Thanks, Lael! Sadly, I think you’re right. Even though these big companies are hanging by a thread, they still don’t seem to care about customer service.

      Twenty-five hours! Giuliano must have been livid! As much as he flies, the airlines should be kissing butt!

  13. On October 22, 2009 at 5:17pm, Joan Nova said...

    The horrors of airline travel today…I’m sorry for you but not surprised. I consider myself a pretty savvy traveler but, frankly, never heard of such a rule. I’m flying to SF for the FoodBuzz Festival and I guess I better check my airline’s policy. I absolutely agree that you should write the CEO of United (with this link). Sadly/ironically what will come of it is a voucher to fly with them again…and, ye gawd, do this all over! P.S. I loved the istock photo. 1 picture is worth 1000 words!

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:31pm, Susan said...

      Thanks, Joan! Have a great time at the Foodbuzz event! I wish I could be there too!

  14. On October 22, 2009 at 5:20pm, Mrsblocko said...

    It’s been 5 years since I’ve flown, but when we did fly we tried to use southwest as much as possible. I’ve flown united before many moons ago and even then it was not the most friendly experience. Looks like they haven’t changed. Sorry you got to miss out. Hopfully there will be a next time.

  15. On October 22, 2009 at 5:33pm, Esi said...

    That is sooo awful and that sucks that you missed the trip! I had almost a similar experience flying United at Christmas last year. On my way to Hawaii, I almost missed the flight, but at LAX they called all the passengers from my flight in front of the rest of the people waiting in line. On the way back, I almost missed my flight back to LA and they were going to re-route me to San Fran. Luckily, the flight was delayed and they let me on. I think it’s completely unfair that missing the cutoff by four minutes caused such an enormous pain for you. They should have been more accommodating. United used to be such a good airline and now they just seem to be a bunch of pinch-faced thoughtless a-holes.

  16. On October 22, 2009 at 6:59pm, Bellini Valli said...

    Oh Susan I am so sorry you didn’t get to go to Fresno!!!!!!!!!!!!! When I left San Francisco from BlogHer I left with United Airlines as well…and I personally will never fly with them again. I have never met so many rude employees..not necessarily rude to me but as a whole to all the paying customers who are flying with them. I stood in 3 different lines while time was ticking away. I suppose it is only a matter of time too before we have to pay to check in our baggage here in Canada as well.

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:34pm, Susan said...

      Thanks, Val! :) There seems to be a rude employee pattern here with United. Maybe if people stop flying with them and their bottom line suffers, they might make some changes.

  17. On October 22, 2009 at 7:17pm, Nancy said...

    First off, I enjoy reading your blog. Very much. I look forward to every posting. You write like I think. Me? I cook, I eat, I grow. Sharing that, here’s some advice on flying the (un)friendly skies. Yes, the airlines are arrogant, but short of mending the industry anytime soon, our (the customer’s) objective is to get to point B from A. Like you, the aim of this trip tale was not to tell the tale of not taking the trip. Being the wife (and occasional tag along) of a long time frequent flyer, we have a few steadfast rules. 1)Take carry on whenever possible. Make do, wear things twice or thrice. I give up my excessive vanity tendencies when on travel. Planning can make for a successful carry on experience. Really. I have a small collection of travel clothes pieces that can be mixed and rinsed, when needed. Understood that trips beyond a week may test a soul, but it is possible. We use a flight dedicated checklist for packing too. 2) ALWAYS plan to arrive at the airport 2 hours before take off. This is a golden rule. Even with carry on, one never knows what will happen. Most times we sit at our gate passing time, but we are well checked in, with or without baggage. 3) Long flight? Pack some good food. Eating helps pass the time, now that in-flight movies are about kaput. I have been the envy of seat neighbors for my “creativity in a bag.” Like with carry on luggage, meal planning makes for in flight eating pleasure. 4) Allow for any possibility. Airlines and airports are rife with ruining people’s days/vacation plans/lives for any number of reasons, some even they can’t control. It’s built into the Great Plan of Life that our mettle will be tested when a plane is involved. We deserve consideration and respect. but as it goes with our time, we can only hope for a safe landing.

    NEWAY, you are justified to complain to United Airlines about their poorly advertised policy and indifferent counter clerk. If we suck up these events to complacency or defeat, we are destined to be ruled by them. Speak up! That said, until we fix the airline industry, I want to get to where I’m going, and that’s how I do it!

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:48pm, Susan said...

      Thanks for sharing your story, Nancy. I’m usually pretty good about getting to the airport early and bringing snacks. This time the flight was so early that we had to leave at 5:45 and drive hour and a half just to get there by 7:00. We couldn’t really leave any earlier because I had to make sure my daughter got up for school. The airlines need to realize that we are all real people with real lives and responsibilities, and try to work with us a little.

  18. On October 22, 2009 at 7:54pm, The Duo Dishes said...

    Wow. That is so unfortunate! Sorry to hear the news.

  19. On October 22, 2009 at 8:18pm, Scarlette Quaid said...

    It is common knowlege that you must be at the airport two hours before your scheduled flight departure.

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:52pm, Susan said...

      P-FSUAE, is that you? Common knowledge for whom?

  20. On October 22, 2009 at 8:28pm, sarah said...

    that is awful!!! i also will never fly united after all these horror stories!

  21. On October 22, 2009 at 9:50pm, cheryl said...

    Your experience echoes big times with our experiences or horror stories traveling by any airlines these days. I think we all need to boycott these big boys big time, as they do not provide the service that we pay for.
    I frequently buy POm juice from Walmart. I also buy Arthur’s pure pom juice, which is superior in taste and nutrients. Check it out.

  22. On October 22, 2009 at 10:41pm, Jane said...

    You should contact Dave Carroll. Maybe he’ll put you in his next video…

    • On October 22, 2009 at 11:54pm, Susan said...

      Hehehe! :D

  23. On October 22, 2009 at 11:15pm, gfe--gluten free easily said...

    Susan–We all just about said “Oh, no!” when we heard you weren’t going to be able to join us. You were MISSED and mentioned often!! We had a similar experience with American several years ago. We were in a huge line after a thunderstorm the previous night, which meant that there were tons of folks who’d had to stay over and were hoping to get out that morning. We never heard any announcements and once we got to the front of the line we were told basically the same thing as you were. Based on what you learned and shared, I think we were probably “bumped” because they were overbooked, too. As a result, we greatly overcompensate and get to airports abnormally early. Anyway, it totally sucks. POM Wonderful folks are indeed wonderful as are all our fellow bloggers. Thanks so very much for sharing links to our blogs. I’ll be including yours once I get my post up on my new review page. Many hugssss, Shirley

    • On October 23, 2009 at 12:34am, Susan said...

      Thank you so much, Shirley! I really missed getting to hang out with all of you too! I apologize for not calling you back the other day. I was just too upset and couldn’t bear to go through the whole story again.

      You can be sure that if I ever fly again a) it won’t be with United Airlines, and b) I’ll be there 2 hours early! :D

      {{{HUGS}}}

  24. On October 22, 2009 at 11:55pm, tanya said...

    i’m so sorry, susan! honestly, i probably wouldn’t have known to look at their website before the trip. then again, i’m notorious for arriving at the airport super early so i have plenty of time to check in and then walk around the airport (i love hanging out at the airport before a flight – i’m dorky). i do agree with the comments above saying you should arrive two hours before departure. while there may not always be a 45-minute cut-off, it’s always possible that check-in/security is backed up.

  25. On October 23, 2009 at 12:22am, Susan said...

    Thank you all for you comments and words of support! This whole ordeal has been very upsetting for me. I do intend to complain to United’s management, though the damage is done and can’t be fixed. What upsets me the most is the rude and arrogant treatment I received from the airline’s employees. They could have cared less about me or my problem. Plus, if they did sell my ticket to someone else, they profited twice. That’s a nice little scam they have going!

    If each of us spreads the word to just a few people, maybe it will have an impact on the company’s bottom line, since that seems to be all they care about.

  26. On October 23, 2009 at 12:38am, Leslie said...

    Hi, I have had many problems with United as well. Last year, I had a flight they cancelled. They said it was bad weather. However, it was blue sky in SF and in Aspen where I was going. My guess was that they did not have a full flight, thus were cancelling the flight all together. Unfortunately, sometimes United is the only airline with a specific route I need. However, I try to never take them when possible. Most of their employees that I have encountered are rude, horrible people who all seem to hate their job. If you can, Southwest has happy employees. I like Virgin America as well.

    • On October 23, 2009 at 12:53am, Susan said...

      They always blame bad weather when they cancel a flight so that they don’t have to accommodate or reimburse stranded passengers. My brother had a flight from Atlanta to Tampa canceled for bad weather a few months ago even though the weather in both places and in between was clear and calm. It stinks, but they get away with it. :(

  27. On October 23, 2009 at 2:45am, Amy C said...

    I think what you went through is atrocious. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

  28. On October 23, 2009 at 8:07am, Ivy said...

    Ooooh, you were really so unlucky Susan and I am really sorry you missed such a great opportunity but maybe the lovely POM people will select you again next time.
    I am an ex airline employee and we would never dream of such an attitude. Their attitude really sucks and even if they did sell your seat to another passenger, they could have been more polite.

  29. On October 23, 2009 at 10:02am, Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen said...

    That is terrible Susan!!! I am so sorry!!!!I actually had an experience like that with American Airlines, and swore to never fly with them again. I am beginning to think most airlines are crappy these days. But that is terribly sucky about not getting to go to POM. :-(

  30. On October 23, 2009 at 10:26am, Tracy Moulton said...

    So sorry to hear what happened to you. You are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! with everything! I think she did sell your seat, otherwise, would it have killed her to give you the option to board without your luggage? You never mentioned, were you able to get your money back for the unused ticket? . . . Or is that stirring up another can of worms?

  31. On October 23, 2009 at 10:35am, nurseL said...

    i will never fly united ever again in my entire life! we had a similar experience when the United gate representative (we were flying from SAT to IAD to MDT) at Dulles held up our flight and bumped paying passengers for CREW who were flying the plane back to Dulles from MDT. we were held up over 45 minutes because no one would volunteer, so they started calling names and bumping people. luckily, hubby and i weren’t called. this was due to overbooking, something most airlines do, but united is famous for it. then, to top it off, we weren’t allowed our carry-ons b/c of the small plane size, so they had to be stowed. they THREW people’s carry-ons from the jetway to the ground to be put on the plane. not to ground crew members waiting arms. to.the.ground. and again at MDT, they THREW/DROPPED the bags onto the ground from the plane. and on every flight, “thank you for choosing to fly with united! we ask that you fill out our online survey about your flight experience today and enter to win a chance for 100,000 miles!” you can bet everyone on our plane filled out the survey! delta all the way for me. and so sorry about missing the POM event. love that stuff!

  32. On October 23, 2009 at 10:54am, Stacy said...

    Oh, goodness! Sorry to hear about your horrible travel/airport experience! It is sad to see that customer service is no longer United’s #1 priority.

    Whenever we travel, my husband (who’s mother is a travel agent) always insists on arriving at the airport a good 3-4 hours before our flight – it a pain in the butt to sit there and wait forever but you never know what might go wrong – long lines, etc and it seems like an even bigger pain to miss the flight – so I guess I shouldn’t complain about it, huh? :\

  33. On October 23, 2009 at 11:42am, Melissa said...

    I am not one that travels a lot, but I do know that I have never experienced anything like this. This is the worst customer service I have seen. They need a training in “the customer is always right” and also in communication. They clearly have some issues and I will not fly with them anytime soon. I always fly Continental or Southwest and never have any problems. I feel bad that you did not get to experience the trip because it sounds like it was a great time and I think that United should have made a better attempt to make you a satisfied customer. They may have screwed this up but they should have tried to make it “right” and at least got you a priority standby on another flight!

  34. On October 23, 2009 at 1:04pm, Bren said...

    girl, I’m sooo sorry this happened to you! I was still on the plane when I called you, so you know how I excited I was to meet you! Ugh. this makes me sick b/c what it does is interfere with peoples’ lives and they DON’T CARE. I hope the stupid people at United read all of this and all of the comments and make it right. That’s the least they can do!

    We missed you at POM. Not going to rub it in so I’ll leave it at that. I hope you get a box of poms from them–they are lovely people and Jeff was totally bummed you got grounded.

    hugs.

  35. On October 23, 2009 at 1:54pm, Lezel Safi said...

    First off, I love your blog, I’ve been following it for a few months now but have never commented. Just reading about your experience made my blood boil. Seriously, who in the H*&L do some of these airline people think they are? Don’t our fares that we pay end up someway in their bank accounts? Unfortunately, I’ve found this haughty treatment on other airlines, hu,umm American, Continental….but I think there just isn’t any accountability for most of the desk people. I do have to say that I had a pleasant experience last week at London Heathrow at the American Airlines counter….#1 they don’t charge for 1st or 2nd bag checked on international flights #2 Seeing my bags were on the heavy side, shopped way too much, he commented and then kindly didn’t charge me for my heavy bag! I think your little miss would have charged me double and then scolded me at the same time……The moral of the story is Flying Just Sucks These Days….so sorry you had to miss your conference, sounded like fun!~

  36. On October 23, 2009 at 2:02pm, ingrid said...

    Sorry to hear that Susan. Though I am a stickler for rules (cop’s daughter!) I do think P-FSUAE should have explained the situation and your options fully. There wasn’t any reason for her to be rude and disagreeable, you were in fact the customer. I agree with the other airlines she knew you couldn’t get on due to overbooking.

    Hope this weekend’s a better one! Happy Friday!
    ~ingrid

  37. On October 23, 2009 at 2:09pm, Karen@Mignardise said...

    It’s all been said…just want to put in my two cents, I will avoid United at all costs.
    I hope your story goes viral and a lot of other people avoid it too.
    Friendly skies…ha!

  38. On October 23, 2009 at 2:43pm, Lucy said...

    OH what a horrible airline – I am so sorry you missed out on POM Wonderful! I’ll remember never to fly with United Airlines :)

  39. On October 23, 2009 at 2:46pm, Emily said...

    We missed you! I was looking forward to meeting you. I’m so sorry this happened….
    United SUCKS!!!

  40. On October 23, 2009 at 3:41pm, Kristen said...

    United bites! I have an family member who has worked for them for 50 years and they keep shafting their employees too. Reducing pay and benefits then eliminating retirement. Might be why they are so rude??? Still no excuse. I am so sorry for you :(

  41. On October 23, 2009 at 5:36pm, Katie @ goodLife {eats} said...

    SERIOUSLY!?!? I honestly cannot believe it. That’s just horrible! I fly Southwest and they have the best customer service. What a disappointment. Seeing POM Wonderful would have been an amazing experience. I think she should have informed you that it was due to your luggage and that if you’d be willing to bring a carryon only that you could have make it. I just can’t handle customer service that doesn’t make it their point to go above and beyond. Southwest has always been amazing when we travel as a family, and with a child who has a deathly peanut allergy. And they also ususally have the best prices.

  42. On October 23, 2009 at 5:38pm, Katie @ goodLife {eats} said...

    Oh yeah, and when you get a chance try the new POM Nectarine. IT IS SO GOOD!

  43. On October 24, 2009 at 5:05pm, Sagan said...

    That is SO frustrating! I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you.

  44. On October 24, 2009 at 6:22pm, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    I can’t believe that happened to you! You of all people! Who would deserve it less than you? sheesh!

    Oddly enough I had a really good experience with United last year. They kept cancelling flights due to weather and I returning from a business trip to Denver. The only flight I could get on that day changed my destination from LaGuardia to Newark. Unfortunatley, my bag went to La Guardia. I filled out the paperwork at the airport and someone brought my bag to my home that afternoon. I guess things have gone downhill since then.

    I’m sorry you missed your trip. :-( I’m sure other opportunities will come for you. You certainly deserve them.

  45. On October 24, 2009 at 11:46pm, Katrina said...

    Goodness gracious! First, SO sorry you missed the trip.
    That is horrible customer service from United on all accounts! I’m so mad after reading all this that I can’t even think straight to comment more. Ugh!
    I am really so sorry, Susan!

  46. On October 25, 2009 at 10:54pm, MaryBeth said...

    I am so sorry this happened to you…I also remember this commercial and the slogan….

  47. On October 25, 2009 at 11:24pm, nicole spaz said...

    That is horrible!!!!! The same thing happened to me years ago. I was told I missed the cutoff- by a minute. I was 18 standing there with my cell phone in the guys face showing him I still had 3 minutes since cell phones are synced and are set by the serivce, not me. Still nothing. So I had to wait in the airport lobby for 2 hours until I could be booked on the next flight jsut to go through security to sit for another 3 hours.

    I figure you won’t be flying with them anymore but I think that either way you should ‘jump’ the line so you dont have this problem again. I’m the horrible person who waves down a airline employee to ask if I should wait in line for the flight or should I get processed now since I dont want a time problem. Even if they say no and I have a tiny issue I then can point and blame that pinch face about it.

    Again, sooooo sorry!!!

  48. On October 26, 2009 at 3:37am, laura said...

    Well after reading this THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL I WILL EVER FLY UNITED. Funny thing I am supposed to be booking tickets home from LA right now but I am being lazy and blog hopping instead. I always fly Alaska but thought you know maybe there is a better fare out there I’ll just check around. Um UNITED? you just lost a potential customer and you know what? I have a HUGE mouth and everyone who asks me for airline info will hear this story. And it will eventually trickle into my blog, they should have bent over backwards for you or any customer.

  49. On October 26, 2009 at 3:38am, laura said...

    Oh I’ll be spreading the word alright on my blog for SURE!!!

  50. On October 26, 2009 at 9:43am, Manggy said...

    Oh no!! I thought by this time I’d be reading about your adventures :( That is terrible! (the worst I’ve ever experienced are flight delays that made my luggage go missing and had me in a race to make my connection, but no permanent damage. I guess it pays to be a foreigner and forever having to be early for my flights!)
    Hugs!!

  51. On October 26, 2009 at 12:41pm, Kelly said...

    I hate hate hate hate hate hate United, and living in Chicago I’m burdened with O’Hare Airport when it comes to travel (unfortunately a United hub). I will no longer fly into or out of O’Hare Airport simply because the flights are dominated by United. They have horrible customer service, horrible delays and cancellation rates, and old smelly planes (ha!). I can’t tell you how many times friends and family have had flights drasically delayed or cancelled by United when coming to visit me in Chicago, just because United overbooked the plane (and their fees are horrible!). I now only fly Southwest out of Midway Airport, they are truly the best airline out there – so friendly, so organized, clean and hospitable! So needless to say, I feel your pain! Sorry you didn’t make your trip! :(

  52. On October 26, 2009 at 11:41pm, susan from food blogga said...

    OMG! We had the same thing happen to us in Denver! We were delayed returning our car at the airport but still had plenty of time to make the flight. No can do, we were told. It was about 10 am, and we didn’t get on another flight until 4pm. Talk about PO’d. I’m sorry it happened to you too.

  53. On December 08, 2009 at 12:14pm, Mrs. Tinnin said...

    Sitting in my kitchen, just as pissed as I am sure you were a few short months ago. Bag still packed. Waiting for a short while to head back to the airport to HOPEFULLY catch the next flight that they can put me on. I experienced pretty much the SAME exact situation as you did this morning. I seriously will NEVER EVER EVER give United one more dime of my money. No one in line at all in front of or behind us. No one in line at security. Airport deserted. A traffic accident put us at the airport 28 minutes prior to take off. WOULD NOT let us on the plane. NOW I am beginning my honeymoon in my kitchen. Never. Never. Never. Again.

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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