I fly from Orlando to DC regularly. I almost always fly USAir from Orlando to Regan National in DC. I have lots of miles on USAir, ad I know what to expect when I fly them. I have been disappointed, as are most frequent fliers, at the loss of perks over the years and airlines tighten their belts and charge more for less.
This morning I flew, not to Regan National (DCA) but to Dulles International (IAD). Instead of staying in Crystal City for this trip I am staying in Arlington and IAD was a closer airport to where I needed to be.
My office booked United instead of USAir. I wasn’t thrilled, because I get lots of miles on USAir, but whatever. It would be a new experience.
So last night I go to check into my flight online and find out I
- Can’t pick a seat
- Have to pay $15.00 for my first (and only) item of luggage.
I have had to pay for luggage before, so I was annoyed but not surprised. They should factor that into the ticket price, but I suppose I can understand wanting to save money if you don’t check anything. But about my seat – I called United, thinking there was an error in their online check-in system and tried to get my seat assignment.
No luck. They told me I had to go to the gate before I could get a seat. I was confused, but it was late and I wasn’t going to argue.
So I wake up at the ass-crack of dawn today and go to the airport. I check my bag and ask the lady at the kiosk to assign my seat. She tells me she can’t do it. I have to GO TO THE GATE. I get the “look,” which means she has answered that particular question more than once.
Now I’m annoyed. I just know I’m going to get stuck in a middle sat between two large passengers. I don’t argue with the luggage lady – she is just doing her job – but I grumble to myself as I go through security and head to the gate.
I make it to the gate early, as I always do, and I stand in front of the gate kiosk, waiting for the United employee to show. She eventually does, whereupon I promptly ask for my seat assignment.
She tells me to go sit back down and she will call my name when, and if, she can get me a seat.
“IF” she can get me a seat? I tell her that it is very important that I get on this plane. I bought a ticket and I have a meeting to get to. It’s not my fault they may have overbooked the flight.
“Oh,” she said brightly, “we may not be overbooked.”
So I smiled, while a throb started behind my eyebrows, and asked, “If you’re not overbooked then you have no problems giving me a seat, right? Can I have my seat?”
She smiled back, and I could see a vein pulse in her forehead. I was one of those customers. She pointed to the screen behind her, “Sir, you are confirmed and awaiting a seat. If you sit down I will call your name when, and if, we get a seat assignment for you.”
Again with the “if.” So I had to ask, in my polite voice, “What would prohibit me from getting a seat on this flight?”
“Well sir,” she said, “We book a block of seats for our members and we release them as needed.”
“So you mean to tell me,” I asked, “that Joe Member can run up to the gate right now, buy a ticket, and get the seat I paid for a week ago?”
She didn’t answer me. She again instructed me to sit down and wait to be called. I sighed and did as I was instructed.
First class boarded.
Second seating boarded.
Finally, when the plane was 80% boarded, she called my name and handed me a boarding pass. At the back of the plane.
Fortunately it was a window seat. She smiled at me and acted like she had done me a great favor in giving me the window seat – and I supposed she had. She could have stuck me in the middle.
Still – this entire ordeal galled me. So let me address the next part of this blog to United Airlines:
Dear United Airlines,
You treated a brand new customer, me, like I was insignificant and unworthy to fly your airline. You used a backward bureaucratic policy to trivialize me and show me how insignificant my business is to you. Even though I did everything “right;” I paid in advance, I got an e-ticket, I checked in early, I arrived early, I checked baggage instead of trying to cram it in the overhead compartments, you told me pound sand and implied that you would give away my paid-in-advanced seat to a procrastinating miles member if he or she decided to fly.
I don’t care that your plane was cleaner than the regular USAir plane I fly. I don’t care that you had in-flight sitcoms when USAir does not; I don’t watch that tripe anyway. I don’t care that your plane was overall in better visual condition than the USAir ones I fly. None of that matters when you treat me as you did today.
United Airlines – you had your one chance to do right by me. You had your opportunity to treat me with dignity and respect and you chose not to. So I will, henceforth, exercise my right to choose and choose any airline but yours when I fly.
Thank you, and have a good day.