Monday, March 28, 2011

An open letter to United Airlines, the Focus of Evil in the Modern World

Dear United Airlines,

Good morning! I hate to tear you away from your conference with Satan and his Army of the Night (morning seminar: "Goodness and Light in the World: How United Can Help Destroy It"), but I have just a couple of small notes on the recent trip I took on your airline. Constructive criticism, right!

Here's the Executive Summary: I contracted with you to take me from San Francisco to Tucson and back, and YOU FAILED TO DO EITHER ONE CORRECTLY. You'd think, just by SHEER CHANCE ALONE, you'd get one of them right, wouldn't you? NOPE. You actually had to TRY to fail this miserably at the task which you ADVERTISE YOURSELF AS BEING ABLE TO DO SUCCESSFULLY.

Let’s recap and see if we can figure out what went wrong:


So The Wife and I are going to a little town outside Tucson to see my Mom, who for some reason decided to live there. Anyway, we’re supposed to leave SFO at 6:30, change planes in LA, and get to Tucson around 10:30 pm. Long layover in LA but whatever. That gives us 2 1/2 days there, coming back on Sunday.

It’s raining at SFO, and we’re about an hour delayed. Oddly, one of your minions says the delay is occasioned by “bringing in another plane from Seattle,” which doesn’t sound weather-related at all, unless the Seattle plane is a Magical Weather-Resistant Plane that can fly through the most violent storm without incident. Anyway, we all get on, very late now, and fly to LAX. We land there at 9:15. Guess what? Our flight from LAX to Tucson is scheduled to leave LAX promptly at 9:15. Now THAT flight, of course, left with Germanic precision, at 9:15:00, one minute before The Wife and I arrive at the gate. GUESS YOU CAN LEAVE ON TIME WHEN IT HELPS FUCK ME OVER HUH?

Well, that’s life. Let’s go to the Service Counter and get our hotel voucher and we’ll leave tomorrow morning. What’s that, United? You won’t pay for a hotel, because the delay was weather-related? The Magical Weather Plane wasn’t the cause? Oh, that’s great. So far, we’re out $90 for a hotel in LA, plus a $80 bar tab at said hotel that I also blame you for, United. But little did we know, the worst – much, much, much worse – is yet to come.

The next day, mirabile dictu, we get on an 11:50 am flight on standby and make it to Tucson. We weren’t vaporized by acid and the plane didn’t explode in midair, so POINT TO YOU, UNITED. YOU GET A GOLD STAR STICKER IN YOUR STICKER BOOK FOR THIS FLIGHT.

So we see Mom blah blah blah that’s a whole other blog post coming soon.


Sunday was a gorgeous day in the Greater Tucson Area. Bright sunshine, low 70s. Perfect day to travel! UNLESS YOU’RE ON UNITED AIRLINES IN WHICH CASE THIS DAY IS A BLACK AND HORRIFYING SCENE OF HUMAN MISERY AND DEBASEMENT.

Just as we arrive at the Tucson airport at 11:30 a.m. for our 1:30 p.m. flight to LAX, I receive a robocall on my phone. "YOUR FLIGHT," the robotic voice of one of United’s Archdemons Who United Chairman Glenn Tilton Keeps When Needed to Unleash Hell on United Customers informed me, "HAS BEEN CANCELLED." The culprit? Oh, it’s that tricky “weather” again! For some reason, EVERY OTHER AIRLINE has developed the capability of flying in the rain, but Ultra-Cautious United has a different approach: “A stiff breeze? A fine mist? DANGER DANGER GROUND ALL PLANES!!!! IT’S NOT SAFE!!!! WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!”

UPDATE: Wait, The Wife just reminded me that this flight was cancelled due to the ever-mysterious "mechanical problems," not "weather." So I was wrong to blame United's inability to fly a plane in a light fog. I should have blamed United's inability to manage to have aplane mechanically able to fly a short flight you've known about for months in advance.

United Customer Service Agent #3442. How may I help you?

So we make our way to the counter, where two United Agents await. Here we arrive at a bright spot in the story, for we chose wisely. Our guy, John Something, immediately went to work trying to get us home. The Tall Bald Guy with a Moustache next to him took a different approach. When the girl next to us asked for help getting back to LA, he said “SORRY!!! NOTHING I CAN DO!!! SEE YOU TOMORROW MORNING!!” She left weeping. Meanwhile, John Something tapped and tapped and developed a solution: We would fly USAir from Tucson to Phoenix, then USAir from Phoenix to Santa Barbara, then United from Santa Barbara to SFO. We’d be home at 8:30 that night, earlier than the original itinerary! Sold! THANKS JOHN SOMETHING!! Off we go.

I have to admit, hubris took over and in Phoenix we were positively giddy. We’d made it! Sure, we were conducting our own Personal Tour of Western Airports, but we were going to get home! I mean, USAir was taking care of shit, and United only had to do one thing: Get us from Santa Barbara to SFO! Even stupid, incompetent, hateful, evil United could get ONE THING RIGHT that day, right?

What do you think?

20 minutes before boarding time for the ON-TIME, TOTALLY PROFESSIONAL, NON-WEATHER-AVERSE USAir flight to Santa Barbara, RING RING RING. It’s one of United Chairman Glenn Tilton’s Demons calling again!!! OH NO!!!! YOUR FLIGHT, Tilton’s Pet Demon says, HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

Jesus Fucking Christ. NOW IT IS WAR, UNITED AIRLINES. Here is a list of people who HATE UNITED AIRLINES:

1. Jesus
2. Mother Theresa
3. TK and The Wife
4. All Good and True People of the World

So I get on the phone to the United Call Center, located in Strange Accentia, Somewhereland. I don’t even know what I said. My eyes had rolled back in my head and I was frothing at the mouth. Mothers were directing their children away from me. I asked to speak to a supervisor. I might have been speaking in Latin at some point. All I know is, at the end, United agreed to refund the entire ticket price and we were at the Southwest counter, buying the last two seats on a flight from Phoenix to Vegas to SFO. Which was a little delayed, BUT NOT CANCELLED LIKE UNITED DOES EVERY TIME.

We’ll see if the refund shows up on my credit card. So far, nothing.

So in closing, United, good show. You almost beat me. Cancelling that flight from Santa Barbara to SFO was a masterstroke. That would have broken many lesser men. Well-played, Glenn Tilton. Somehow we made it. Slink back to your Evil Lair and try again.

Please, please, please, refund my money like you said you would. Next time I’m in Chicago, we’ll go out for Virgin’s Blood and the Flesh of Your Enemies.

Your pal,



Anonymous said...

I once had the "pleasure" of "flying" with United from Denver to SFO a few years back.

Our flight was cancelled (surprise surprise) but the best part was they had the nerve to say "But that plane will be late because it is a charter carrying the Broncos back home!" (From a game they lost no less.)

Um, yeah, don't really care, especially when this means a 3 hour delay when travelling with a 6 week old human. Buy your own damn plane, football team.

Then again, I guess using the Broncos as an excuse might actually work in Denver since they have that creepy horse with the glowing red eyes outside the airport.

Tamagosan said...

Priceless post, TK. I almost choked up my post-workout chocolate chip peanut butter walnut cookie. Score!

I guess this is a bad time to mention that my broken earphone jack on a recent long flight netted me a $150 credit. The catch is that you have to use it to fly on their airline. Tricky!

I'm going to suggest that Tilton's evil Satanic lair may be in Guam; since United merged with Continental, and the latter is the only real airline to fly from Guam to anywhere real, it just makes sense that he's also behind the epidemic of brown tree snakes that eat all the bird eggs and everything else joyful about this island.

(Yes, I'm aware that I'm being elitist by implying that Freedom Air to Saipan, with their Capri-Sun-esque drink service, is not anywhere real. Incidentally, their island-hopper plane is broken at exactly the times that the other airline's plane is working and vice versa. I'm convinced it's just one plane that they share. I blame Tilton again.)

That said, flying to Guam has gotten me so many miles that somehow I have elite status, the benefits of which have thus far eluded me, but seem to include them not stealing my bags.

Bonus: Captcha is: STONA!

troymccluresf said...

You should send this to Consumerist.

Anonymous said...

They thankfully got rid of Glen Tilton when they merged with Continental -- Jeff Smisek is now in charge :)

I hope the $$ show up on your credit card (for your sake!) - they normally take 4-6 weeks to post ...

nickh said...

I hate united too!

Jessica said...

I assume you've heard/seen "United Breaks Guitars?" Pretty funny, and a tiny bit satisfying. His problem was different, but the song got a lot of attention, and ultimately the airline attempted to make it up to him in various ways.
Yes, I know, it's like 2 years old... but relevant!
And for what it's worth (a lot to me and my fellow tall travelers), United has the least average leg room of all the major carriers. 1-2" less pitch than others, on many of their planes. Not a lot, but perhaps the difference between being able to get my purse off the floor, or slouch even the tiniest bit on your multi-hour trip.
United is the worst.

Unknown said...

Nothing has given me greater joy than reading this. I am currently in a battle with the unholy douchebags of the the airline world. They decided to take my CARRY ON from me, w/o stating the reason. Then, when the rest of my family's bag's(which were also needlessly gate-checked) showed up, mine was MIA. So O went an talked to the assholes at the baggage claim,who were clueless. The bag was obviously still on the plane but, NO, NO WAY could anybody actually go and check.Well, it is five days later and I'm back from San Fran, without my lugagge. Haven't heard the same story once. They've lied to me. To sum it up, they COULD NOT GIVE A SHIT. And nope, my bag is still in the hellish limbo of "tracing is still in progress". Fuck united. assholes.

Unknown said...

I am reading these wishing I could laugh but am currently stuck at Denver without any compensation because THEY overbooked the flight and left late. 1 how do you sell more room than what u have? U know how big the damn plane is or u would think or hope. Then they have the nerve to say it was due to weather despite the fact the pilot had told us it was overbooking on the p.a. So here I sit instead of my bed because of these jerkoffs. I really recommend staying off this airline, you would be better off walking!!! Fuck these jokes and hope their headquarters burns to the ground. Ill never fly with these assholes again!

Unknown said...
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T said...

I share your hate for united, currently sitting in the SB airport with a toddler for a few hours because shithead at the counter is incapable of doing his job. Wanted to wipe the smirk off his face with a dirty diaper. But what is a couple hundred dollars to a single mom?

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