I’m sorry this post will not be about nail polish. You can pass it by, I just really needed to get the story out in writing somehow before I could sleep. When you try to contact United online, you don’t have very many characters of space to explain, so I shall put it here!
The way from LAX to France:
We got to the airport early for our flight, around 7am on May 9th, and saw our first flight was canceled. They said it was a mechanical problem, the phone assistance said it was due to weather problems at the destination. I looked at the weather at our destination and it was sunny and 70 degrees.
We told them we have to catch a connecting flight to Brussels though and only had the hour layover, so we had to get there somehow. They said “You’ll probably be re-routed, go stand in that service line.”
That service line was long, and while we stood in it, everyone was calling United on their cell phones trying to get help since the line wasn’t moving anyway. After 2 hours in that service line, we finally got to the front, got a nice representative at the desk to help. We were also on the phone with United still on hold.
They were both trying to get us to Brussels somehow, even though it took so long to even get to us that we missed every possible flight out anyway. They said “By now all of the flights to Europe have left, so you have to go tomorrow.” We were so upset and said we were going to miss our whole first day, with non reimbursable tours, etc. They said they can’t do anything about that but maybe if we filled out a request when we got back home they could give us up to 50 dollars compensation.
They gave us a set of tickets starting with a Lufthansa flight that left that night, said they were for sure and confirmed. We asked many times to verify they were not standby because we needed for-sure tickets. They said yes. Then they gave us a voucher to go across the street to a hotel while they waited until night time to check in. While we were in that hotel room, we called the United help desk and were on the phone with them explaining we were missing days out of our very hard earned vacation days and were losing money for tours! They didn’t seem to care and just kept putting us on hold, we gave up and said at least we have tickets there.
So we go back to LAX, go to the Lufthansa check-in desk, ready to go. Lufthansa says, “Your tickets are standby, and this is a completely booked flight, so we don’t want to take your bags since you probably can’t make this flight. You should make sure you can get on and then come back and give us your bags if you get confirmation.”
Our jaws dropped. We said “What!? They promised us they were not standby!” Lufthansa said, “I’m sorry, they have done this before and we cannot leave our own Lufthansa customers behind so we cannot give you top priority either, would you like to go back to United for tickets that are not standby?” We said “No, they promised us these weren’t, so they will just do that to us again, we might as well try to get on standby.”
While we waited those 2 hours to see if we would make it on standby, we were on the phone with United again. We said “You lied and said these were confirmed, they are just standby! We have to get there, we can’t leave even later, this is horrible!” They kept saying we could just fill out a request on their website later on when we got home and maybe could get 50 dollars back. That’s all they ever offered to make up for this! We were so furious.
Finally Lufthansa called us over the loudspeaker and said we made it on standby! We decided to leave our fury behind and deal with United when we got home on May 23rd. At least we had flights at this point.
The way home:
Our flights home were to start on May 23rd at 10-something in the morning. We got to the airport early and went to the Swiss Air check-in desk to check our bags in to head home. It was about 9:30am.
She said “I’m not showing anything for this ticket number, do you have other identifying information for your flight?” Bryan said yes and had a whole folder full of information. We had the United record locator, the ticket number, our frequent flyer number for United, our European frequent flyer number that Swiss Air uses, etc.
Swiss Air used our European frequent flyer number finally to find our records and they said “For some reason your ticket isn’t valid anymore. Let me get the service desk to come help us.”
So the lady from the service desk came over and got all of our information. She asked if we would go across the hall there to the service desk so she could help us.
She called United while we waited there. After an hour of standing there, we watched her try to call United on two separate phones. United hung up on her after getting info and putting her on hold multiple times. That was why she kept trying to call on two phones, to hope each time she was hung up on that another person on the other phone would not hang up.
She gave up and tried to give us some sympathy but said that we needed to get United to help us. We don’t speak French so her sentences were very short and we were completely confused.
I said “We understand it isn’t your fault, we are having an awful time with United too. Can we try to call them on your phone? Our cell phones won’t call out since we are in France, and we tried our credit card in that payphone, but it isn’t letting us call out of France either. Maybe my husband can get them to give us some service?” She said she can’t have her phone tied up. We said “But there is no United desk anywhere in this airport, so how can we get help, how do we get home?” She said she would try Brussels Air then since one of our tickets going from LA to France was serviced with their airline through United, maybe they could help somehow.
So she called Brussels Air for us as a last resort. About an hour later, she hung up and told us “Okay, Brussels Air might be able to help and then you can just deal with United from home to get refunded.” We asked what that meant, and what was happening next. She shrugged and said “They said they’ll call back later with some help.” We asked, “But when? What do we do next?” She said “I don’t know, maybe you can go home tomorrow? They will call me on this phone line so let’s see what happens.” We asked if that meant she’d get a call in one hour, 4 hours, or what? She said she didn’t know.
We felt like we weren’t even sure we should wait on that call. We had never booked anything through Brussels Air so how did we know they were really helping? We told the Swiss Air service desk representative again that we needed to get home and asked if we could borrow the phone and try to call United ourselves and pleaded with her.
She finally said okay we could use the phone in the far corner! We felt like we were finally going to have a solution since we’d get to call ourselves! We called the 800 number, finally we could speak English to United and get some kind of explanation or help. Or so we thought.
The person we reached was not helpful at all. She said our record locator code was created on our way to France, which was more than 7 days ago so she could not retrieve any information. We were like okay, so then here are our ticket numbers for today, try those maybe? She said they didn’t exist. So we asked for a supervisor. The supervisor put us on hold. The Swiss Air representative said we had to get off of her phone, we had used it for 45 minutes and that was too long.
We told the United supervisor on the phone that we couldn’t be on hold any longer because Swiss Air was making us hang up. The United rep said “Do not hang up, we are getting information, we need more time, do not hang up!” So I told the Swiss Air rep that we might finally get help and were asked not to hang up. She was mad, but left us with our phone at least.
Then another supervisor at the Swiss Air desk walked up, grabbed the phone from my husband and hung it up.
I said “No! They said not to hang up! We waited an hour and were finally getting help!” She said “You cannot use our phone that long.” I said “We have a Swiss Air ticket out, issued by United, your sister airline. You should be helping us get home. We shouldn’t even have to borrow your phone to help ourselves, you should be helping us. But I didn’t want to keep asking so I offered to call myself so we can help ourselves instead. And you just hung up! So now you need to try to help us get home again. Wouldn’t you rather have had us just help ourselves? Now you won’t help us get home, and you prevent us from helping ourselves!”
They said they do not need to help us because it was United’s fault and we need to deal with United on our own. Then they said “We are calling the police over.” The police there wear camo and have huge machine guns poised. Not like the Federales in Mexico with the guns on their hips, these are huge guns that they have their hands on. It is very scary, we were just trying to get help.
We left the area, so now its about 1pm. We try our cell phones again and try calling from the payphone with our credit cards and cannot get to the US numbers.
So I went to the magazine stand at the airport and asked what their largest quantity of phone card was. At this point we didn’t even care if we had to pay a lot for a phone card, we really thought being able to call the 800 UNITED number would actually help, so we bought the 100 minute phone card.
We called United again with the phone card and were passed from customer service rep to supervisor. The supervisor even said they couldn’t find any of our records and said “I’m not the right person to help with this, let me find you someone who might help.” We are so afraid the 100 minutes will just run out before we get any help and the phone card will just make the phone hang up. We finally get someone even higher up who seems nice and is trying to help. Her name is Marge and she’s saying “We can’t retrieve your records with that record locator because it was for your whole set of flights and you left the US on May 9th. That’s over 7 days ago so we can’t use that record locator. We said okay here are our ticket numbers. She said they don’t exist. We said okay please look it up by our frequent flyer numbers. We have had those frequent flyer numbers with United for years. Their Mileage Plus numbers. She said ours did not exist. How is that? I had an email printed from long ago that says welcome to Mileage Plus, here is your frequent flyer number, I read it off, she said it didn’t exist!”
Basically, United was saying they don’t know who we are, we never bought anything from them, and we aren’t their problem at all. She said we needed to just buy tickets home if we wanted to get home. We said “Here are our options, they are over 4 thousand dollars for each ticket, so by the time we got home, it would have been over 10 thousand dollars, we don’t have that.” She said “I don’t know what to tell you, we don’t have any records at all.” We said “We are stranded in France, can’t speak French, the police were just called on us so we had to leave the Swiss Air desk and can’t get help from them either, but they have our records on their screen and they all say they were marked as VOID by United.” She said she didn’t know anything about it.
We said “Can we give you this payphone number, our phone card has 3 minutes left.” She said she can’t call out. My husband said “Can we PLEASE have your direct number because if we buy another 100 minute card, it might run out by the time we got some info too.” She said “No, there is only the 800 UNITED number.”
Our phone card ran out and it hung up on her in the middle of that part of the conversation.
Now its after 2pm and we’ve been desperately looking for help since 9:30am, had the police called on us, we aren’t terrorists or anything, we even have top secret government clearances from the US DOD! And we are scared and stranded and just sick to our stomachs, looking all around us and finding no one to help us. United should have at least been our one lifeline since we booked everything through them and had flown with them for years on those same frequent flyer Mileage Plus numbers. It was like the Twilight Zone, it really was.
We went to the Lufthansa desk, we knew they had no incentive to help us but we were desperate. They looked up our ticket numbers, they found them. They said they were marked VOID by United and we needed to call United for help. We said they aren’t helping and left us completely already. So they felt sorry for us and tried to call Brussels Air since they saw one of our flights United put us on before was a Brussels Air flight. Lufthansa got off the phone with them and said Brussels Air said they can help but you need a FIM. We asked what a FIM was? They said “You should have gotten a FIM, United gets it from Brussels Air and gives it to you.” We said we hadn’t been given anything like that. They said we should go over to the Brussels Air service desk since that was all the help they could give us.
So we went to the Brussels Air service desk and explained. The Brussels Air service rep said since there was no line he would look up our info and try to help. He said he saw all of our records and that United marked them as VOID so we had to call United for help. We said we tried so hard for hours and hours and they keep saying we don’t exist and our flights home don’t exist. They said “Well your ticket from here to leave was issued from United as a Swiss Air flight. You need to go to the Swiss Air desk, they will help you.” I said “We can’t go back over there, they called the police after we asked them for help from 9:30am until 1pm.”
He could see we were nice people just wanting help and that we didn’t deserve the police called on us. He actually helped us because he felt sorry for us. He said Brussels Air is going to find us tickets home but that they would have to send the tickets to Swiss Air since they were United’s sister airline there at that airport and the only service desk related to United and our tickets home.
So I walked over and peeked to make sure the lady who called the police on me had already left her shift. She had. So I went up to the Swiss Air desk again, found the new lady who had started her shift. I explained and she again said she can’t help and gave me the Swiss Air call center number, not like we had a phone to call it from, we weren’t going to ask them to call it or ask if we could call it ourselves from their phone…
As we were standing there completely hopeless and helpless, it was after 3pm and the Swiss Air lady said “Are you Mrs. Cotta?” I ran up and said “YES! That’s us, you can help!?” She had a phone on her ear and said “Brussels Air called us asking for you, please wait here while I talk to them.”
20 minutes later, she had something that came out of her printer and they were tickets home on Air France. We didn’t care that they were very late or another completely different airline with different connections, we were so relieved to have a way home.
So we made it home, thanks to Brussels Airlines who helped us out of pity when United left us completely and totally abandoned in France, afraid of the police and not getting home.
We got home this morning, or now it was more than 24 hours ago, I just can’t sleep… I’ve been calling, emailing, facebooking, and twittering United since we got home. Even this many hours later, I get a lot of “Rest assured we will get to your case.” and “Sorry for the inconvenience but if you filled out a help request, they will be answered by next week.” I’m over here going “Did you see the part about we wouldn’t have gotten home if it was up to you because you still haven’t admitted we exist, did you see the part about how we had police called on us that hold very large guns and you still didn’t help in any way at all!?”
Still no response. So I guess I keep waiting, maybe they will care next week. I filled out the case incident logged into my same old frequent flyer account I’ve always had, the one they said didn’t exist. We still want answers!
In case we really have to escalate this, I took pictures at Nice airport – of the Swiss Air help desk, the Lufthansa help desk, the Brussels Air help desk, the airport police in their camo with their guns in their hands… in case United does not believe any portion of this story or continues to claim that our records do not exist. We have print-outs of our records, our flight numbers, our ticket numbers, even printed out by Lufthansa and Brussels Air, to prove that the other airlines had access to our records that were marked VOID by United, only United claimed they did not exist.
My husband and I both have Top Secret clearances from the US Government DOD. Being left stranded in a foreign country is a huge deal to them, so if we have to, we will try to contact the DOD service to help us deal with United. I bet that would get some attention finally.
Maybe now that I’ve written this all out I can go to sleep. And wow, its going to be 6am, on May 25th.