Written on: 16/07/2012 by SillyGrandpa (1 review written)
My wife and I are both in our mid sixties, living in Cape Town, South Africa.
I cashed in part of my pension in order to visit our children and grand children far away, in the UK and USA.
We have both previously suffered with DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), a condition for I was hospitalised some years ago.
My wife's ankles and feet swell up tremendously with prolonged air travel, in spite of her taking aspirin and wearing compression stockings.
We both get up and walk at least every 1.5 to 2 hours during prolonged flights.
We live in Cape Town, South Africa, whilst our children and grand children live in the United Kingdom and in California.
The flying time from Cape Town to London is an average of 12 hours, and the flying time from London to LAX is almost the same.
Due to our age and health, we never travel more than one long haul flight without spending at least 2 nights en route in order to rest and exercise.
We always fly to London, stay there at least 2 nights, before continuing our flight to Los Angeles.
Our flight from Cape Town to London on British Air, followed by our flight on United to LAX was uneventful.
However our return flight on United can be termed nothing short of a total, disgusting disaster.
We boarded our flight UA934 from LAX to LHR at around 5pm June 28th.
At departure time an announcement was made that our departure would be delayed about half an hour due to an electronic part that needed to be obtained. We were amazed that the fault, or whatever it was, was only detected after we were all on board.
At 7.30pm a further announcement was made that the part was going to have to be flown from San Francisco, and we would be delayed another two hours.
At this time we were told to deplane and return to the departure lounge to wait further details.
At no time were we offered refreshments.
Following a number of further announcements in the departure lounge, which included "passengers for UA945 to London - we have to announce that at this time we have no information", we asked for an authoritative update, which was not forthcoming at that time.
Other elderly passengers, as well as families with small children, were extremely stressed and angry. However conspicuous by their absence was any empathy from the ground staff, nor was there any attempt to offer us any refreshments.
Finally an announcement was made that our flight had now been cancelled, and first and business class passengers should go to the United lounge where they would have accommodation and alternative plans made for them.
Economy class passengers were told to gather all their belongings, leave the departure lounge in terminal 7, and proceed to terminal 6 in order to rebook our flights.
A mad dash ensued, with the younger able bodied travellers sprinting ahead, whist the rest of us were left to our own devices to try and find our way to the check-in counter at terminal 6.
Those first in line were able to get aboard the last earlier connections to London.
No reconsideration was given at all for persons with connecting flights.
At no time was there a single United ground crew member visible in order to guide us to the check in counter. It was only by asking security personal en route, getting lost and then doubling back again, were we able to finally get to the check in counter.
When we arrived at the check in counter, there were no staff on duty to assist us.
Only when a United ground staff member, who knew nothing about our flight cancellation, Terry Allen saw the anxiety, dismay and utter confusion that we were all experiencing, did we encounter our one and only empathetic United staff member.
Ms Allen single handedly was the unsung hero of our disaster, going out of her way to get us information, whether the news was bad or good.
Shortly afterwards the LAPD arrived with another staff member, and they all just stood there watching us.
Very disconcerting to see the police being brought in for this event.
We all demanded to see management, and eventually a tall lady, whom we were informed was a senior manager, arrived on the scene.
This lady at not time addressed any of us, and kept her back to us avoiding any contact.
We overheard part of the conversation with her where it was suggested that the passengers be told the truth. She said ' I cannot tell them that' and then walked away, not to be seen again.
After 2 hours standing in line we were advised to try and book our flights by phone or on line. No flights to London were available for the next 3 days.This was not a practical solution for us travellers that had no access to local cell phones nor computers.
We were further informed that United had 'used up our quota of hotel beds for the day' and we should try and get our own accommodation. At our own expense. Of course this being the start of the July 4 long weekend this was a joke.
When we asked for meal vouchers, this was denied us.
All we could do was try and arrange our own accommodation and arrangements, and try and claim compensation. Wonderful for those persons who had available funds, but not easily attainable for pensioners like us who had exhausted our funds on our trip.
At about 10pm, for the first time, some drinks and pretzels were brought to us.
I managed to send a text to our daughter in Thousand Oaks and she was able, after over an hour. to get us rerouted to London via Newark. Two days later.
Our son in law came to fetch us to spend the night with them - an almost 3 hour return drive.
The following night we managed to get a room at the Airport Marriott Hotel in order to be on time for our early morning flight on Saturday to Newark, and then on to London.
Upon arriving at LAX for our Newark flight we were told that THAT flight was now delayed.
We asked for meal vouchers, seeing as we had booked, and paid for, flights from LAX to LHR which included meals. We were told that internal flights did not offer free food.
We eventually arrived in Newark, and tried to obtain seats on the next leg of our journey where we were able to stretch our legs, taking into account that we now had not one long-haul flight as planned, but THREE back to back long-haul flights. This was when we encountered utter hostility at the United Services counter.
We were finally told to speak to the counter staff at the gate, which we did, and were then told to return to the customer services counter! Again.! The lady at the gate told us we could only speak to the senior customer relations person at the gate, but that he or she was not there.....
I might add that as a result of the incredible stress placed on us as well as our children, including the very real possibility of missing our connecting flight from London to Cape Town, and having to purchase new tickets, from funds I do not have, in order to return home, I developed stress-related asthma, for which I am now receiving medical attention back home.
Conspicuous by its absence is the lack of response from the airline to my numerous queries and emails, apart from a reply I received when I addressed my concern to the CEO of the airline, Jeff Smisek. He did note reply to me, but the Customer Care Manager, Robbie Jones, did:
June 30 2012
Thank you for contacting United Airlines.
I understand you wanted to speak directly with our CEO. Mr. Smisek does spend time reading letters and talking to customers; however, he has selected a team to respond to a majority of the customers on his behalf. Mr. Smisek has placed me in a position to respond to your concerns and communicate your comments to the appropriate departments.
Thank you for contacting United Airlines. I regret we have taken so long to answer your correspondence.
While the merger of United and Continental Airlines has been a successful one, there have certainly been challenges resulting in higher than normal mail volume and more calls to our contact centers than expected, making it harder for us to resolve some issues and provide assistance in real time. Our key technology migration, in which we combined reservations systems and websites on March 3, went well—but it was not without difficulties, ones we are working very hard to correct. Whatever factors contributed to the concerns you shared, I do apologize for the inconvenience we’ve caused you and, again, for the delay in responding.
We appreciate the time you took to let us know about your experience. I sincerely apologize for your inconvenience when our flight cancelled.
Your travel experience should reinforce your decision to choose us. Your feedback is more crucial than ever and your comments will be shared directly with our corporate management team.
My goal is to retain you as a loyal and satisfied United customer. I would like to offer you compensation, in order to do this I will need the passengers names and ticket numbers.
Although my reply is brief, please know that we are working hard to build an airline that will earn your confidence and approval. Please accept my apology and allow us the privilege of serving you again on board a future United Airlines flight.
Customer Care Manager
case # 5483664
NOTE: NEARLY 3 WEEKS SINCE MR JONES SENT ME THIS RESPONSE I HAVE HEARD NOTHING...