The Zen of Commercial Flight

So, I’m at San Diego airport this morning, having missed my United Airlines connection and trying to catch a later UA flight. I’m admittedly somewhat vexed, because my car was smoked on the freeway at 70 mi/h by a runaway hubcap from some deranged soccer mom in a careening minivan, and did I mention I briefly lost my wallet? Well, that too.

I sidle up to the counter, and the UA counter woman pulls up my reservation and says, "You don’t have a ticket." What do you mean, I don’t have a ticket? I have a confirmation number, and UA confirmed on the phone that all I needed to do was change my ticket at the airport. Nevertheless, "You don’t have a ticket, sir". And things got bad from there.

Me: "You mean I don’t have reservation? "

Her: "No, you don’t have a ticket."

Me: "I have a reservation, and a confirmation, but no ticket?"

Her: "You have no ticket on this reservation."

Me: " I don’t understand. It’s an e-ticket, so there isn’t really a ticket anyway. So I’m not supposed to have a ticket, just a confirmation number, etc."

Her: "Sir, you have no ticket and flight is 30 minutes from leaving. Do you want to leave, or do you want to buy a ticket?"

Me: "That it? Those are my choices?"

Her: "Yes." [This was said extremely smugly, which helped really set me off.]

Me: "I have a ticket and I need to get to Denver. I want to talk to a manager."

Her: "Great, that’s fine by me."

Me: "Fine."

She scares up a manager, saying, loud enough for me to hear, "This one’s aaaaall yours. He thinks he has a ticket, but he doesn’t have a ticket." This was followed by a near Damien-like eye-roll.

I calmly explained the situation to the manager woman. She then called a help desk, and five minutes later it was all figured out. UA had screwed up and canceled my outbound leg when some changes were made to the next leg of the ticket, which I don’t do until tomorrow. It was, as the manager conceded, UA’s agent’s error — and the first desk person should have checked into it right away, instead of sending me home, or telling me I needed to buy a new, one-way full-fare ticket.

I pointed out, in fairly direct terms, the error of her associate’s ways, saying that I was strapped for time, but if I hadn’t been I would take her name and her badge number, and maybe send her to finishing school, if she weren’t already mid-40s. I would also, I said, persistent notes to UA management until they responded. But because all of this crap had taken me so long, all I had time to do was run for the plane.



  1. Paul,
    The last word of your post seems particularly inappropriate. I’m not even sure I could go as far as “surprising.”
    Having said that, I hope that your day improved from that point on.
    My one time flying out of San Diego was fine, by the way. The airport was clean and had free wi-fi. Now that’s unbelievable!

  2. Paul, you really need to specify the full name of the airline so the appropriately negative Google Juice can make it’s way to this page and they’ll maybe over time think about treating people better.
    Just a suggestion.
    – Mike

  3. Okay, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines, United Airlines.

  4. Lindbergh says:

    United Airlines sucks. United Airlines sucks. United Airlines sucks. United Airlines sucks. United Airlines sucks. United Airlines sucks.

  5. >United Airlines sucks.
    Not half as much as Air France. To begin with, AF has some of the worst service you can imagine (on international flights, no less). To top it off, my whole family got stranded in the Paris airport in the middle of some sort of a strike there.
    Imagine the fun!

  6. I have had the same type of problem with United and was met with the same less-than-helpful attitude. I have to say that otherwise United is a dream to fly with when compared to US Air.

  7. United Airlines does suck but like every other airline depends on what clown is across from you. They hosed me real good in SBA this Feb… $200 out of my pocket to get a cab to LAX.
    I am a recovering United 1M miler. US Air is Worse. Air France is an order of magnitude worse, and possibly the closest an AMerican can come to an encounter with communist society.
    My mother was a flight attendant for 35 years… not all customers are rational either.

  8. “…name and badge number” ha, you’re not serious are you?!? Where and when in your life or anyone you know, did reporting someone with such tactics ever get someone reprimanded or fired for reporting them? You might as well call their “mommy” and tell them they hurt your feelings too.
    Unfortunately “kiss-ass” customer no longer exists in our society…unless you’re at a big $$$ restaurant ha ha. It’s just not that the airline in this case that doesn’t care, it goes both ways – the so called customer is also to blame, because when something goes wrong, the customer is screaming bloody murder. In their narcissistic world “heads will roll” because “they” and only “they” were wronged. Paul, don’t take this personal, but things do go wrong everyday…and things go right everyday. You’re not alone – deal with it and move on.

  9. *correction – 2nd paragraph should read “…”kiss-ass” customer service no long exists…”