13 May 2018

Untied Airlines and me

When it comes to traveling, rarely a person undertaking the voyage is more discombobulated than I. Both acquired with years fear of flying and the unwillingness to leave home add a lot to the dealing with all these Internet sites offering you the most convenient and the cheapest way to get you from point A to point B. In this case, from point Z* to point X with a plane change in point Y. And back, hopefully.

So, being in thrall of all the "best offers", timetables, prices, stopover points, timelines etc., I missed a certain point, when making the final choice and clicking on the fateful "Make the purchase" (or whatever it says) button. My inattention brought me to the bunch of misbegotten malcontents, malfeasance - minded marauders of civil aviation, otherwise known as Untied Airlines**. Yes, the ones whose exploits in passenger-oriented violence, casual murder of animals and other similar innovations in customer service are the sign of the times and the talk of the day.

I noticed my oversight only when it came to the online check-in procedure. The usually simple and quick process of filling in a page of basic data came in this case as a sequence of several pages, with kind of questions more suited for an application to some spy agency. But the breaking point came when somewhere on page 5 the system stopped responding, mulled on some issues for a while and came with a notice: "For security reasons your check-in process can't be continued at this time".

OK, I said, no big deal. After all, that whole home check-in procedure doesn't really save you much time, not in point Z, where most of your time is spent in the security-bound lines anyway. So, after getting to the old-fashioned check-in counter, I was unpleasantly surprised to see that our seating arrangements were changed by the airline - we were bumped about 9 rows back. I've mentioned this discovery to the check-in wallah, with a (feeble, I know) protest of a "But I have reserved these seats several months ago!". His response, coupled with his unwavering steely gaze was  crushing: "No matter, it is the same cabin, after all". No further arguments...

Well, looking forward to the pleasant vacation and keeping in mind that for the flight back I have reserved (and paid for) something called "enhanced seating", I have swallowed this small insignificant crow and otherwise our way to the point X was uneventful and even more or less on time.

On the way back I haven't even attempted the doomed in advance online check-in. So, after repeatedly swapping our passports in that infernal machine at the airport in point X, we have eventually got our boarding passes, and lo and behold: our seats were bumped back again, far away from the general area of the duly paid for "enhanced seating". Now I was pissed off. So, when we got to the terminal, which almost wholly belongs to the Untied Airlines, I have started to search for a service agent. To my chagrin, there wasn't a single one available. About 45 minutes before our flight take-off time a harassed - looking agent appeared at out gate and got swamped immediately by all kinds of needy people, mostly of the stand by category. When my turn came, I was told that the agent can't see my ticketing on the computer (?), so I shall have to defer my issues to the service agents in point Y, where the long flight to point Z is starting.

The first available service agent at point Y was an apprentice (as he himself confessed) who decided to redirect my issue to his neighbor - an important looking lady who, pointedly ignoring the apprentice's attempts to draw her attention, took care meanwhile of several other customers, who came by way after me. When she deigned to take a brief look at the apprentice's screen with my ticket info, she immediately declared that I didn't have a claim for the enhanced seating, since I haven't purchased any. My attempts to demonstrate the ticketing email on my phone were rejected outright and quite rudely.

Only when I asked for the lady's name (for submitting a complaint), did she jump into action. Which action consisted of  a) complaining of me being annoying and b) calling for a supervisor to get rid of the said annoyance.

Well, to shorten the story, the supervisor's intervention resolved the whole drama. She was a rather nice person, who took a look at my ticketing email and, seeing the proof of purchase, moved the poor apprentice aside and, after a few manipulations on the computer, found us two seats in the enhanced seating section. She also told me that, due to cancellation of the previous flight from point Y to point Z, the wave of newcomers caused a turmoil with seating and even (kind of) apologized for the misunderstanding and inconvenience caused.

Well, as an afterword: only in the morning after landing in point Z, I have found an email from Untied Airlines, partially quoted below:
There has been an aircraft swap for your flight today to Tel Aviv, which has resulted in seating changes. We have done our best to keep your original seating preferences, but your seat assignments have changed.

New seat assignments:

[Passenger 1] - 30A
[Passenger 2] - 30B

We appreciate your understanding and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
There are three intriguing points about that email: that it was sent about two hours before take-off time from point X; that it contradicts the flight cancellation story of the supervisor; and the reference to "original seating preferences". Original my foot.

But no matter. What matters is that SWMBO was able to relax in the enhanced seat (having, to be frank, legs longer than mine, it is a significant point), that the justice triumphed and that I have learned to double check the situation before clicking this "Make the purchase" button. Hopefully to avoid the good services of Untied from now on.

So there.

(*) Point Z, being of course the Zionist Entity.
(**) Well, kind of, if you know what I mean.