cc licensed flickr photo shared by bored-now

Dear United Airlines,

Coming from a satisfying long relationship with Continental Airlines (where I am Platinum Elite, flying 60,000 – 75,000 per year for work and vacation), given the merger with my former partner, I tried to enter this new situation with an open mind.

But not only do you seem to have trouble managing guitars, your reservation system is a byzantine rat trap that flat out does not work. It took me more over an hour and a half today to make a simple reservation, one that I already had the flight details (thanks kayak, your site works), ultimately forcing me to do this over the phone.

I would think in these economic times you’d be focused in efficiency but I saw no sign of it today.

So I sat down at my computer this morning to book a vacation on your site. I had everything lined up, the exact flights I wanted. I paced my way through all your screens, including the interstitial attempts to glean more money- Do I want to pay $150 to “accelerate: my frequent flier miles? NO! Do I want to pay $350 to upgrade to first class? NO. Do I want to pay $75 for leg room? Well I’d like to stretch, but NO! I was expecting Do you want to pay $25 to have toilet paper when you take a crap in the rest room? HELL YES!

I picked my seat assignments. I entered my frequent flier miles. I entered my payment information. 10 or 11 screens letter, after the purchase button, expecting to get my conformation, I get one line of red text:

We are sorry, we are having technical difficulties. Please try later.


I’m already 18 minutes into this process. Maybe it was an intermittent glitch. I back all te way to the start. I re-enter everything.

Same result.


I breathe. I reach for my calm spot. I visualize taking a hatchet to small bunnies.

I actually try two more times. (yes I am a fool now, but I want to get out of this nightmare. I’m already half immersed into the porta pot and I am not coming back to dive int again.).

Now it is time to go analog, I go for the phone. I call reservations. I got 2 minutes and 35 seconds through phone menus til I get a person. I explain I’d like to make a reservation, that I have all the info, because the web site keeps giving me errors.

The lady on the other end tells me I will have to pay a $25 service fee to do this over the phone.

Can you see smoke coming out of my ears?

I try to explain that it’s not my fault.

She says I need to talk to some one in their web support department, and then she offers to transfers me. Now I am in the zone of helplessness, being bopped around call centers likely on antipodes.

I get some buzzes and clicks, then a recording telling me how I can make my reservations online (hmm, NOW THERE is an idea I did not think of), and then a machine voice comes in and says

Your call cannot be completed. Please call back on our tall free number.

And United cuts me off, hangs up on me.

Oh my breaking… er, angry heart.

I am now nearly an hour into this, and what do I have? What do I actually have to do to give you my money?

So I call back. I don’t wait for any phone menus, I punch 0 in until the keys come out the other side of my phone and I get “Please hold for an operator”

Now I have someone again in reservations. I am very firm and I say., “I am having a miserable frustrating experience with United today, both online and on the phone, and I need to speak to a customer service manager right away.”

She starts the hosing down the irate caller process by calmly trying to say she can help or that the managers are in a different department.

NO I NEED TO SPEAK TO A MANAGER NOW. (Picture me swinging a machete, please)

She says “ok” and transfers me.

I get a new lady, and holding down the raging burning flames, I explain all I have been through, and as I breathe at the end of my rant, I expect to get a new run around.

But I finally found the one soul who works for United who might actually care a tiny fraction. Or maybe she is not working to company standards of screwing up. She says, “I can make your reservation, and I will waive the service fee.”

Woah, I found human in the machine.

It takes a while to read all the information in over the phone, but finally, more than 90 minutes into this experience, I have a reservation.

So yes, I know there are cases where the system does not work. I have booked on United before without this much hassle. But I have to say that if this is the beginning of the new relationship, it ain’t off to a good start.

United, you gotta bring more to this relationship, a whole lot more. 90+ minutes to make a reservation is bad.

And it won’t take too much more of this for me to take my miles to another carrier.

Later in the day I logged onto, and completed a reservation in 9 minutes. Their system works ALL THE TIME and it does so efficiently. It’s about 3 screens, Done.

Yo, United, I am not expecting a reply, ’cause you have so many other customers to confound and frustrate. It’s gotta be a big job to mess up so profoundly, so often.

And don’t expect flowers or candy on Valentines day from me, not until you get your act together. I think you need to find a group or something to work on your personal relationship skills.

With no love and even less affection,


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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Owwie…I feel your pain! There’s nothing worse than dealing with an online process when you know how it SHOULD work. I’ve had similar experiences with Verizon and Blue Cross. United is so busy asking for money for things you don’t want that they can’t even provide basic service to their customers. I think you’ll have to get to the 10 million mile mark (from Up in the Air) to get decent service!!

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