HELD CAPTIVE BY UNITED AIRLINES

By R. A. Schneider

Current and Potential United Airline Passengers,

I am a United Plus Mileage member and decided to use United Airlines as my carrier for my family vacation to Dayton Ohio. I am in the U.S. Navy stationed in Okinawa with my family of four.

We flew into Dayton and can say the United flight from Tokyo to Chicago was extremely pleasant. It was the return flight that has changed my view about United Airlines.

We had a 1030 flight from Dayton to Chicago. So, as good airline passengers, we arrived at the airport at 0800. We didn’t begin boarding the plane until about 1015, the United Agent just told the crowd it would be a few minutes until boarded and he didn’t have any other information. Once the plane was boarded and pushed away from the gate, the pilot came over and told us we were being delayed due to weather in Chicago. With no explanation as to why we didn’t return to the gate, we were just sitting on the Dayton runway as we received half-hour updates from the pilot. We sat on the runway like captive animals for 3 ½ hours. A guy, who I’ll refer to as 3C, sitting in front of me called United on phone while we were parked on the runway. 3C was demanding an explanation as to why we were sitting on the runway vice returning to the gate. 3C told the United representative on the phone it was because the pilots duty day begins when the plane is away from the gate and threatened to call ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN if he wasn’t compensated for the trouble. He was compensated a first class round-trip ticket for his trouble.

When we finally arrived in Chicago, this is when my nightmare really begins. Since most of the flights coming and going were either delayed or cancelled, there were bodies laying around everywhere as we came through the gate. Oh, did I mention we had to depart the plane in the rain and enter through the terminal on foot. Since I was we missed our flight to Japan, we were directed to go to the customer service counter to get our new flight information.

My family and I stood in the customer service line for two hours with an estimated 30 minutes left to we made the front of the line, a United representative approached me asked where my final destination was. When I told her Okinawa Japan, she told us to follow her. She took us outside the security zone to the front check-in counters. To my horror, the line was about two miles long. There were only three United representatives handling customers, the other four were assisting the E-Ticket customers. My family and I stood in line for 4 ½ hours when we finally made it to the representative. The United representative told me I was in luck because a partner airline had a flight at 0100 to Seoul Korea and a connecting flight to Okinawa. He redirected our luggage and directed me to check-in with the partner airline. I asked the representative if I could get a complementary meal after being on the plane for nearly 4 ½ hours and then standing in line for another 4 ½ hours. I was denied because all the delays were weather related.

After a quick dinner, my family and I reported to the airline to check in for our 0100 flight. After standing in line for 45 minutes, I was told by the new airline representative that she couldn’t check us in because we were on standby and the flight was overbooked and we were lowest priority since we were United passengers. I was told to come back in a few hours to see if there were any cancellations.

At this point, I decided to go back to the United counter to get a guaranteed flight and get a hotel room and give my legs a break. When I went down to the United counter, I was greeted with another long line. At 11:45pm, a United representative told all of us in line that they were closing for the night and offered a “discounted” hotel voucher and told us to call the United 1-800 number to book our flights. Needles to say, my family and everyone else in line were nearing our melting point. I decided to take the 20 minute train back to the other airline and see if we could get on the flight. By the grace of God, we did. Let me tell you, the 14 hour Asiana flight felt so good. Of coure, when we finally made it to Okinawa, we were told our five pieces of luggage were still in Chicago.

I’m asking United Airlines to give me and my family the same compensation as you gave Mr. 3C and please find my luggage.

Tired and disappointed,

RASS

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