United Airlines Laughs At Traveller’s Plight

Wade’s world is not a happy one.

After difficulties with a connecting United Airlines flight, Wade had to recheck his bags. At the check-in counter, the e-ticket terminals thwarted him.

His attempts to get help using the e-ticketing terminals were met with indifference or laughter. When Wade asked one of the ticket agents who laughed at him what his name was, the agent said his name was, “Juice Box.”

Wade vows to never fly United again. His letter, inside.

    “My story begins as I stood at the Quantas Airlines ticket counter in Melbourne Australia, on Monday, November 13th. The ticketing agent could not find any information about a connecting flight I had from LAX to Carlsbad, Ca. She informed me that I would have to collect my bags and recheck them myself. I was ok with that, knowing that I had to go through customs anyway.

    Upon arrival at LAX, I collected my luggage, went through customs and immigration, and made my way from the international terminal to terminal 7, where the United ticket counters are located. When I reached the e-ticket kiosk, the text on the screen said that I could not check onto my flight and put me on standby. Apparently I had missed a 45-minute cutoff date. It was at this point things started to go bad.

    You see, at the United ticket counter, there are about 20 self check in terminals and 3 or 4 paper ticket agents and maybe one or two other United employees to help out on various things. The rest of the 20 or so people behind the counter are bag handlers with no authority, and barely a command of English.

    I reported to one these handlers that I had not received a boarding pass and was not able to check my bags for my continuing flight to Carlsbad. The handler went and got one of the United Floater agents. I explained my situation (admittedly I was becoming more angry as time pass, because of the sheer lack of customer support and the arrogance of the United staff) the lady behind the counter chastised me for not being there 2 hours before my flight. I told her that her attitude was unacceptable and asked to speak to a manager. She said she would get one, she left and never returned.

    Up until now the total time that had passed was about 30 minutes. I waited patiently for someone else to come along. Another baggage carrier came by, I explained my situation yet again and asked him to get one of the other floating agents that was a few counters down. I was upset, he could see that I was upset, but I was not rude or mean to him. I watched as he approached the agent, said something in his ear, pointed in my direction, and they both started laughing.

    I walked over to them and said that I would appreciate it if they would not laugh at my situation and just help me get the hell out of there. No help came. Finally, I walked over to one of the paper ticket agents, again explained my story. She had no sympathy for me and told me that I would have to wait in line. I explained to her that I had already been waiting for nearly 45 minutes for someone to help me, she still wouldn’t help me, but explained that I could get on another flight using the e-ticket terminals. Finally some useful information. So I got my new flight, and on my way to the gate, I stopped by the second agent (the one who laughed) and asked for his name, he told me it was Juice Box. His tag read J Sanchez. I asked what the J stood for, he told me that was all I needed.

    I have never had such shitty customer services from anyone before. For them to totally ignore me, laugh at my situation, and give me some smart ass answer when asked for a name was totally unacceptable. I did learn some things on this trip though, first and foremost is never to travel on United.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. donnaworry says:

    Mean old dirty Juice Box Sanchez.

  2. acambras says:

    Yeah, that was really dirty, Sanchez.

  3. tspack says:

    I can pretty much see any U.S. airline acting that idiotically (personally, I’ve refused to fly on Northwest for the past 16 years because of one round trip that was an absolute nightmare because they were the rude and stupid; had the plane crashed it would actually have been an improvement). When I was in Australia a few years ago, I was actually shocked at how pleasant flying was. The airport and airline employees were friendly and helpful, and we were all treated well. When I returned to the U.S. and went through LAX, the reacclimation to nasty airline and airport employees was unpleasant. The contrast really, really surprised me.

  4. Ahh the tendrils of the Hanso foundation become clear…

  5. humphrmi says:

    I learned my lesson about United some 15 years ago. I used to only fly United, 2-3 times per year, mostly personal stuff. Not elite class, but certainly a valuable customer. Once when friend in Seattle died, I got a bereivement fare from a phone agent, and was later mistreated and actually laughed at by a UAL ticket agent at the desk. The kicker was, at the time I worked for Horizon Air, which was at the time a UAL feeder carrier.

    This is a very different UAL today but it’s not surprising that their desk agent attitude has not changed one bit.

    BTW I’ve never flown United since. AA has it’s problems, but I’ve never once been laughed at. Screw United.

  6. thrillhouse says:

    Its nice to dream of a day when airline carriers actually care. But I don’t care how stressful or sucky thier job is, there is just no excuse for treating customers this way.

    7 posts and counting…. no skull shirt. Rock on.

  7. CTSLICK says:

    Truly pathetic. Customer service at the airport level is a nightmare to control at a corporate level. A whole customer service organization at an airport can go rogue on you given the opportunity and some questionable leadership. This appear to be the case in LAX, looks like its time to flush it and restart. If the organization at LAX is as bad as described it wont take long for the noise level to reach their superiors. These people obviously fail to realize that they ARE replaceable and its not hard to do.

  8. markCA says:

    I had much the same experience in lack of customer service a couple of months ago flying back from Hong Kong with my wife and her sister. We had confirmed seats in business class which we had confirmed 72 hours prior. United overbooked and gave our seats away spreading us across the plane in coach. When I asked the ticket agent why they had done this he shrugged kind of laughed about it and said we should have checked in earlier. When we asked if we could pay to upgrade to First Class he told me that we would have to purchase all new tickets due to the fact business class was overbooked.

    I resigned myself to the situation but I was not happy (especially given the money paid). I figured oh well its just some leg room. I found the out that was only the begining on the flight the attendants were even worse. Half the time they could not be found and the other half they were downright rude.

    For example, I got stuck next to this nice old woman who could not speak English very well. The flight attendant would ignore her requests for hot water until I asked and at one point told the lady if she couldn’t speak English she should not travel alone. As they were walking away I could here her and a male flight attendant making fun of her.

    Coming off the flight the customs point was all jammed up and a girl who was in wheelchair and was flying on her own was going to be late for her connecting flight was trying to get one of the attendants to help expedite her through customs. The attendants could not care less; while they were trying to push their way through the crowd other passengers were trying to get them to help the girl in the wheelchair. One of the flight attendants said “Damn, people move. We have priority”.

    All in all United is the pits the expensive and customer service that is closer to the DMV then to business class carrier. It is sad because United used to give a premium in service but after that flight and those experiences plus the ones listed on this site I for one will never fly them again even if it means flying a roundabout flight with multiple stops.

  9. lemur says:

    tspack has a good point about airlines in general acting like asses. We’re supposed to vote with our wallets but given that they pretty much all suck, we’re left with having to try to fly on the one which might just possibly suck less than the others. Perhaps… maybe…. if we’re really really lucky… they won’t suck.

    I’ve sworn off Delta after one really bad trip with them 7 years ago. 4 flights: 2 were cancelled (rode in a taxi instead!), 2 were seriously delayed. They lost my luggage and after finding it they were not able to deliver it. (I had to go pick it up.) Then, they had bullshit excuses for everything, which really underscored how they took their customers for morons and did not care about customer service.

    But it seems that this kind of behavior is just commonplace among US carriers. If all of them treat customer service as optional, there is no competitive drive to try to do better so nothing ever changes.

  10. This is why given the option, I ALWAYS fly British Air. And if that’s not an option, run my way down through Aer Lingus, KLM, Qantas, and all the other foreign first-world carriers that fly well-maintained planes (i.e., not Aeroflot) and DON’T SUCK BALLS like US carriers do.

    I’m tempted to say that the difference is that foreign carriers are government-subsidized, but US carriers receive ridiculous amounts in government subsidies as well, so I really don’t know what the problem is. Even Ryan Air is a more pleasant experience than most US airlines.

  11. Joe says:

    Agree with CTSLICK – I’d call UA Customer Relations at 1-877-228-1327. I had a recent run-in with shitty service by Beth at the ONT ticket counter. Total bitch – avoid her like a Zune on sale. Her counterpart at the gate, however, was a total star – and helped me thru my flight situation. When I called UA, of course I slammed Beth and (yep, forget her name) the awesome gate agent who went above and beyond to help. They compensated me with a few thousand miles, better than nothing. Morale is – don’t let a few numbnuts ruin your perception of UA – not all the employees are crap.

  12. Magister says:

    Be careful about accepting ‘DELTA DOLLARS’ as comp if you have trouble with Delta. They cannot be combined to pay for a flight. If you have two $25 coupons, they can’t be used on the same flight. I wonder if same is true for United.

    I have had status with Delta for 10+ years, and just letting you know. I have NEVER paid cash for a personal trip, so the only time I ever used the coupons was for a Crown Room membership.

    If United offers compensation, make sure it is something you can use. 4 $25 coupons won’t help you if you only fly personal trips once or twice a year.

  13. TedSez says:

    I also gave up on United about ten years ago, after two flights in a row went horribly wrong and I ran into staffers who were consistently rude, unhelpful, and who outright lied to me. Two complaint letters to the company were never even unanswered. I mean, seriously, it seemed as if they were trying to lose my business — it takes an awful lot of terrible service to make an airline actually seem worse than all the others.

    So that’s a decade of fares from me they’ve lost, despite the fact that they’re one of the few airlines that flies to the small city near where some of my family lives. That’s the mark of a company that deserves to be bankrupt.

  14. minnock says:

    I was a premier executive for a number of years until Uniteds consitantly bad service forced me to switch to AA. AA has many of the same problems but the people are better and I have never been told a bald faced lie. United made the decisiopn for a 50K+ flier to change airlines. Stupid but it is their decsision.

  15. jwolf138 says:

    Just goes to show you how much value airlines place in their customers. Flying has gotten to be ridiculous…..is there any place for customer service these days?

  16. enzo says:

    Stop whining.

  17. I dunno, Oceanic was pretty decent. Well, except for that one crash, on that island with the polar bears.

  18. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    Fly Southwest if you can. I don’t know how they do it, but their customer service is light years beyond the other big carriers.

    Long story short, I once got stuck in a city overnight by another airline that was going to cause me to miss my Southwest flight the next morning. I found a Southwest agent who spent an hour of her time on the phone with many other Southwest people finding a way to re-route me the next day to get me to my location. Keep in mind this is at midnight when pretty much everyone else in the airport had gone home. She and the people she talked to went way out of their way to fix up another airline’s screwup. I had always liked Southwest before that, but since then I fly only Southwest unless I need to go out of the country.

  19. SexCpotatoes says:

    I’m wondering if the new thing could be to take a videocamera with you as your carry-on, one with ridiculous huge storage space, and to break it out once you have a problem. Get their claims, lies, promises, and rudeness, as well as your worry and exasperation, and you might have a hell of a case for suing them for emotional distress, as well as video of all the asshole rude employees who think it’s alright to abuse you. You would have to be super careful to only aim it at the asshole in the service desk, lest they claim you are video-ing the security at the airport for nefarious purposes.

  20. synergy says:

    Eyebrows McGee: They’re gov’t subsidized, but not gov’t regulated on par since the late 70s.

  21. acambras says:

    I don’t think you’re allowed to use video or still cameras in airports. In some places (like immigration & customs), you’re not even allowed to talk on cell phones.

  22. FLConsumer says:

    I’m with the others on here — Foreign carriers rule! BA or Virgin are what I fly when possible, out of the domestics, AA has been my best bet. I still have to wonder, why can’t we get it right here?

  23. Bye says:

    After my partner and I had flown United regularly since 1994, we both finally made the decision this month after yet another really horrible experience in October to strike them off of our list. I’m just sorry we stood by them during that whole bankruptcy thing.

    And fvck those bastards for forever ruining the Gershwin tune for me.

  24. Pelagius says:

    Does anyone here have a grain of salt that I can take this story with?
    1. There’s no mention of the Qantas flight being late, so I assume he cut an international connection so close that he was trying to check in only 45 minutes before departure.
    2. It appears that he first approached an employee when he was already seething about the perceived “arrogance” of United staff.
    3. He refuses to deal with the first staff member who tries to help him, asking for a manager instead.

    We’re getting everything here from one angry, frustrated person’s point of view. Yes, US air travel has become a grind. Comparing it to overseas airlines is facile given that those air services are heavily gov’t subsidized. The employees aren’t getting their pensions and salaries cut every six months, or being replaced by machines and understaffed.

  25. ord2fra says:

    I’m tempted to say that the difference is that foreign carriers are government-subsidized, but US carriers receive ridiculous amounts in government subsidies as well, so I really don’t know what the problem is.

    Eyebrows, US carriers don’t get squat for subsidies. Almost all of Europe are also private (except for Air France and Alitalia, maybe Olympic too). We got some funds after 9/11 for the inability to operate after 9/11 (government mandated shutdown).

    I’m in management for one of the legacy carriers, and while I can’t defend the bad behaviors of the individuals involved, I don’t really expect the “I never fly XXX” to make a difference. Airlines are mass transit now, and people will choose the cheapest option most of the time.

    In regards to mergers, I hope to God they happen and we get down to 2-4 large network carriers that are able to increase fares to much higher levels. They are simply too cheap. Once carriers are more stable and stop killing each other for 1% of market share then wages and onboard goodies can happen. Until then sit down and shut up.

  26. SecureLocation says:

    Used to be a United Premier. Walked away from them after lots of horrible service. The folks who work at AA seem equally unhappy but flying it is at least a little better.

  27. acambras says:

    Hmmm…. ord2fra said “Sit down and shut up.”

    Ord2fra, are you sure you’re in management and not a snarky flight attendant?

  28. Anytime you get bad customer service, it comes from the top.

    These employees and their unacceptable behavior are a result of the management and the coporate culture at UA.

    Sadly, as others have commented, there is no way to “vote with our dollars” with air carriers, because they ALL pretty much suck.

    Sorry to hear about your experience Wade. If a UA employee walks across the road, I won’t brake for him (I imagine you won’t either at this point).

  29. squidhat says:

    It’s a shame that there isn’t some loophole in the law that allows you to use a measured amount of physical violence on the genitalia of an airline employee with a bad attitude. I think it would save the airline money by outsourcing employee supervision and discipline to the customer.

  30. kcs says:

    My experience with United has been completely the opposite. I live fly out of LAX all the time and try to fly United if I can (frankly, they are usually the cheapest and/or have the most convenient travel times). On many occassions, I’ve shown up at the airport, with more than adequate time to get through security, to find the United security line to be so long that I was sure I would miss my flight. Unlike other airlines I’ve flown, in these situations United (at least at LAX) will move passengers to the front of security based on flight time. I once had to literally beg a Delta attendent to do the same.

    I experienced exceptional service on one recent flight. I had the unfortunate experience of traveling the morning that the London shit went down and all liquids were banned. Since my flight was at 5:30 that morning, I had no way of knowing the chaos that had happened overnight and that would greet me when I arrived at the airport. I had already checked in on-line the day before and was planning to carry on my luggage. I probably had $200 worth of product in my bag, from make-up, hair product, perscription face wash (which they were not allowing at that time). After seeing the security line, and realizing that I would now also have to check my bag, I was on the verge of freaking out. I told a United attendant my problem and he raced me over to the baggage check and checked my bag, and then escorted me to the front of security. He was very reassuring the whole time. He went above and beyond what I would have expected.

  31. “BA or Virgin are what I fly when possible, out of the domestics, AA has been my best bet. I still have to wonder, why can’t we get it right here?”

    I agree — I fly AA when nothing else is available and find it the best of the domestics, but it’s LIGHT YEARS difference between BA and AA. BA feeds you a lovely hot breakfast on a 45-minute mid-morning hopper. AA can hardly be bothered to feed you transcontinentally.

    “US carriers don’t get squat for subsidies.”

    That’s horsehockey. Airlines get ridiculous subsidies in the US — my brother’s actually writing his thesis on it.

    “Airlines are mass transit now, and people will choose the cheapest option most of the time.”

    Pfft. On our most recent flight we paid $200 extra per person for the glory of flying BA rather than a US carrier, and it was worth every penny.

  32. max andrews says:

    My dad is a super premiere executive 1k and whatever other bells and whistles United can bestow upon a corporate customer, and he (and myself) have never really had any issues. He has flown over 3 million miles on United. But then again, this results from always getting to check in in the first class line, always getting upgraded if a seat is available, always getting fees waived, always getting free upgrade coupons, and being able to instantly watch every horrified desk clerk as they punch in my dad’s name and a ring of dollar signs appear around the screen of their kiosk (no joke), code for “don’t F*ck this up, this guy is a serious customer.”

    But yeah, I fly the cheapest aurline for domestic travel, usually jetblue between california and New York, and United miles for international flights. I’ve always wanted to try BA, but when I can fly for free with miles why bother?

  33. econobiker says:

    And this is the reason there is a complete website dedicated to the POS service United provides… http://www.untied.com

  34. econobiker says:

    And this is a poster child example of reason for a specific targeted website about United’s bad customer service. Search Untied and you’ll get a Consumerist sized belly-laugh over the website dedicated to United’s poor customer service. The amount of complaints on just one month would have other companies on an all out media bliz but this one company apparently doesn’t give a hoot. And their customer service “response’s” make Wal-Mart’s seem like Ralph Nader processed them…

  35. econobiker says:

    Sorry my bad on the double comment…

  36. kostia says:

    1. There’s no mention of the Qantas flight being late, so I assume he cut an international connection so close that he was trying to check in only 45 minutes before departure.

    This is the first thing I thought too. It’s unclear whether this traveler is a US citizen or Australian (or other), but even a traveler with an American passport and no checked bags can’t make it through customs at LAX and over to a distant terminal in time for that quick a connection. The agent or website that booked this connection shouldn’t have, and if the Qantas flight was delayed they should have warned that the connection was impossible.

  37. srhb says:

    That’s what you get for flying with United! To make matters worse…. you connected through LAX!?!?!?! That Airport is a joke and all of the people working there have a combined IQ of a banana!!!!! Do yourself a favor – and I’m telling you this from my own experiences, AVOID United, Delta, Continental, Northwest, Southwest, et al. Actually try to avoid most U.S. carriers unless you enjoy that kind of abuse. Good picks are Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic……………

  38. haywardt says:

    Sounds like we have enough disgruntled customers to charter a jet.

    I have to carry on luggage because the airlines will steal my laptop.

    I have to submit to a TSA strip search because, well, I don’t know why.

    Lets get together and go Gulfstream!

  39. srhb says:

    Netjets!!! No nonsense – and fly when and wherever you want!

  40. goaway147 says:

    I love reading these posts.. Half the time the traveler is spot-on in describing completely lousy service, and other times they blow up because an atypical situation (like trying to make a 45-60min connection when traveling international-to-domestic US) doesn’t go perfect or smoothly. What, you were pissy toward the first woman who wanted to help you, and then a couple guys behind the counter blow you off, and suddenly you’re writing off an entire airline?

    Don’t get me wrong: people can choose to fly or not fly an airline for any reasons they like… But I’ve always found UA to treat me fairly well, not perfect, but then none of them are perfect (except SWA, but they don’t fly to China/HKG :)….

    Personally, when it comes to evaluating the customer service I receive from an airline, shipping company, electronics store, etc… Like many people, I try not to get caught up on how much personA or personB slighted me — because after all, they’re not robots, they’re just human beings, and some are jerks — but company-wide, is that a consistent pattern of behavior; and when something goes wrong, do they have a good remedy.

    Our Melbourne->LAX->Carlsbad flyer sounds like he booked a bad ticket, got pissy, and then got laughed at by a 25-year-old. Sounds lousy, but doesn’t sound like a corporate policy conspiracy.

  41. msoori says:

    United Airlines stole nearly $3000 from my parents at time when they were most helpless, and stranded in Los Angeles airport, weary from having undergone surgery and nearly 1500 away miles from the nearest child. What United Airlines did amounts to extortion, breach of contract and abuse of the elderly, not to mention stealing! They have steadfastly refused to refund the money that was unduly charged, despite my best efforts to resolve this matter fairly. I have started a blog to broadcast the full story for the whole world to see the inner workings of United Air Lines.

    Read my full story at

  42. Trackback says:

    To see a full list of customer complaints against United Air Lines, go to the link below, select a month and a year and press the “View Database” button.Customer ComplaintsConsumer reviews for United AirlinesHere is a list of other people who has had problems with United Air LinesUnited Airlines…

  43. shdwsclan says:

    Well, never fly united.

  44. COMMENTICUSS says:

    1. We booked our trip through United Packages (Airfare for two, roundtrip, Hotel, Rental Car (ALAMO). After booking, I checked to see what the cost would have been if I booked everything separately. I realized I cold have saved about $60. The agent who booked the trip, told my wife, that the rental car was @$75 per day. Alamo customer service said that the total paid to them was $75. Not $75 per day. We were told the car rental did not incluyde tax. We were not told it included such outrageous fees, that totaled $30.68. Basically, charges that Alamo is charged by the the local Las Vegas facility, that they then pass along to the consumer, and tax that as well. What a rip-off.

    2nd complaint. After arriving at the airport in LV on our return home, we got to the airport 1 hour and 40 minutes before the flight. We then got into a check-in line. When we finnally reached the front, after about a 20 minute wait…we were told that the line was only for self-check-in on a computer kiosk. A United attendant wa shelping people with the Kiosk. There was no sign indicating this line was only for kiosk check in, nor did the attendant mnake any announcements that it was for self-service check in. We were then told we’d have to get on anouther line, where we waited an additional 12 minutes, so we could have the honor of actually speaking to one of only two check-in personnel. As a result we got to the gate just 5 minutes before boarding, after going through the long lines at security, who just happened to run out of trays to put the customer belongings in at the conveyer belt. Customers, yelling…”you are out of trays!.” Attendants looking like…they could give a crap. Finally the “tray meister” came back from his bathroom break…or whatever.
    Shame shame, United. I see where you got that cute little name TED from. FrustraTED, exhausTED, HumiliaTED and mistreaTED. I will go back to my favorite carrier, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES, after this disappointing experience with United and your friend TED.

  45. gribniff says:

    I was flying from Missoula Mt, To Michigan. My very first flight was on United Airlines. After a delay of nearly 2 hours, during which time we were told nothing, the plane arrived.They apparently had a maintenance problem. Needless to say I missed my connecting flight and with the domino effect in full force I missed every flight from then on. I was stranded in Milwaukee, WI. with no more flights going to my home that night. I had to work in the morning so it was necessary for me to get home. I was forced to rent a car, drive 7 hours clean up and go to work with no sleep. I can assure you it was a long day. I have contacted U.A. numerous times with no satisfaction. I feel that as the whole delay was their fault they should reimburse me for the cost of the rental car. This all started in Feb. and has yet to be resolved. To top it all off they also lost my luggage. If at all possible I will not fly United…….