Why does horrible customer service turn me into a version of myself that I do not like? Is it hard to be pleasant while trying to accommodate someone who has paid money for your services?

Full disclosure: I did work customer service jobs, as a waitress and a hotel front desk clerk, so I know what it is like to be on the other end. However, if you are not going to apologize or even try to help, then I get angry. It is called respecting others and being a human being! To be honest, I was not sure if I should be write this post, but I want to show that travel does not always go as smooth as it may seem.  Here it goes.

The Situation and Dealing with Customer Service

I was visiting Pennsylvania for Christmas/New Years and was ready to fly back to Seattle. As I tried to check into my flight, I realized that my flight had been canceled. Since Pittsburgh did not get much weather the last couple of days, I was shocked. However, our connecting flight was only a 2.5 hour drive away, we could make it! Oh wait, we were already bumped from that flight. . .

To be fair, United did send me an email the night before with the bad news and saying they were rescheduling my flight from January 1st to the 2nd. However, it was New Years Eve, and I was soaking up the remaining time I had with my friends, plus I did not have my email set up on my new phone yet. I was not about to use a vacation day because of this cancellation.

I called United’s 1-800 number and was placed on hold. Andy also put my phone number down on an online call back list about 5 to 10 minutes into my wait. After 30 minutes of waiting, I got a call from United, which means that calling was a waste of time and phone battery. Where are their priorities and how many other people on hold did I jump in front of?

Anyways, the customer service representative was not kind. I know United deals with the volume of calls to re-book or reschedule flights due to cancellations or delays during winter, but they should still try to help. I explained that I wanted my original Cleveland flight and wanted to be reimbursed for the Pittsburgh to Cleveland leg that was canceled. He said he was not able to upgrade me on the flight. What makes it worse is our seats together were given away, so we had middle seats in separate parts of the plane!

I did not want to start the drive to Cleveland until I had it confirmed we were on the flight. Once the agent reissued the tickets, we were on our way. He gave me the refund website to enter my refund request since he could not do that either. I explained that I had a credit card and was a frequent flyer. Apparently, being loyal gets you no where unless you are among the elite.  Unfortunately, my friends had to witness my temper with the customer service agent. If you want customer service, then do not fly on United.

United Airlines Boeing 777-222 N771UA (79398)

Photo Source

After looking up what the going rate of the flight from Cleveland to Seattle and noted it was roughly $100 per ticket cheaper than what we paid, I took note for the refund request. I requested a $100 refund per ticket, plus the cost of gas and tolls. I made sure to take note of any expenses we started to incur. Fortunately, National Car Rentals did not charge us for changing the drop-off location or time.

During our drive, we checked to see when our flight was departing. It was delayed by a couple of hours, so we had plenty of time to spare. Since I used to live in Cleveland, I contacted some friends that live near the airport and was able to spend a couple hours with them while watching the Rose Bowl.


After checking in at the gate, I asked the gate agent if I could sit with my boyfriend and tried to explain that I was originally on the flight and drove to make it. She didn’t let me finish before cutting me off and telling me to give her my boarding passes and she would call me back but was probably not going to be able to help. After a few minutes, she was able to upgrade us to economy class seats together, which I tried to have the customer service representative on the phone do. . .


After finally arriving back in Seattle, we took public transportation home. However, since we arrived later than originally planned, the bus schedule only ran on the hour, so we did not get home until late. At least I made it back, so I didn’t have to use a vacation day.

The Refund Request

I requested a refund on their website. With limited options, I chose one I thought would work best. I then requested a refund for both our tickets describing the situation of driving to Cleveland, paying a toll, and the extra gas money it took. I scanned the toll and gas receipt and attached them to the request. I submitted my request on January 15th and received an confirmation email per refund request (I had to submit two).

Below was my request (minus the attachments):

I am requesting a refund for the Pittsburgh flight to Cleveland on the original ticket (returning PIT to CLE to SEA). The PIT to CLE flight was canceled, but we were able to drive from Pittsburgh to Cleveland to make our connection flight even though we were automatically bumped from the flight and rescheduled for the following day. Also, I was told by customer service that any additional expenses would be covered. I have included the rental car receipt for the gas charge for driving from Pittsburgh to Cleveland. The rental car company did not charge us any more for the extra mileage or time ($19.63 gas). Along with the gas fee, I would like to request reimbursement for the toll for driving the Ohio Turnpike in the amount of $5.50.
I would like to be refunded per ticket for Andrew Crampton and Angela Anderson at least $100 per ticket for at least a total of $200. When we looked up the flight online at our departure for only the Cleveland leg, it was $395. We paid a total of $500 per ticket and would like to be reimbursed for the canceled portion since we made our connecting flight.
I am a FF traveler and have the United Chase credit card. I was somewhat dissatisfied with the experience since customer service was not accommodating or willing to upgrade or make any reimbursements over the phone and directed me to this online form.

The Refund

I received an automated email with tracking numbers and the following anticipated processing times:

If you are requesting a credit card refund, please allow seven business days for processing. If your credit card refund is not posted within one billing cycle, please contact your credit card company. For all other forms of payment, including cash refunds, please allow 20 business days for processing.

On February 1st, I was given a refund in the amount of $66.42 per person or a total of $132.84.  I subtracted out the gas and toll expenses to see how much the Pittsburgh to Cleveland was priced. United decided it was worth $53.86 per person. After writing this, I do believe we received an acceptable refund and that my request for $100 per flight was incorrect because our total flight round trip cost $544.60 per person and the price we were using was for a one way flight from Cleveland to Seattle the day of the flight. I however was not issued a mileage credit for the leg I was supposed to fly. Even though the distance was not far, it adds up.

As you can see, it was a process to get the refund. I am sure most people would not take the time to get refunded, but United made me angry.

United, please work on your customer service. Your phone agents should try to be more pleasant and accommodating without using the excuse that they cannot do anything from their side in terms of upgrades or perks. If the agent was correct, then this should be fixed PRONTO!

A Recent Customer Service Experience

On the other hand, I flew the following week down to San Francisco to visit Andy. On the return flight, I checked in to find out that the flight was delayed by three hours. I talked to the gate agents to ask if I could leave the airport and return. They advised not to as they gave me a $100 airline voucher for the inconvenience of the delay. I returned to where Andy was staying near the airport. When I returned back to the airport, Southwest announced they were provided water and snacks for anyone delayed on our flight. So not only did they provide a voucher, they also saved me money to suppress my appetite and spending more money at the airport!


Here is another successful airline experience written by A Brit and A Southerner on Southwest Airlines.

Finally, I wish I could say that I would stop using certain airlines because of such experiences. However, I am a sucker for deals and saving money, so I will have to continue to deal with United until I win the lottery and buy a private jet. Hey, one can only dream!

Share your airline or customer service stories in the comments!

If you liked this post, please share it. To follow me on my journey to travel the world please subscribe to my RSS feed or any of my social networks.