I’m in the middle of my last trip of the year (hopefully), and not surprisingly it came with some free entertainment. This is only one of several installments, so stay tuned. I’m not sure whether to be disgusted or amused, but I observed an interesting situation as I was waiting for flight UA49 from IAD to LAX today.
About 1.5 hours before departure there were two gate agents working the gate, both of which were friendly. This female passenger (I don’t want to call her a lady, since there was nothing ladylike about her) who is probably 25 or so walks up to the counter and talks to one of the gate agents. The interaction went something like this:
Customer: “Yes, I’d like a seat assignment in first class, which I’m confirmed in.”
Agent: “Sorry, you’re booked in coach and there’s a long waitlist for first class.”
Customer: “But that can’t be, my friend is a Premier and he said I would be flying first class.”
Agent: “How was your friend going to upgrade you?”
Customer: “He said I was booked on a first class ticket.”
Agent: “Ma’am, your ticket was $380, that’s not a first class fare. Even if you wanted to upgrade, first class is almost checked in full and we have lots of high status passengers waitlisted.”
Customer: “But last night I called United and they said I was number one on the waitlist and that over half of the seats in first class were still available” (This is true, since they cleared upgrades the morning of at 3AM).
Agent: “Sorry, but there are only a couple of seats left, there’s nothing I can do.”
Customer: “What kind of service is this, my friend who is a Premier said I would be in first class today?”
Agent: “Ma’am, I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”
Customer: “What about Economy Plus, are there any seats available there?”
Agent: “Only middle seats, and there would be an additional charge for those.”
Customer: “What kind of treatment is this? I want to talk to customer relations, because this is unacceptable. The agent last night lied to me about the waitlist, and you’re so rude and unhelpful.”
At this point the girl is crying and pulls out her cellphone and calls her Premier friend, while still standing at the counter. In the meantime other passengers are waiting and this girl is blocking the desk. The gate agent asks her to move several times, and the girl starts to get aggressive, saying that she might have questions so she wants to stand there.
At this point the gate agent walks around the counter and up to the girl, and tells her in no uncertain terms that she needs to sit down or go stand somewhere else.
Customer: “How dare you treat me like this, if you don’t like that I talk loudly that’s your problem, you should be used to dealing with all kinds of customers, and I’m loud by nature. You know, you could make more money off of me if you’d just be nice, since I’d probably switch to a later flight to be sitting in first class. You know, my Premier friend booked a ticket last week and at the airport changed it to paid first class, and he paid over $1,000. You should be nice to me.”
At this point the agent gets a bit angry, and advises the girl to go to the customer service counter, which is right next to the gate. She says that if the girl doesn’t move, she’ll have to call security.
That’s about all that I heard, but then I saw her at the customer service counter for the better part of 45 minutes, sobbing and basically begging for an upgrade. Not sure what ended up happening, but by the end of the ordeal the whole gate area was laughing and rolling their eyes.
I went up to the gate agent and apologized on behalf of mankind for the bad passenger, and she chuckled.
What did I learn from this? Some people are real b!tches, and more importantly, I totally understand why the reservations agents aren’t supposed to give out waitlist or load information. The girl didn’t understand that no one lied to her, and that the system is just slightly more complicated than she can grasp, apparently.
Oh, the joys of air travel….