United Airlines customer service leaves Frequent business flyer in the lurch

United_continental_logoI would not believe this story had it not just happened to me.

Business travel today is tolerable at best, but can easily turn ugly at the drop of a hat. That's why many business travelers value loyalty programs of such as United Airlines Mileage Plus which holds out the promise of better customer service for frequent-flyers.

Don't believe them.

I'm scheduled to fly tomorrow from Denver to Austin, Texas except that when I was checking into my flight today on-line, I noticed that my name on the ticket was misspelled. Instead of "Roman" the name on the ticket is "Romanw"

The extra and unwanted "W" at the end of my first name could be a problem when I go through TSA security tomorrow.

To correct the matter I called United Airlines Customer Service number. I simply wanted them to correct the spelling of my first name on my flight ticket.

After the usual phone tree hell. (You know, press 1 if you think we really care enough about your business to have you talk with a live human instead of a poorly written and unhelpful voice recognition program)…I was able to speak with some who sounded as if they were in India on the end of a very long string connected to a tin can.

I was informed that the spelling of my name would not be an issue with the TSA. Which to me seemed odd as the voice recording during my wait on hold had specifically warned me that my government issued ID and the ticket need to have the same name.

The unhelpful agent, after telling me that he "appreciated my precious time" told me he could not delete the "W" at the end of my name from my ticket.

So I asked to speak with a supervisor.

After more waiting on hold, and of course another recorded warning about my ID matching my ticket, Ric Vardni, the supervisor, to my great surprised informed me that she could not delete the extra "w", but instead she was cancelling my ticket and issuing a refund that would take between 7 to 10 days to hit the credit card.

Wow, now that's some fast and extremely unhelpful United Airlines frequent flyer customer service. One call to get a simple spelling change eventually turns into a cancelled trip and a blown business meeting.

I asked to speak to her supervisor, but she said that I could only go on United Airlines web site, and write an email asking for the name change.

Which I did.

After filling out the complex on-line form I hit continue and the United Frequent-Flyer web site blew up and gave me an error message stating that the text of my message was too long.

Which it wasn't.

From this first hand experience I can only assume that United Airlines has zero interest in helping their frequent-flyers who spend tens of thousand of dollars a year with them, but instead they would rather refund their money and tell them to check their credit card statement.

I suspect it might be easier to go to the DMV tomorrow morning and try to change my driver's licence to "Romanw" so I can make my meeting tomorrow night, than ask United Customer Dis-service for help.

Thanks United Airlines for leaving this Mileage Plus frequent-flyer in the lurch.

Roman Roman Mica is a columnist, journalist, and author, who spent his early years driving fast on the German autobahn. When he's not reviewing cars for the active set, you can find him training for triathlons and writing about endurance sports for EverymanTri.com. Mica is a former broadcast reporter with his Masters Degree in journalism from Northwestern University.