The Time United Airlines Customer Service Team Surprised Me

Airlines get a terrible reputation. Cancellations. Delays. Lost baggage. TSA security theatre.

I have trouble getting to work and I live a mile from my office, so I am a bit lenient with people flying millions of miles across the globe at thousands of feet up in the sky.

One of the most stressful arts of flying is worrying about making your connecting flights. (Reason #10,498 I try to fly direct whenever possible. Screw the extra mileage points/additional segment.) When I booked my current trip, EWR to YYZ (Toronto) to DUB (Dublin), I made sure I had three hours to layover. Enough time to get lost trying to find my next gate and maybe even have time leftover for an airport beer.

So as I watch my 4:07 p.m. flight get delayed to 4:40 pm to 5:25 pm, the panic starts to set in. My Toronto flight begins boarding at 8:45 pm. No worries. Hakuna Matata. It’ll be fine. Don’t panic. Don’t call your mother. Breathe.

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And then the desk attendant comes out. The only words I make out from her garbled announcement are “unforeseen maintenance problems” and “possibly 6:30.”

FUCK. Shit. Bloody fuck.

I sprint to customer service, dialing the 800 number for United as I stand in a line that’s bound to move slower than molasses dripping from a Canadian maple. It’s 5:40. Fine, we can work this out.

“We’re experiencing higher than normal call volume.” Of course you are.

“Would you like to speak to an agent?” Yes, always, please. 0. 0. 1 for English.

Elevator music.

I swear an eon passes (12 minutes) before a customer service rep picks up. I explain the situation, stress I would pay as much as necessary to get on a flight to Dublin tonight. I’m not sure what magic he worked, but this man was able to get me LITERALLY the last seat on a direct flight to Dublin, leaving at 6:55 pm.

It’s 6:02 pm.

“Sir, can you confirm that this flight is leaving from Terminal C?” “Yes, Gate 72.”

I’m at Gate 105. Alright, sprinting. It’s not like I went to the gym today anyway.

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“Can you absolutely promise me that when I show up at this gate, I’ll be able to get on the plane?” “Yes, you’re all confirmed. I’m emailing your updated itinerary as we speak.” (Damn Verizon for not being able to do two things at once. I hope for the best.)

Time check. 6:10 pm.

Off I go. Racing like a madman through Newark Airport. I am that person you see in movies, except I’m not trying to convince someone I love not to get on a plane with his new wife. (Okay, I’m not Rachel Green. Don’t be a buzzkill.)

Panting, I arrive at this gate to see that my new flight is delayed until 7:25 pm. With my new boarding pass in hand, I let out a deep exhale that would make my yoga teacher proud. And I finally call my mom.

I have no idea how it happened, but I am sitting on a plane, that I am 99.9% sure is going to Ireland, solely based on the number of gingers and brogues around me. My blood pressure is starting to calm own and I am excited to start my travelling. (Maybe celebrating my good fortune with a Guinness.)

Toronto, we will meet someday.

And now, I think I owe United Airlines my first-born. At the very least, I may have to send them a small portion of my soul. They may break guitars, but today they earned serious bonus mileages and my continued loyalty. Yes, it is their fault my initial flight was delayed, but they handled the situation with compassion and composure – two things I was lacking as I was thisclose to a full-fledged panic attack in the Newark Airport.

Cheers to you United and cheers to future flights together!

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Note: This actually happened almost two months ago, but in true procrastination form, it took me that long to transfer this story from my notebook to my computer to my blog. I had a wonderful time traveling and I can’t wait until my next trip! 

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