United, Now “The Largest Airline in the World”

“At midnight”, not sure which time zone, the computing apparatus of Continental and United were merged so that “CO” is no more.  Chaos has followed.  A quick look at #United on Twitter will reveal gems like “You know it’s a bad day when the @United Club agent checks you with pen and paper then asks *you* if you have rum for her coke!” and this gate announcement “sorry you chose this day to fly United”.

But I’m not flying today.  I’m in Whistler.  I went on the morning dog walk, a nice snowshoe above Stonebridge on the Flank Trail.  I arrived back home at 10 a.m. to find Mark’s friend Christie on the phone to United trying to track down her skis which did not arrive with her on UA 460 to Vancouver last night.

On the phone is a euphemism for on hold.  You have to like Gershwin very, very much.  After a long wait, she was able to learn that the computer system was down, call back in 20 minutes.  So she dialed, knowing the wait would again be at least that long.  The computer was up.  She provided extensive information on phone numbers and addresses and ticket numbers and the claim check and was able to establish  that the skis were on a flight arriving at 11:49 a.m.  But just as it seemed all might be well, the computer system went down again and so a “file reference number” was not generated.

Could we talk to Vancouver?  No, we were going to continue to talk to India and they would continue to use the unstable computer system to provide “information”.  But we did have the number of the baggage supervisor in Vancouver and a fax number.  Got voice mail for the baggage supervisor.  Sent a fax for good measure.  No response.  Not to mention no response to my tweet to @United, not surprising as they were overloaded.  Time for breakfast.

So another phone call after breakfast to get an update.  Christie learned the “file reference number”.  This allowed us to see that the address was wrong:  Talufwood Dr instead of Taluswood Pl.  Spells out to get it fixed.  Becomes Galufwood Pl.  Tango Alpha Lima Uniform Sierra later the address is right (well the province is BC not YVR, but bet the folk in Vancouver won’t be thrown by that one).  But really no info, because the skis have not been scanned.  Couldn’t we just talk to the baggage people in Vancouver?  No.

Mark begins calling each number in the block 604-482-53xx.  On the seventh dial a message that the party was on the phone!  Called back a bit later and got a human at 1:15 p.m.  They would call back after checking on the status. At 2:10, he is back on the phone.  Nigel the station manager is now on the case, but has no information.

So will the skis make the daily 3 p.m. lost bag transfer from YVR to Whistler?  Just as I was about to post, Nigel called.  Skis are located and they will “put them through customs”.  ETA 5 p.m.


Contrast this with Delta.  Their iPhone app has a feature to photograph your claim check and see all the scans of your bag.  Last Friday I followed my bag through the airport onto the plane, off the plane and onto the carousel.  And there it was.  And if it wasn’t I would know where it was.  Information in the hands of the customer instead of not in the hands of a call center.  Seems like a pretty simple idea.

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