When a flight is delayed or canceled, can't customer service lines for rebooking be made customer-friendly?

  • Hi Guest, welcome to the help forum. You can get fast answers to your customer service questions here. We have a dedicated team of advocates who are ready to help. Just go to the section that matches your question and ask us!
  • If you've posted a question or issue for our advocates to assist with, please be sure to check back frequently for responses and requests for clarification.
  • Did you know you can get email notifications when something new posts to your favorite forum? It's easy. Just click the "watch" link right next to the "post new thread" button at the top of your favorite forum. The rest is easy. Now you'll never miss another conversation.
  • Want to become an expert user? Drop by the How to use this forum section and all will be revealed. We'll show you how to make the most of your experience.
Jul 5, 2018
1
0
1
74
#1
Not every passenger sent to a customer-service line for rebooking can stand there for 1-2 hours even if the passenger doesn't have obvious signs of a disability.
My husband and I bought first-class tickets (not an upgrade) for a flight from Dulles (UA6341) direct to OKC that was scheduled to depart May 31, 2018, around 5pm. We boarded and taxied away from the gate on time but rain and lightning kept any flights from leaving. I get that. When the weather lifted, our flight crew had timed out with no back-up crew available. The plane couldn't return to the gate because all gates were full. Eventually we were assigned a gate, but no one was there to connect the jetway. More waiting. The entire airport was in a state resembling panic due to all the rebookings that needed to be made. However, our flight was listed as "delayed" for several more hours before it was officially canceled. Meanwhile, we had been standing in the "customer service" line for at least an hour. WHY is everyone told to stand in those lines? Why is anyone REQUIRED to stand in such a line? (This also happened to us in Denver about 3 years ago. A hateful agent there told us we couldn't get first-class seats on the next flight after our flight was canceled because we hadn't "paid" for them. She said we must have gotten an upgrade. For the record, we had paid for those first-class tickets. Had to stay overnight in Denver in order to get first-class seats the next day.) Anyway, why the forced march approach to rebooking? And why is the computer system so slow and unwieldy? My husband and I are 75 and 74 and have some health issues, which are not visible--no canes or wheelchairs. Is it not possible for the airlines or the airport to set up a ticket dispenser (think DMV) and have every passenger take a number and then sit down, get a soda or a snack, go to the bathroom, and calm down until their numbers are called? How hard could that be? After standing in line for an hour, an airlines representative suddenly hove into view and escorted us to his computer terminal at the desk where other reps were rebooking passengers. Imagine how popular we were with the people who had been waiting in line in front of us! I'm guessing we were singled out because we were the oldest people in line.That's fine with me--just wish they'd thought of it sooner. The rep was extremely polite and helpful. He tried every flight he could find that had first-class seats available to get us to OKC that night to no avail. That effort required another hour of standing until suddenly we got a message from United that our delayed flight was officially canceled and rescheduled for the next day at 7am. We received that message before any of the reps did! So then we drove back to our home in Warrenton close to midnight and got up again at 4am to drive back to Dulles for the next day's flight. I'm grateful we got to OKC, but when we arrived there, United sent us a message saying our bags would arrive on a later flight. And to make matters even more ridiculous, our bags were actually NOT delayed--they rolled right off the carousel from our flight. My questions are: is my suggestion to take numbers and have a seat feasible? Could/would the airlines or the airport implement such a plan? And why do the airlines think it's okay for their customers to endure such a fiasco? They gave us bonus points by way of atonement, I guess.

I'd like Dulles and United to consider my suggestion for dispensing tickets and allowing passengers to sit down while waiting to be rebooked, and I'd like to know if it's possible for such a system--or for something better--to be implemented. And if not, why not! I'd also like to know if we're entitled to some kind of compensation (beyond points) for the whole ordeal. I hope you can help.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
12,734
12,713
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#2
The airlines don’t have limitless desks and employees to rebook tickets when a flight is canceled. I’m not sure what else they can do but have you wait on line to be rebooked.

There are also limited seats in boarding areas as well. There wouldn’t be enough seats for a plane full of people waiting to be rebooked and a plane full of people waiting to board their flight either.

You can also sit down and call the airline from your cell phone to rebook. And finally? If you booked a ticket through a travel agent, you can call the agent and ask then to rebook you

Unfortunately there are limited first class seats on any flight and when a flight is cancelled there may not be another flight with available first class seats for a day or two.

I would suggest you write to the Executives at the airline and make the suggestion of a number system so passengers can sit and wait to be called. The only way for change to happen is by writing to the Executives.
 
Likes: Nancy
Sep 19, 2015
2,178
3,476
113
48
#3
Well dmv is captive not that much room to wander and never enough seats when I go.

There is simply no space to put seats close in and then the overhead boards so everyone can see what number is next, and then someone will be in the bathroom or getting food and miss their number and then a scene breaks out.

I have seen the dmv get bad over missed tickets, people talking on the phone, told to get another number.....

Standing in line is the most efficient and equitable way although not good for all.

People can call, use the apps on their phone, or stand in line. If there are two people, they can take turns standing, or see if a wheelchair is available to sit in.

I do not think numbers and lines would help, likely make it worse as people would wander and get angry.

I cannot answer the reservation system issue.

But those lines are miserable.
 
Mar 17, 2015
490
698
93
38
#4
You are not entitled to any compensation. Thank the representatives we all have elected in congress. I think you have a good idea, so write to the execs, you never know.
 

johnbaker

Verified Member
Oct 2, 2014
848
1,397
93
45
#5
1. Call the 1800 number. There are far more people in the call center than standing around at Dulles waiting for a mass cancellation to happen.
2. Use your app. The UA app can help you rebook when your flight is cancelled.
3. Buy a pass. While $50 might be a bit expensive for some people, buying a club pass lets you access the CS agents in the club. The lines there are almost always shorter in the club.

Weather happens. Its unfortunate but when it hits a hub, there are only so many seats and so many reserve crews to go around. I've been "Newark'ed" more times than I can count. Sometimes it takes days for them to get straight again.
 
Dec 26, 2014
102
169
43
66
#6
List item #3 from johnbaker is a GREAT tip! ORD (Chicago) is an airport that frequently has weather issues. I had a connecting flight that was cancelled, as a result the AA computer system automatically booked me on a flight that would make me arrive at my destination 7 hours after I was supposed to speak. Upon the advice of my TA, (corporate agency) I went to the Admirals Club, and was able to be rebooked on a flight later that night so that I could be at the event in time to speak the next day. It took patience and persistence on the part of the AA club agent, but she was able to do it, (she got me on a later flight that was originally sold out, but due to the weather eventually some passengers could not make that flight and seats eventually opened up. It was a great lesson learned experience for me.
 

johnbaker

Verified Member
Oct 2, 2014
848
1,397
93
45
#7
@CTP I had the same kind of thing... Also had them "protect" me and my family on a flight the next morning when a rolling delay looked like it was going to end in a cancellation.

I also forgot rule #1. Everyone else is going to be frustrated and nasty. No matter what happens. Be nice. You'll be amazed on what can happen. (I once got an upgrade to the front of the bus on Continental simply because I was the only person not screaming or flashing my status at a gate agent and I asked nicely).
 
Feb 21, 2018
41
88
18
56
#8
Some of the best advice I received a while back...when preparing to fly, make a list of all acceptable alternative flights you would want to try for BEFORE you leave. Keep the list handy. In the event of a delay or cancellation, get on your cell phone with your travel agent or the airline while you are making your way to the customer service line. If you're lucky, you're phone call is answered and you can talk to an agent before you even reach the counter, and since you already know what flights are out there can make your choice go faster.

Your phone is your best shot at getting ahead of all the rest of the people competing for the seats that are left. Having a plan ahead of time can save some aggravation.
 
Mar 14, 2018
62
78
18
53
#9
Well dmv is captive not that much room to wander and never enough seats when I go.

There is simply no space to put seats close in and then the overhead boards so everyone can see what number is next, and then someone will be in the bathroom or getting food and miss their number and then a scene breaks out.

I have seen the dmv get bad over missed tickets, people talking on the phone, told to get another number.....

Standing in line is the most efficient and equitable way although not good for all.

People can call, use the apps on their phone, or stand in line. If there are two people, they can take turns standing, or see if a wheelchair is available to sit in.

I do not think numbers and lines would help, likely make it worse as people would wander and get angry.

I cannot answer the reservation system issue.

But those lines are miserable.

I think Ann had a good idea. There is zero reason why people should be forced to stand in line when they could issue numbers and call people up in order. They could even text your cell phone when your number is coming up.

This technology is easy and routinely deployed in restaurants. It's embarrassing that major airlines haven't deployed it as well.

I would definitely send the suggestion in to the airline's customer service VP.
 
Likes: mmb

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
12,734
12,713
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#10
I think Ann had a good idea. There is zero reason why people should be forced to stand in line when they could issue numbers and call people up in order. They could even text your cell phone when your number is coming up.

This technology is easy and routinely deployed in restaurants. It's embarrassing that major airlines haven't deployed it as well.

I would definitely send the suggestion in to the airline's customer service VP.
The problem is that there isn’t enough seating for that. You already have people sitting waiting for their flight- where is another plane full of people supposed to go?
 
Sep 19, 2015
2,178
3,476
113
48
#11
I have seen too many people miss the number calling to find this to be viable; stepping outside, etc.

My cell phones have dead zones in certain parts of the US and in certain airports. As for the cell phone, what if someone is from overseas and the cell phone is roaming? Roaming is not always timely in delivery of texts as I have found out.

And as Neil says, where will people wait? It is hard to gauge how long something will take, so if one wanders --- a 737 can have 150 seats; where will those people be seated. Very few restaurants have 150 people coming at the same time to wait for a table, so the volume is different, And then there is one more piece of equipment -- the ticket machine for a ticket.

If two flights are cancelled there can be 300 people at once -- will they all line up to get a ticket, and stay nearby? Who is going to stand around and get everyone's cell phone number?
 
Likes: krisseye
Mar 14, 2018
62
78
18
53
#12
I have seen too many people miss the number calling to find this to be viable; stepping outside, etc.

My cell phones have dead zones in certain parts of the US and in certain airports. As for the cell phone, what if someone is from overseas and the cell phone is roaming? Roaming is not always timely in delivery of texts as I have found out.

And as Neil says, where will people wait? It is hard to gauge how long something will take, so if one wanders --- a 737 can have 150 seats; where will those people be seated. Very few restaurants have 150 people coming at the same time to wait for a table, so the volume is different, And then there is one more piece of equipment -- the ticket machine for a ticket.

If two flights are cancelled there can be 300 people at once -- will they all line up to get a ticket, and stay nearby? Who is going to stand around and get everyone's cell phone number?

There's a whole airport terminal to sit in. In the worst case, they could stand around the customer service area in which case it's the same as it is now.
 
Sep 19, 2015
2,178
3,476
113
48
#13
There's a whole airport terminal to sit in. In the worst case, they could stand around the customer service area in which case it's the same as it is now.
The terminals I am heavily familiar with do not have room for 300 chairs by each check in area -- that would be amusing at La Guardia. Also the regional port authorities are in control of the airport seating areas out there, I do not see them spending the money. Or would it just be a few chairs and people battle over them?

And standing around the customer service area -- there would be a group in no line or formation just fanned out in front; considering how hard it is to get to the gate agent before boarding when people are standing in random groups I see more of a potential for conflict, especially as people are rolling their carry on luggage over the feet of other people. Hear your number and there is a crowd standing waiting blocking access? What does one do, say excuse me, then push their way in, and then an altercation? And if there are 300 passengers, where would the board with the numbers be situated so it is highly visible to all? Or is someone needed with a bull horn to scream out the numbers? How would they hear or see their number if sitting somewhere in the entire terminal?

There is a reason that lines are thought of as the best way to keep a large group waiting for service safe -- and part of this has to do with the psychology of the crowd.

I cannot see a number system working properly in large airports, where multiple flights may be cancelled, people wander and miss their number, then demand to be taken --
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
6,643
6,644
113
San Francisco
#14
Ann, I agreed with your "take a number" idea until I read Christina's post. If people had decent manners and were civil, it is a great idea. But, as much as I hate to admit it, they're no longer well-mannered. People have discovered that yelling and screaming gets results and too many of them are willing to make fools of themselves in public. I witnessed a scene in Toronto where Air Canada sent out the oldest agent they had to announce that a flight had been cancelled after hours and hours of delays. Nobody cared that this was a "little old lady" in a red blazer, they went on the attack and generally made as much noise as possible. Why people indulge in this kind of behaviour, when it serves no useful purpose, is beyond me.

I realize that older adults do not walk around with a cell phone in their pocket or in front of their nose, and often have little idea of how powerful it is. Having an app on your phone does allow you to have more options in a case like this ... at least that's what I'm told, I've never had to test my "app-using" skills. My colleagues have given you (and all our other readers) many great suggestions on how to deal with this kind of issue. Flying today is not for the faint of heart, and there's no improvement in sight.
 
Likes: ADM