Friday, October 25, 2013

Dear United Airlines

"Are you guys part of some sort of photography club?" Ha!

Boy do I have quite the story to tell you. As you may know from my last post, I was in Vegas last weekend for PoshFest. What I didn't tell you was that I finally experienced why United Airlines has such a bad rap. I was kind of always skeptical that they could really be that bad despite the many, many, many stories I'm heard and read about them over the years. I was always willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But I get it now.

In all fairness, my flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas went off with very little to talk about. Although that could simply be because I slept through it until the quick, bumpy landing... just a thought.

Upon grabbing my checked bag, I caught a cab to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Once I was checked in, I quickly ran up to my room to drop off my luggage, change, and get to setting up PoshFest--but not before snapping the little selfie you see above! As soon as I put my suitcase on the luggage rack, I knew something was off. I ALWAYS leave my zippers in a very specific place and saw that they had been moved. This didn't automatically trigger as a negative thing as I've had TSA go through my bags many times in the past; I know the drill. It wasn't until I unzipped the suitcase and flipped it open that I realized there was a true problem.

My empty camera case was crumpled on top off everything else in my suitcase.

That's right, I said empty.

Sometime between when I dropped off my suitcase with the United employee at SFO who checked in my bag and when I picked it up at baggage claim in Las Vegas, someone had helped themselves to my DSLR camera, camera lenses, camera charger kit, and extra 16GB memory card.

My heart instantly hit the floor of the Cosmopolitan Hotel 37 levels below me as I took in what I was looking at. I know it's so cheesy to say this, but at that moment, what I felt more than anything was violated. I could have easily had a complete breakdown at that moment, but I was way too busy to submit to that emotion so I took a few breaths, told myself it's just a 'thing,' and got to work with the entire reason I was even in Vegas.

The weekend was over in the blink of an eye and I barely had a moment to breathe, let alone get on the phone with an airline company. Seems United was busy that weekend, too, because they conveniently ignored all of my tweets from that weekend.

A little melodramatic, I know. But I was pissed! Wouldn't you be?

The first moment I had a chance to talk to someone from United was when I arrived at the airport for my flight home on Sunday night. Upon checking in with the agent, I inquired about a number to call regarding my stolen property. The woman's response? "Was it an expensive camera?" I hesitantly answered in the affirmative despite the fact that this should not have been relevant information. The United agent responded with a disproving look saying, "Well why did you check it?" as if the expectation that United employees would not steal my stuff was a completely insane notion. I was not given a number, rather directed to the baggage offices. As I was catching a flight shortly, I was not able to find time to stop by the office.

Thought I firmly believe that agent had no right asking me that question, it is one that I asked myself many, many times over the weekend. I have never in my life checked my camera; it always comes on the plane with me. It was never for the fear or it being stolen but more for the fear of it being broken in transit. I'm not sure whether it was my extremely tired pre-PoshFest brain, my confusion over checking a bag for a trip that would normally only require a carryon (I had to pack a lot of work things to Vegas), or maybe a little of both, but I somehow managed to pack it into my carryon. So lovely Las Vegas United employee, that's why I checked my camera.

But my negative experience with United Airlines didn't end there.

Thank you, Vegas. We had a lovely weekend! #poshfest #poshlove #vegas #sunset #goodbye #airport
A moment of calm before boarding my bizarre flight home on United.

The entire flight home was completely bizarre from the gate agent shouting across the room looking for someone who spoke Spanish to translate for her to a frustrating experience I had at baggage claim with another passenger which probably deserves an entire post of it's own. Here are a few of the other negative things I experienced:

  • On the plane, the overhead speakers were at an unnecessarily loud volume; so loud that it physically hurt. I had to manually plug my ears yet could still hear the message plain as day. I consulted with several other people on the flight and I wasn't the only one who felt that way. 
  • There was an annoying person across the aisle from me who seemed to think the chair and table in front of him was a full drum kit so I tried to sleep through the flight so I didn't have to hear him. United had a different idea. Despite the fact that I had turned off the monitor in the headrest in front of me, they kept turning it on at maximum brightness which would wake me up.
  • I also felt that one of the attendants on the flight was incredibly unprofessional in the way she talked to the passengers. I myself did not have an encounter with her, but it made me really uncomfortable to hear the way she talked to other people around me. 

All I could think during the entire flight was how they mentioned in the video that nearly blew my ear drums out that they take on a new plane every two weeks yet they can't seem to put together a staff with basic customer service and human decency skills. 

After work on Monday, I finally had a moment to call United where they tried to get out of responsibility by saying that claims are expected to be filed within 24 hours of the items going missing. You know what I expect? I expect my baggage and it's contents to be in the same condition as when I released it into United's custody. Luckily the gentleman I chatted with on the phone seemed to be the only decent United employee I had encountered as he apologetically took my claim.  Interestingly enough, that's when United finally decided to join the conversation.

I end this lengthy post with an open letter to United Airlines.

Dear United Airlines,

If you want to make this right, then please make it right. Prove all of your critics, including me, wrong. Find out who did this. Get me my camera back. Or just reimburse me for my "pilfered" items. And for the love of all things good in the world, please stop calling them missing items. That's just demeaning. But above all other things, please prove me wrong and make this right.  Please don't make me wait a few weeks. I'm a blogger and I can't go a few ambiguous weeks without my camera.

Yours truly,

And dear friends of IBITTM, please help share my story. Let's work together towards a happy ending to this sad story!

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Adiel | Rose Gold Lining said...

That is such a horrible experience.!! I always read weird stuff about them. Thank you for the warning. Will stay away from flying with them.

Adiel | Rose Gold Lining said...

Wow, this is crazy! I will share and pass along to all I know! Missing items? Why don't they just admit that they are stolen items? I would be highly irritated (and insulted) as well! So sorry his happened to you!! :/

Adiel | Rose Gold Lining said...

Your camera was stolen by the TSA agent who "searched" your bag. That's not really United's fault, because the bag was not in their control at the time. This is one of the reasons the TSA is evil-- it makes it impossible for companies like United to provide security for their customers valuables.

United employees are often jerks in my experience as well.... but this issue you need to take up with your representative.

If you voted for Bush or Obama, then I blame YOU. Your lost camera is just a minor penalty for putting those guys in office. Obama has expanded the TSA, which now takes nude photos of little kids at airports and molests those who opt out of the nude scans.

When you support criminals, you can't be surprised when they rob you... if you didn't support either of those guys, then good for you, and I suggest you direct your anger towards those who did. (and of course the criminals themselves.)