Is United melting down?

photo credit: Flickr / PDX.rollingthunder

As most frequent flyers in the Bay Area know by now, United undertook the massive job of “cutting over” to a new reservations system last week.

While United has been putting a good spin on how well the process is going, I’m hearing from readers and reading online reports that things are still a bit bumpy.

The timing is unfortunate because this week is the beginning of the peak spring break travel season when frequent travelers have to share their precious space at airports and on airplanes with marauding crowds of rowdy college students.

Here’s the latest from United, which hints at some issues:

United and Continental recently migrated to a single passenger service system.  This was the single largest technology conversion in aviation history, and the vast majority of our systems are functioning as planned. After the conversion, we have had dependable airline operations and good on-time performance. However, we have had some technical issues that have affected our customers, as would be expected with a very complex systems change. We have already solved many of them and are working to rapidly solve the remaining issues.

You may have a longer wait time to reach our phone-contact centers and we are working to reduce the time it takes for you to reach us.  We have increased staff at our contact centers to serve you better.  We apologize if you have had difficulty with your travel planning, and we are grateful for your patience.

We have been rapidly identifying technical issues and improving the performance and functionality of our systems.  We will be making even more progress in the days ahead.

I called United’s toll free number on Monday morning (Mar 12), and was told that my wait time would be 35 minutes.

Business travel writer Joe Brancatelli opines that bad weather in United hubs is magnifying the issue for travelers trying to get around or out from under flight delays or cancellations are spending hours on hold- or being told to call back. NOTE: Meteorologists are forecasting a week of foul weather here in the Bay Area that is sure to affect on time performance at SFO, OAK and SJC.

Blogger Gary Leff says that non-elite travelers are having a tougher time than elites when it comes to getting through on the phone to United. He suggests that travelers phone Australian call centers instead, which are not experiencing the same overloads.

A reader on Leff’s blog suggests an interesting new service I’ve never heard of… but sounds like a great idea:

Try using It’ll let you initiate the call and then hang up and it will play a pre-recorded message (by you) to the agent who answers the phone while it calls you back. No more waiting on hold!!

The Houston Chronicle reports massive delays, long lines and frustrations over the weekend at United’s Houston Intercontinental hub- but reported that delays are more likely due to the peak collegiate spring break crowds (combined with bad weather) than the cutover.

So let’s hear it from the Bay Area! How’s it been going on your United flights over the last week? Is the situation getting better or worse? Please leave you comments below.

3 Responses to Is United melting down?

  • Alison Aarts says:

    My husband Tom is a Premier Platinum flyer and was on hold with the reservations system for at least 25 minutes. This was on the special “premier platinum” phone line which you would think would connect you to a live person right away but no. The only reason we were calling is because the seats listed for our flight to PHX online said one thing and our boarding pass said another. Fortunately, our flight to PHX from SFO was smooth and we even had an empty middle seat for our baby which we didn’t purchase. Hopefully they can fix their reservation system soon or else they will be losing their frequent flyers soon.

  • rosemary pfeiffer says:

    I flew SFO-MCO last saturday - the first day of the transition. My flight was mid afternoon. The check-in counters were jammed; I went through security and was the only person in the whole security area (the TSA closest to the international area) The check-in kiosks did not recognize the reservation but I had printed out a boarding pass so had no delays. At the gate, everyone’s boarding passes were rejected and seat assignments had to be entered manually. Bottom line - lots of delays getting to the gate and boarding. Five days later, leaving Orlando - no problems with check-in or boarding (TSA was chaotic but that evidently is another problem and common at Orlando) My observations about the website and credits for flights is that such information is runnning about 3-4 days behind. I have further reservations for later this month and no problem accessing those on the website. Small objection to using the Continental format for the United home page, particularly as to booking a flight - it’s just different and who likes change?

  • Frank O'Connor says:

    I have had a few problems over the past week. I have emailed looking for missing flight mileage, and have still to hear back, nearly a week later. In addition, I went in to review my itinerary’s for travel in June and a leg was missing (BER-LHR). I did call, and as I’m elite got through quickly. But it did take almost 45 mins for her to rebook me on another flight. She never explained what that leg was gone, or why I wasn’t contacted.

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