Tricks Of A Professional Airline Complainer

Tricks Of A Professional Airline Complainer

I travel more than the average bear. In fact, by the end of the year, I’ll have flown 100,000 miles in 2017. As somebody who’s obsessed with status, that 100K mark is a big, albeit meaningless accomplishment for me. Unfortunately, due to being unemployed for half the year and having to burn precious airline miles on some trips to save coin, I’ll only achieve Platinum status on the PR disaster in the sky known as United Airlines.

Before you get all hot under the collar and chime in that YOUR particular airline is better than mine, trust me when I tell you that I both believe you and don’t give a flying fuck (get it?). Every airline has its drawbacks. United has hubs in both my home cities of San Francisco and Chicago and has regular flights up and down the coast for my day job. I’m handcuffed and I can’t escape now.

Despite the fact that I’m a loyal customer whose airline allegiances will probably never change, this doesn’t prevent me from complaining to United at every single misstep they make. And boy, do they fuck up often. This isn’t done in the hopes of them improving their quality of service (which has gone downhill big time these past four years). It isn’t even done because I’m looking for an apology. Nope, I lodge nonstop complaints to United Airlines in the hopes of gaining the coveted ETC: Electronic Travel Certificate. An ETC is essentially a gift card that can be used to pay for flights and earn miles toward status just as you would with cash.

I don’t take the traditional route that comedians on Twitter do with their airline issues, which is to complain to their airline’s support handle and try to spin it into content for the amusement of their followers. Instead, I’ve had to hunt and claw my way into the bowels of the United Airlines Customer Service section of their website that contains a page called the Customer Care form. They make it impossible to find and the page regularly times out and reloads, causing you to lose all your work. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m using this form to bleed their stockpile of ETCs dry.

Two-hour delay with no explanation besides “maintenance issues?” You bet your ass I’m filling out a Customer Care form. According to me and me only, I had an important client dinner I missed and United needs to compensate me accordingly. Wifi on the plane isn’t working on a cross-country flight in the middle of the workday? Turns out I had an important business document I needed to send to a colleague and it’s now United’s fault it didn’t get there. There’s no limit to the opportunities you can use to your advantage. Tray table not working? Tell the flight attendant – they’ll email you a $75 ETC I’m not joking. Did the gate agent tell you one reason for the delay and the pilot come on the intercom after taking off three hours late and give you a different reason? That’s poor communicating on United’s behalf and I demand to be compensated accordingly.

Here’s an example of something that happened to me just last week. I was scheduled to fly from SF to Newark early on a Tuesday morning. We were told the flight was delayed due to catering needing to be brought onboard. Once that delay was settled and we had boarded we were told by the pilot that we needed to deplane and were delayed two more hours due to bad weather in NY. Two and a half hours later when we were finally airborne and I asked if I could order food, I was told there was no food available onboard. So why then were we lied to and delayed that first hour, causing us to run into the bad weather and be delayed even longer? This is just a perfect example of every airline’s proclivity to lie and take advantage of their customers due to the unrelenting need for their services. Before we’d even landed I had a scathing Customer Care form locked and loaded and within 24 hours was sent an ETC for $250 from United’s Customer Care team. Thanks for the free Thanksgiving flights you stupid clown car of an airline!

It’s gotten to the point now where I fly looking for mistakes I can complain about. Before you ask, no, I don’t ever conjure up mishaps out of thin air. However, they’ve become so commonplace that I just see dollar signs when they happen. I’ll put up with any number of delays and broken tray tables if it means at a later date I’ll end up traveling through the sky at hundreds of miles per hour FOR FREE.

For those who think this is an unethical practice or simply that I’m abusing my frequent flier status, do a quick Google search of “United Airlines” and click “news” (NSFW). I’m not flying Momma and Poppa Airline and taking cash out of the register when I pick up my boarding pass. This is a monstrous, faceless organization that only cares about the bottom line and not an ounce about their customer’s comfort, well-being or sanity. They’ll make the seats smaller and the food more expensive as they get bigger and more gluttonous. They’ll delay flights longer and raise ticket prices and blame it on the cost of fuel. They’ll grab hold of us like a python and squeeze every dollar and shred of dignity out until we succumb to their bullshit. I plan on doing both my duty as a human being and as a guy with a little too much time on his hands to make sure I go down swinging.

P.S. I’m writing this from a plane where the wifi “is only working for half the users onboard, apologies!” Looking forward to that free trip home for Christmas too, United.

* * *

This week on Don’t Take It From Us, on-air news reporter and weather anchor Marissa Morrison joins Jenna and I to grade Bumble profiles and she goes into detail about what it’s like dating while in the public eye. We also discuss traveling with friends who aren’t compatible with you and play the Name Game! Don’t forget to follow the official DTIFU Spotify playlist here! Please don’t forget to leave us a 5-Star Review on iTunes! The funniest 5-Star reviews get read on the pod and the winner gets to be a guest on a future episode!

Do you have a dating or relationship question you want answered on the pod? Make sure you send our way! New eps will be released every Wednesday, so check it out on Soundcloud below or on iTunes!

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JR Hickey

Stand up comedian and writer from Chicago who now resides on the West Coast. JR can be seen performing at Cobbs Comedy Club in San Francisco and Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago. His work has been published in the Chicago Tribune and recently he was a part of SF Sketchfest 2015. JR's also the host of the PGP dating podcast Don't Take It From Us. He loves you very, very much.

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