Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[travel] The irony, she is drop forged and highly polished

So after the Day Jobbe today I hied me to the airport to fly off to see calendula_witch for the weekend, on my way yet further to scenic Torrance, CA next week. My phone rings while I'm loitering in the terminal. It's United Airlines calling, specifically one of their "blog watchers." Which role I would translate as being, "person who makes nice to cranky people with large social media footprints." This gal was very pleasant, indicated she'd followed through on my travelfail issues of last week (documented here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]), and very politely discussed the resolution with me, after having been unable to directly resolve them herself.

To dive down into neepery for a moment, the Day Jobbe's corporate travel agency uses Sabre as their booking system. United Airlines uses Apollo to manage their bookings. Sabre talks to Apollo and vice versa, but they don't have the same data structures. When a recent TSA rules change required stricter conformance to traveler name used, the "Jr." suffix on my full legal name of "Joseph E. Lake, Jr." was collapsed into the lastname field in one system, and broken off into a suffix field in the other system, and the names were no longer seen as identical.

From the airline's point of view, I (or my travel agent) had changed my name and it no longer matched my travel records. From the travel agent's point of view, they'd done exactly what the airline required of them, in conformance with TSA directives. From my point of view, WTF!?

As I pointed out to the nice blog watcher lady, I wasn't upset that the problem occurred. That's life. I was upset that no one seemed to be able to fix it, even after literally hours of phone calls, and I was upset that I was told repeatedly that the problem was my fault, that I had changed my name, when in fact I had done exactly nothing.

An irritating fubar, to be sure, but not the fault of United Airlines per se. Rather, an infelicitous intersection of multiple systems and administrative directives, the outcome of which devolved back to me to deal with.

Also, in fairness, the United Airlines blog watcher didn't ask, or even hint broadly, that I should post an update. She merely addressed herself to my stated problem, then answered some questions I had about their customer service practices. I'm enough of a contrarian that had she asked for a retraction, I wouldn't have done it, but her approach impressed me as constructive and appropriate customer relations. So props to United Airlines for working to make it right.

The irony part?

The whole time we were talking, I was idle because my United Airlines flight today was delayed by about 70 minutes. Joy, rapture. To be clear, this isn't their fault — SFO has chronic air traffic control delays right now due to runway construction. (There's a larger question about why flights aren't rescheduled to the reduced nominal capacity, but I am not a sachem of the airways, and decline to speculate on the matter.) So, erm, airline customer service for the save, but with a side of flightfail.

Tags: calendula, california, personal, travel, work

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