Tuesday, April 17, 2012

United: More 'Blue' than 'Rhapsody'

United Air Lines has used George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue as it's musical cornerstone since at least the Mid-1980s (according to Wikipedia).

While the 2-part commercial American Airlines aired just after 9/11 is perhaps the most moving commercial I've ever seen, and what most captures what I believe the romance of flight was, could be, and should be -- watching them (especially part 2) still makes my eyes water a bit [Part 1 and Part 2, both featuring a unreleased variation of Enya's Storms In Africa... the closest I've found is by Talesin Orchestra]

And while I've always preferred the soaring power Delta* captured with Karl Jenkins Adiemus (For example, this commercial from the mid 90s as well as using it as boarding music), United's use of Rhapsody in Blue (see this commercial among many examples), varying the cuts to suit the mood of the commercial's subject has been noble.

One of the definitions for Rhapsody** is a "An effusively enthusiastic or ecstatic expression of feeling" meanwhile, "Blue" carries with it definitions including "melancholy, sad, or depressed" or, new to me, in describing language "marked by cursing, swearing, and blasphemy".

Over a month ago Continental and United completed their merger with the combination of two reservation systems into one. Since the "new" United uses the same reservation system as Continental did and has many of the same policies--some would go so far as to say it's Continental Airlines doing business as United Airlines--I assumed that there would be a few bumps but as a Continental customer I would be largely unaffected. And at first I was -- my OnePass (now MileagePlus) number didn't even change.

While I loved Continental, I have no such rhapsodic feelings towards United. Having spent four hours on hold with United over the past two weeks on a variety of issues I'm feeling a bit blue. Based on some of those issues and the "Eh, it'll probably get fixed eventually, why are you bugging us" attitude I may be speaking blue.

There are some issues I can understand but all of the issues I'm seeing just don't make any sense for a system that was supposedly tested prior to being turned over to the public -- not to mention one that as near as I can tell from what United is saying is fundamentally the same as the one Continental has been using for a decade now.

There are the small issues (united.com will periodically decide that my account number and/or PIN is invalid and not let me access my account, or it will let me log in to my account and then tell me that I'm not authorized to view my account)

There are the perplexing issues (for one upcoming flight, I couldn't view a seat map for the aircraft, let alone select seats online... when I called I was told that no seats would be assigned in advance and all seats would be assigned at the gate after I get to Houston. That seems like a recipe for airport chaos when you consider that it's an aircraft with 173 seats. And if I wanted to a fight-to-the-death for my preferred seat at the gate, I would have just flown Southwest. But hey, what do I know about airline management?

Then there are the "I don't know if I can trust you anymore" moments: The miles for my last flight posted to my account successfully several weeks ago. Last week those miles -- indeed any indication I had ever been on that flight -- just disappeared. Poof. They are no longer there. I called when I noticed it and I was told that it was a known issue and they should be back by April 15th. I called last night and the agent "found" the miles but wasn't able to recredit them to my account. It's been referred to the "research department" and may take four to six weeks to be fixed. While I don't need the miles for anything in the next month it's baffling how miles can appear, disappear, and then take over a month to be fixed.

But in looking at the chatter in various places online it seems I may be lucky -- there are reports of seat assignments and indeed entire reservations just disappearing.

United is being far too quiet. Since they aren't acknowledging a systematic problem, despite all of the chatter, the silence is feeding a growing collective anger and random speculation based on rumors. I, for one, would be far more satisfied if they'd do something so simple as to release the root cause and a realistic timeline for a return to normal.

Sigh. Maybe I need to give Delta a second chance. But I'm not quite ready to give up.

* - I've avoided flying Delta since an encounter with an extremely rude supervisor in Cincinnati on August 23rd, 2004. (Hey, if I'm going to hold a grudge, I might as well be accurate about it, right?) -- As a result of Delta's merger with Northwest Airlines a few years ago, I have almost enough Skymiles for a Round-the-World ticket in Business on Delta. I'm conflicted about whether or not I should use them given my disdain for the airline.

** - The musical definition is "a one-movement work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, colour and tonality. An air of spontaneous inspiration and a sense of improvisation make it freer in form than a set of variations."

No comments:

Post a Comment