Computer issues problematic for United travelers

March 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
When it rains, flights are delayed -- and that's usually the case at San Francisco International Airport. However, this time, United's flight troubles were unrelated to the stormy weather.

The only thing more frightful than the weather outside is the departure board inside the United terminal at SFO. There were rows and rows of delays and cancellations. Passengers say they've waited on the phone for two or four hours listening to their elevator music. Another passenger said if you call United a recording says the operators are too busy to help you and it hangs up on you.

The line at the ticket counter isn't much better.

"We were told it was because of weather, but then one of the United agents just walked by and said it's because we switched to the Continental system," said Karen Day, a traveler.

A week and a half ago, United completed its merger with Continental Airlines by merging websites. Continental's site was more advanced, so United scrapped its own website, and moved all of its customers over to Continental's system.

"It's frustrating, but I think the customer service gals are struggling too, because they're dealing with these computer systems that they don't know how to deal with," said Sarah Rogers, a traveler.

United admits there is a problem, and it is caused by their switchover to Continental's online booking system. But a spokesman told ABC7 everyone's reservations and miles are intact, they're just displaying wrong on the website. That's led to confusion, hence the long hold times.

United says it's beefed up airport staffing and hired 600 new telephone agents to deal with the onslaught.

"The 600 they say they brought in still aren't enough considering the problems," said travel attorney Al Anolik.

Anolik says his phone is ringing off the hook with disgruntled travelers. The irony, he says, is the glitch is most likely to affect people with multiple itineraries who redeem lots of miles -- in other words -- United's most loyal customers. He's not entirely surprised.

"They didn't care about consumer complaints before, they really don't care about them now, and as they get bigger, they're going to care about them less," said Anolik.

United is asking customers for their patience and says they will be better soon.

"Well, they could be a little more sorry," said Rogers.


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