Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to deal with the exceptionally rude United Airlines counter staff in Washington DC

I love United.  I’m a frequent flyer with them and love their daily flights to DC.  I’ve never had a problem with any of the United or NAS ground staff in Kuwait.  In fact, they go out of their way to be kind, to smile, to say a few kind words.  However, returning to Kuwait through Washington is another story.

It is a well-known fact that United’s counter staff at IAD is just rude.  My family has had problems; people we know have had problems; passengers waiting near me have had problems.   No one – from any class of travel nor station in life is immune.   Pay $10,000 for your ticket or pay $400;  it doesn’t matter.  The rudeness is unavoidable.  You can’t get around it – regardless of if you go to the airport and show up as the first customer with no one else around; or if you are passenger number 372 in the line of people, carts, and screaming children.

There could be reasons behind the rudeness.  Perhaps they are recruited for their thick-skin; similar to prison guards.  Perhaps they have had to deal with passengers for years and years and have grown tired of it (like postal workers?).  Maybe they dislike the United/Continental merge.  Who knows – and who cares?  Wouldn’t  it just be as easy to be NICE to people?

Okay, so here is my list of ways to get through it; methodically uncovered through years of travelling through United at IAD:

1.        Do not ask questions.   Ever.   It isn’t the ground staff’s job to answer.
2.       At the check-in counter:  Use the passport scanner and kiosk – without being told to first - or risk being shouted at.  If you don’t know how to use the scanner, refer to #1 above.  Ask friendly looking fellow travelers.
3.       Once you have scanned your passport and are waiting to have your bags checked, just stand there.  Refer to #1.   Just wait.  Trying to make eye contact won’t help.  They don’t look directly at passengers (travelers have cooties).
4.       Maintain a poker face.  If they see any signs of weakness, they’ll humiliate you in front of other passengers.
5.       Try not to look or sound too foreign.  They see it as an opportunity to pounce.
6.       Wear neutral toned, plain clothes.  Do not risk bringing attention to yourself. 
7.       Do NOT try to be overly kind.  They see it as a sign of weakness.  They prey on the weak.
8.       If you’re elderly, bring a young person with you for protection.

And God forbid you should have to ask a United representative a question at the gate!  They have you cornered.  (What are you gonna do; leave?)  Game on.  It is okay to shout at passengers, to humiliate them, to traumatize at will.

Refer to #1 above.

Now, once you’re on the plane, it is a totally new experience.  The flight attendants are kind.  They smile.  They make small talk.  They are human.  It is as if you have passed a test.  If you can make it past the United gate keepers, you’re in.


Anonymous said...

Interesting 4-8 are some of my rules for going through Kuwait International Airport adding
9. Grab the cart and enter the terminal as if going to war.
10. Never make eye contact with any airport authorities.
11. Calmly place essentials on decaying airport xray machine, again grabbing your stuff without making any eye contact.
So your beloved airline airport desk clerks would feel right at home at KIA.

Anonymous said...

I haven't travelled in 12 years. thank you for reminding me exactly WHY I haven't travelled in 12 years. All that FUN and I get to pay for it too! YEAH!

Anonymous said...

All Airlines nowadays are Great. Friendly Staff, great service, nothing is any trouble.......

That is until you have a Problem ....Then they dont want to know you, they will do anything to help and tell you to Contact customer service and they will just fob you off also.

This now applies to all Airlines.
Service....What Service ???

Bye the way.... Air France /KLM who are struggling to cope with rising costs ..Fuel etc have just found a new exciting way to attract customers in Kuwait.

They have recently started adding a Surcharge of 7 KD TO ALL TICKETS BOUGHT AND PAID FOR AT THEIR DOWN TOWN OFFICE.
So you now go in to their office to give them your money and they charge you an additional surcharge for the Privilage ????

International Hermit said...

You are SO RIGHT! IAD is THE WORST. And God forbid the plane to IAD is delayed and they have to reschedule your connection. I was fortunate and got a rep who was actually understanding and nice to me, but I listened to the other 3 reps at the counter as I waited in line thinking "so much for customer service!" :P

Expat and the City said...

Now I'm scared to go to the United counter...I clearly need back up!

Anonymous said...

When I went to Kuwait in May of '08, I was a 26 year old redneck girl setting foot on a plane for the first time in my life, and was, mysteriously, "randomly selected" for additional screening at every leg of the trip. To be fair, I think the whole trip would've looked suspicious, too. However, everyone was courteous and polite 'til I got to the UA counter at Dulles. :b They had a rather large, super intimidating late middle aged American guy just being a complete ass to everyone. The kicker was when he pretended not to understand the lovely, polite Indian couple in front of me, who were plainly speaking English. Granted, the accent was New Dehli, with all it's bubbly vowels and such, but, still, clearly English. I understood every word they said. He insisted they wait for an interpreter. I shit you not. Most ridiculous behavior out of a so-called professional, ever. The company definitely made an impression on me...and it wasn't a good one.--soupprincess