Monday, October 25, 2010

Squeaky Wheel

Well, Chickens, we have an update to the United Airlines story....

Last week I posted that I had been having problems booking award travel with United Airlines, and was so frustrated that I made a little animated movie about it. 

Frustrated I was, since I had been checking in with United every day since July 26 about these tickets.  So frustrated that I sent a very long VERY snarky letter to Glenn Tilton, CEO of United Airlines.  The text of that letter, wth some minor changes, is what became the dialogue of this movie.  (If you are having trouble watching the movie on the blog, click here to watch on YouTube)

I sent a copy of the e-mail, which I addressed to The Underling that Reads Glenn Tilton's E-mail, to Charming Suitor who thought it was hilarious, and gave me the names of the guy in charge of Mileage awards and the guy in charge of Customer Relations.  I forwarded the e-mail on to them.  I got auto-replies that they are both "transitioning out of United", and listed different people to contact.  I forwarded the e-mail to the people they recommended.  Then I decided to e-mail everyone, every day.

After all, since I was having to look for tickets every day, why should I not keep them informed as to my progress?

For a week, I e-mailed every day.  "Still no tickets."  "Checked again, pas de billets."  and then...  "Here is a little movie I made about how there are never any tickets."

Oh yes, Chickens, I did forward my little film to them.

I posted it on Facebook, where several pals indicated both a preference for American Airlines for award travel, and said it must have been cathartic to make the movie.

I Tweeted about it, and several Tweeps said "U go grl."

Charming Suitor's Dad, Reverend Charming, praised me highly which made me blush.

Saturday morning, around 8:30 am, the phone rang out.  CS grabbed the receiver (the phone is on his side of the bed) and in one fluid movement threw his arm over and chucked it under my chin.

"Hello?"  I said groggily.

"Hello, is this Stacey Ballis?"  A perky voice on the other end chirped. 

Really?  With the early Saturday wake-up solicitation, really?  Am I not ON THE DO NOT CALL LIST????


"I'm sorry, did I wake you?"

"Yes."  Well, why should I lie to make someone feel better about waking me? 

"I'm sorry, this is Tanya from Glen Tilton's office at United Airlines, I can call back at a more convenient time."

Sweet Fancy Moses.

"No, no, don't call back!  I'm up."  To say that some adrenaline kicked in is an understatement.

"Wonderful.  Well, I'm calling to say that Mr. Tilton did receive your e-mail, and that he does read his e-mail and he asked to me call you and see if I can help you get your award travel booked, and that he is very sorry for your frustration."

Squeaky wheel, meet grease.

Tanya was beyond helpful.  She was honest about what she could and couldn't do, and set up our tickets in the best way possible.  And while it does still annoy me the tiniest bit that the reason the award travel was so difficult is that the destination is popular, and therefore they can often sell the tickets for money..because, um, when we do your mileage reward programs we are essentially pre-paying for the tickets, and so it shouldn't matter if someone might use cash to buy them, we should get access to a rational percentage of them...since I cannot change the policy, at least I can now stop checking every day, and know that our vacation is secure and we didn't have to use double the miles to do it.

Saver Award Mileage Tickets:  NOT FAIL

So, I have to give props to Mr. Glenn Tilton, CEO of United Airlines, who read a very snarky e-mail from a very frustrated consumer and sent a little fairy godmother to fix it.

As a result of his kindness, I will not post his e-mail address here.


After we finished laughing about the riduculousness of the award ticket adventure, Charming Suitor and I had a talk and have decided to take our relationship to the next level. 

From now on, he is going to feel free to answer the phone at my house.

Game, Set, Match.

If you are in the greater Chicagoland Area, come to The Book Cellar on Lincoln this Friday night at 7pm to see me, Jen Lancaster, Wendy McClure and Claire Zulkey be all sorts of hilarious in our Fourth Annual Witty Women night.  Readings, signings, and wine.  We'd love to see you there!

Yours in Good Taste, with a rocking vacation to look forward to,
The Polymath


  1. Congrats on a great result! I think you had a better outcome than Kevin Smith did with Southwest!

    We are members of Delta's FF program, and what frustrates me to no end, aside from trying to book award travel in general, is the difficulty we encounter when trying to upgrade to first or business class. Delta uses many different "classes" of tickets, represented by letters (U, S, K, etc). I have no idea what they mean. But it seems like every single time we try to upgrade at the gate we are told that our "class" of ticket is not upgradeable. OK, so you're telling me that, despite the fact I am standing here, SkyMiles credit card in hand, OFFERING to pay you an additional $75-$300 per seat right now to sit in first class that I can't do it because of a fucking letter on my ticket? I have a couple letters for you - W T F???

  2. SCORE on the United triumph! It's nice to know there is some customer service out there somewhere, but rather sad that one has to go to drastic levels to receive it!

    for Witty Women night, do we need to call and RSVP like last year?

  3. Wow. I'm surprised (and impressed!) because usually the airlines do not budge. Maybe Mr. Tilton thinks his customers are important after all.

    I am not in the greater Chicagoland area therefore I am oozing with jealousy at those who will be able to attend Friday night. Oozing I tell ya.

  4. I think it never hurts to RSVP, but don't know if it is reuqired...check the website!

  5. Congrats on both accomplishments! I just booked trips on American using miles, and while I don't think I had the same frustration, it was utterly annoying that I could see an entirely empty plane should I wish to pay for non-stop seats to Cancun, but no reward seats available, for any day in a two week span!! So, we are connecting through Miami. Super, now I can irritate 2 plane loads of people with my toddler!

  6. Any chance you could be persuaded to cook something delicious to serve/sell/exchange for wine at the Book Cellar? Regardless, can't wait to see you there.
    Congratulations on your resolution with United, and now you're an animator, so that's 3 achievements.

  7. Congrats on getting your tickets! I love the video, it is so true! Dealing with airlines is usually such a torture test. We were once flying from NY to Bermuda, and our morning flight was canceled. We had plans for the afternoon, so we didn’t want to take the night flight that they arranged. Another airline had a plane departing in about an hour. They would only sell me the tickets at three times the price due to the short notice. Unless you were actually AT the airport, and THROUGH security, no one could humanly make the flight. No matter what I said, or who I tried to talk to, they preferred to fly the plane with two empty seats then selling the tickets for a normal price.

  8. Stories like this make me think that there may actually be some hope for this world after all!! I'm so glad SOMEONE had some success with and airline. :)

  9. Check this out:

    There's a second and third song as well about this musician's United saga. It got a lot of attention at the time - not sure what the end result was. Glad you had a happy result!