I finished my R&R leave two days ago and have finally made it back to the Middle East. At least I do not have to dread that anymore.
Not everyone on leave was so fortunate. The domestic airline, United Airlines, was code-sharing with a foreign carrier and somehow horked the reservations of a lot of soldiers. I was able to get my state National Guard headquarters involved to fix my problem since I had called up the airline the day before to verify my reservation. Soldiers who simply showed up at the airport ended up stranded at various places, and not just their point of origins, despite several empty seats on the flights.
We do not have to wait for that Terminator 3 moment when the machines take over, at least not for United Airlines, because they aleady let their machines rule them. Almost every customer service person blamed the computer in some fashion: insufficient access privileges, my record is locked, it is somebody else’s system, unscheduled updates, and so on. When that failed, they just told me “We do not do that.” The person checking in next to me at O’Hare, a German fellow I think, was having the same problem. They kept telling him that the computer said the opposite thing than his ticket. Snags are not so bad—stuff happens—but the ticket agent just kept saying “But the computer says…” without even listening to him.
My problem got fixed by force of will. The State just called the airline and said “Look, this is how it is going to be, I do not care what your computer says”. That fixed that. The stranded soldiers do not have anyway to bring that force to bear when business hours are over, though. In my experience, United Airlines would rather believe its computers, and stick by that, than actually help the customer. I was actually surprised at how hostile some of the representatives were, especially considering since I normally just say “active duty in Iraq” and companies fall over themselves trying to help me.
When that is the way the business runs, someone needs to take the computer aside and give it a spanking. The computers should work for us, not us for them. Customer service people should not be simply data entry technicians, and gate agents are not just ticket tearers, that is, unless they let the computers be the boss.
I should not be surprised at that though. I have seen a lot of places where people work within the limits of the computer vendor they have locked themselves into, rather than using what actually works for them. It still boggles me, though.
Have airline computers horked your travel plans?