I think I’ll never understand why anyone in a customer service field would ever discriminate, but I’ll try to keep it more specific to the airline industry. I should preface this by saying that if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my travels it’s that profiling people at airports/on planes is almost impossible, at least in terms of the “first class” vs. “riff raff” way. Some people are under the (idiotic) assumption that those that wear suits are flying first, and that those wearing hawaiian shirts are flying coach. In my experience more often than not it’s the exact opposite, but of course that’s from actual observation and not profiling.
So on the point of this. While I’m probably one of United’s most frequent flyers out of TPA, I really don’t know the staff by name for two reasons:
1) I have no need to interact with them, and therefore always check-in online, so my only interaction with them is when they scan my boarding pass. Furthermore I’ve never had a cancellation, delay, etc, so starting any conversation would just be odd.
2) I fly out at 6AM and I’m usually not too talkative at that time.
So anyway, the one time I did need an agent in TPA (probably a year ago) I went to the check-in counter. As I got into the Premier line the agent said “wrong line, buddy.” Suffice it to say I wasn’t too happy about that.
So anyway, fast forward to yesterday. I was going to the airport to ticket my trip to Hawaii (which I wrote about below) using a $300 certificate, and had just come from class. I was wearing a sweatshirt and shorts (hey, I’m a Floridian) and was soaking wet cause it was pouring outside. Ted doesn’t have a huge presence in TPA, so the check-in line has a single head, and Premier passengers queue a little bit to the left while everyone else goes straight. I’m at the entrance to the line and turn left and the line organizing agent or whatever you want to call her immediately stops me and asks “where are you flying to?” I explained I wanted to ticket an itinerary, and she directed me to the general check-in. I said “Why that line and not this one?” while pointing to the Premier line, instead of just saying I’m a 1K since I wanted to be subtle about it and see how far she would take it. At this point I guess she assumed I was just some dumb college student and she didn’t want to explain to me that the line I was in was for “special people,” so she just says “This line is better, they can help you here.” Again, wanting to be subtle and seeing where it would take me, I again said “But why not this line?” and she repeated what she said before. At this point I was done with this little game of her’s and asked why a 1K couldn’t use the Premier line. Her jaw dropped and she said “oh, go right ahead,” of course being too proud to apologize.
This just really ticks me off badly. While she wasn’t totally rude about it, she was just moronic for assuming that I wasn’t elite because of my age, and beyond that for not asking whether or not I’m elite since I walked into the Premier line with conviction and not a confused look on my face.
The lady that finally helped me at the counter was awesome. After I gave her my confirmation number she said “Wait a second, are you [Mr. Lucky]?” I said “yep,” and she immediately asked if I was sure, to which I responded indeed. She goes “Wow, you look so young, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone as young as you with so many miles.” She called over her colleague to show her my account since she was apparently so shocked, which I actually found amusing. While I’m not a huge fan of this whole “wow” thing that some agents do, I don’t have a problem with it if it’s in a playful way. She ended up having to call the support desk and was on hold for over 20 minutes, during which time we talked. She told me about her past, I told her about mine, and she recommended a book to me which she thought I’d like. She told me to call her when I read it, although my plan is to just drop by the ticket counter on my next mileage run to say hi to her and show her my progress on the book. It was definitely a pleasant experience once I got to the ticket counter, and I was happy to have my itinerary ticketed. I think I finally made a friend at my home airport, something I’m surprised took so long considering the frequency with which I fly outta there.