This evening I brought my brother to the airport here in TPA for his flight back home, after he spent a few days with us for Thanksgiving. He happens to be flying tomorrow morning on United as well (the joys of poorly planned travel) out of New York, so we wanted to go ahead and get him checked in for those flights. While the check-in kiosk gladly printed out the boarding passes for his flights tonight, they wouldn’t print out his boarding passes for tomorrow’s flight.
So we asked one of the customer service agents for help. Now, I know the United customer service agents in TPA that work the morning shift really, really well (since I fly out of TPA about twice a week in the morning), though I hardly know the employees that work in the evenings, though I’ve never had a good experience with them.
The customer service agent said she wasn’t allowed to help us and that we needed to use the check-in kiosk. I explained that my brother had a flight tomorrow morning and wanted to check-in, and should be able to, since the flight is within 24 hours. Again, she said she couldn’t help up. I asked why, and she said it was because the kiosk needed to be used.
Just to entertain her, I used the kiosk, and it said to see a customer service representative, so I again explained that to her, to which she responded with “oh, well he’ll need to check in tomorrow morning then.” I’ve gotta be honest, I do have an ulterior motive when I want an agent’s help… I want them to stay employed! Whether or not they want to realize it, the kiosks are replacing them, and will continue to do so as long as they are unhelpful and mutter nothing but “use the kiosk.”
After arguing for a few minutes they did print out the boarding passes, though it took a fight.
Why, oh why, do agents refuse to help customers? And before anyone says it’s United policy, it’s not. I recently followed up with a (relatively) senior management contact on the subject, and he specifically stated that agents were supposed to assist customers on demand, even if the kiosk would have worked. In other words, using a kiosk is a choice, not a requirement to fly.
On the plus side, my brother mentioned that TPA now has a priority security line, which is great news!