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United Is Making It Harder to Get Help for Canceled Flights, Passengers Say

Travelers are speaking out about the trouble they've faced with customer service.

Thousands of flights are being canceled across the U.S. right now thanks to a winter storm that's blanketing parts of the country with an impressive amount of snow. But while weather-related cancellations are not unique to any one airline, you may find yourself having trouble figuring out next steps depending on which you've booked with. United Airlines is currently facing backlash from passengers who claim that the carrier has made it harder than ever to get help for canceled flights.

RELATED: United Passengers Threaten Boycott Over New Boarding Rules.

At the end of 2020, United launched a virtual on-demand customer service option called "Agent on Demand." This feature allows customers to scan QR codes in airports in order to get connected to an agent digitally instead of waiting to speak to someone in person.

"We know how important it is for our customers to have more options for a contactless travel experience and this tool makes it easy to quickly receive personalized support directly from a live agent at the airport while maintaining social distancing," Linda Jojo, United's Executive Vice President for Technology and Chief Digital Officer, said in a statement at the time.

She added, "Agent on Demand allows customers to bypass waiting in line at the gate and seamlessly connect with customer service agents from their mobile device, ensuring they continue to receive the highest levels of service while also prioritizing their health and safety."

But what once seemed like a helpful tool—especially during the height of COVID—has now become a point of contention for many travelers. On Feb. 12, View From the Wing reported that passengers are being directed to solely use the QR codes for customer service instead of being able to speak to agents at United's customer service counters. And some people are less than thrilled about it.

RELATED: Delta Flight Attendant Reveals Sneaky Way Airlines Trick You Into Missing Your Flight.

One United passenger who was supposed to be flying out of Denver shared their recent frustration in a Feb. 10 blog post on the FlyerTalk traveler forum. According to their report, United would not let them talk to in-person customer service agents at all after their flight was canceled.

"There are three customer service agents behind computers in the customer service area, but you are not allowed to talk to them. The entrance to the lane is blocked off with a sign that says 'Need Assistance? Scan the QR code!'" the traveler wrote. "I stepped past the sign in an effort to talk to the customer service reps and they started screaming at me."

They said they were then stopped by an employee who told them passengers had to use the digital options, despite being directed by virtual customer service to "see an agent."

"I asked her if I could talk to the customer service desk and she said NO you must use the new app feature," they explained in the post. "Totally insane to me that United canceled my flight and will not allow me to talk to the customer service people behind the computer."

RELATED: Delta and United Are Cutting Flights to 10 Major Cities, Starting Next Month.

Another traveler commented on the post, saying they saw a similar situation unfold at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. According to their comment, United employees were allegedly walking around and screening people to determine "who could get in line to see a live customer service agent versus who should just go to the kiosk."

Some passengers claim that they're even being blocked from speaking to premium agents in the United Clubs they pay extra to access as members.

"We pay a heavy nickel for club membership, and a big part of the value proposition is the customer service available to members," one person replied in the thread. "It has been invaluable to me over the years, and I would be upset if it suddenly simply wasn't there when I needed it."

Best Life reached out to United about these complaints from customers, and we will update this story with the airline's response.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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