A woman, who was on her way to check in for a flight from Chicago to New Jersey along with her mother, was subjected to unruly behavior from United Airlines staff.
Someone recorded the incident and it is another notch against United's recent track record of awful customer service captured on video over the past year.
A United staffer asked Natalia Rutkowski and her mother Anna about a handbag that belonged to the elderly woman. Rutkowski, an account executive from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, was asked to place her piece of luggage in a test rack at O'Hare International Airport, because it apparently appeared to be overweight.
The 27-year-old did exactly what she was asked to do and it is clear for the video footage that the bag fit perfectly fine inside the crate. But staffers argued the bag was oversized and wanted Rutkowiski to check the bag in with a $25 fee.
The mom and daughter were finally allowed to board the flight, but not before facing unwanted humiliation.
“I had already checked my bag and was helping my mom to check in on the computer when a prompt on the screen said a United staff member had to swipe,” Rutkowski recounted.
“At first, an old woman said, ‘No, she is not allowed to take her bag onto the plane,’” she said.
“As you see on the video she didn't have any extra baggage, and the ticket allows for one personal item. It was a certain dimension that the bag had to fit, but the woman didn't even allow us to put the bag into the personal item bin to show them that it fit inside. She was extremely rude.”
“There was a lot of fuss. I was agitated and there were a lot of people starting to stare,” she continued.
At this point, another employee, who according to Rutkowski might have been a manager, asked about the issue. “She asked me to put the bag into the bin, which I did, and she said, ‘OK, well the person who swiped has to see it.’”
"This is the third time I've done it,” she responded.
Then a third employee arrived at the scene. The man seemed like he was putting the bag inside the hold, but the video shows he just propped it on the top of the crate, leaving ample space beneath where the bag could easily fit.
He then shoved his badge in Rutkowski face, telling her that the bag was against airline specifications — when clearly, it wasn’t.
“I didn't understand why we were treated like that. It was so ridiculous. It was like saying a dog is a cat,” Rutkowski said.
Rutkowski was then told that she and her mother could not get on the plane. But another staffer who intervened was able to sort things out.
“Finally the last person who came over and I put it in and it clearly fit perfectly and he was like, ‘Oh, yes, it does fit,’ I don't understand why we have this issue,” Rutkowski said.
Naturally, the mother and daughter were furious over this ill treatment by the airline.
“I was shaking and I literally felt like I was sweating and agitated,” said the daughter. “My mom was teary. It was just an overwhelming situation. I had never been so disrespected and mistreated and embarrassed. Honestly I was just bewildered and my mom was emotional and angry.”
Rutkowski wants United Airline to apologize to them for this “unfair experience,” and hoped that generally the airline realizes how this type of treatment of paying customers isn't right.
“I want people to know that this airline is this bad. They need to better train their staff. At this point, I wouldn't fly with them again,” she said.
In its defense, United Airlines said, “The customer was allowed to carry on the personal item. We are following up with this customer and are reviewing this incident with our team internally to better understand what happened.”
Just last year, the airline humiliated a passenger with cerebral palsy. A disabled Virginia man, who was on a transcontinental flight, had to reportedly get down on his hands and knees, and drag himself off the plane after United Airline failed to provide him with an aisle wheelchair.
Thumbnail/Banner Image: Reuters, Louis Nastro