Get Human

Part II: Unaccompanied Minors!

We ended up purchasing a ticket from American Airlines, instead of Continental as we had planned. While the rates were cheaper on Continental, they require a 21-day advance ticket purchase to obtain a great deal, as opposed to American Airlines 7-day advanced ticket requirement.

Even so, we aren’t certain my nephew will be allowed to actually fly out to California. Only time will tell. I’ll keep you posted.

The reason for this post is simple, I couldn’t wait to share a recently found website with you. If you remember from my last post, I was not very happy about trying to book a flight from a customer service representative located half-way around the world – in India and dealing with all those automated services.

In a recent e-mail I received a link to the "GetHuman" website. This is one link I can assure you I’ll be placing in my favorites. The GetHuman 500 Database provides telephone numbers and instructions on how to connect to a real live human being at many of the businesses people call everyday, such as; utility companies, banks, government, insurance companies and more. I can’t wait to try it out.

So next time you are forced into communicating with a machine, take heart, there may be an alternative, and it could save you time, frustration and money. Check it out.

Be sure to respond and let us know what kind of results you get.

Unaccompanied Minors

Domestic flight plans can lead to international fiasco

Flying Unaccompanied Minors!
Flying Unaccompanied Minors!

An article was posted to Reliable Answers website a few days ago called, "The Ethics of Outsourcing Customer Service," it didn’t really strike a nerve in me until last night.

Cross Country Move

My niece and her family live in Ohio. They plan to move to California early next year. We’ve been chatting back and forth on a daily basis, while she has been searching for the best and cheapest way to move a family of six over 2500 miles across the country.

During this process my ten-year-old and her nine-year-old have been getting reacquainted. The kids cooked up a scheme for her son to come stay with our family for the remaining six-months, until their move. I never expected my niece and her husband to agree, so I said, "Sure, it would be nice to spend time with him." Little did I know, his mother and father, thought it was a terrific idea.

Searching for a Deal

I’ve spent the past several days hunting down airline ticket deals. I never realized just how complicated it could be to get an "unaccompanied minor" on a flight. I immediately thought of Skybus, a new no-frills airline known for offering some of the best deals around; problem, they don’t allow un-accompanied minors at all. So, scratch that.

I searched all the major airlines. Most will not allow you to make reservations online, so a call to the company is warranted. No, big deal. Of course, I got a few of those annoying automated voice systems.

When will companies learn that some people just prefer to press buttons? I hate talking to artificial people. I find it demeaning and more than a little annoying – especially since they never understand what I am trying to say. I end up repeating myself over and over again. I’ve learned that if I either refuse to respond or if I press 0 several times, I can often bypass their system, but not always.

I used to fly regularly, prior to 9-11, since one rather nasty airport incident that occured in May 2002; I refuse to fly any more. In fact, if I can’t drive there, I’m not going. But that’s another story.

Checking Out the Airlines

I called American Airlines first. I needed details on how the whole unaccompanied minor program worked. An automated voice program answered my call. I asked to speak to a representative and after only three requests; the machine understood my request and connected me. After a short wait, on hold, a real person, who was polite, knowledgeable and who spoke perfect English, answered my call.

American Airlines has several restrictions, depending on the age of the minor, who is traveling alone, such as:

  • Children traveling as Unaccompanied Minors must be booked through our Reservations representatives.
  • American Airlines does not accept unaccompanied children when their itinerary includes a connection to/from another airline.
  • Children who will be traveling alone will be required to use the Unaccompanied Minor service at a cost of $75.00, in addition to the normal airfare.

Continental is the only airline I found that allows travelers to make arrangements online, after becoming a club member. They charge an unaccompanied minors fee of $95.00 with an additional restriction; unaccompanied children are not allowed to fly on the last flight of the day.

Delta Outsources Customer Service

Back when I flew frequently, I used Delta Air Lines quite often, so I gave them a call for good measure. As expected, the call was answered by an automated voice system, what I did not expect what the voice on the other end of the line, when I finally reached a real person. Who would have expected a major U.S. airline to farm out their customer service to India? Though I knew instantly that this call was not answered in the U.S., I flat out asked the person on the other end of the line.

My suspicions were confirmed, he was in India and it was obvious immediately. I was furious. I asked to speak with someone in the United States, and I was told that he would connect me as soon as we were finished. That never happened. I tried to explain what I wanted, several times. This customer service representative had a very poor grasp of the English language and was having trouble understanding plain English. I grew frustrated and ended the call, not after I had to repeat myself at least ten times, telling him that I was not interested in booking a flight at this time.

It was plain to me that contrary to Delta Airlines assurances that "my call is important to them," it was not. I vowed then and there that even if Delta gave me a free flight, I would never allow my nephew to fly on their planes. It’s bad enough that so many companies today are using voice automated answering systems but they add insult to injury when they subject us to non-English speaking customer service representatives.

Someone at Delta has a death wish for their business. There is no way experienced professionals who travel for business will ever put up with such shoddy service. I consider it a slap in the face. There are too many other companies who value my business and are happy to take my money, I don’t have to be subjected to this type of treatment and you shouldn’t either.

We’ve decided Continental will be getting our business. Their website is easy to use, with no need to sit on hold. since we can make our travel plans online. They offer terrific savings if you plan your trip at least 21-days in advance. I’ll let you know how things go with this trip. After all, we don’t trust our children to just anyone.

Tancredo fights back – to abolish H1-B visas

The Congressman from Colorado, in a bold move last week to assist unemployed American IT workers, introduced HB 2688. Congressman Tom Tancredo, has introduced a 15-line bill proposing the elimination of all visas under the H1-B category, created in 1952 under the guise of providing the US economy with technically skilled foreign workers.

In recent years, the number of H1-B visa’s issues had swelled. H-1B workers have obviously been a source of cheap labor, so much so that many IT departments laid-off American workers in favor of labor imports, mainly from India.

The results have been disturbing. University studies have shown that H-1B programmers and engineers are paid 15 percent to 33 percent below normal, and the Wall Street Journal has reported that the H1Bs are paid $20,000 to $25,000 less than comparable Americans. Similar findings were issued in a 2000 report from the National Research Council.

The Economic Times (an India Times Publication) would have us believe this “move is patently unfair and will not help unemployment. Rather it will cripple the high-tech and other technical industries and undercut the American hi-tech industry’s ability to be a competitive global leader.”

In light of a recent move to eliminate over-time pay by President Bush, (Bill HR 1119) affecting IT specialists and having the pleasure of personally knowing a gentleman living and working in this country under the H1-B visa the only word that comes to mind is, “Hogwash.”

“Sam” an IT worker from Indian lives with the constant fear of being sent back to India, with 10-days notice. He makes far less than his American counter-parts and puts up with a great deal more from the company he works for than most American workers would. He seems to handle the stress well but a great deal is at stake for him and his family.

Sam puts up with this injustice because of his opportunity to be sponsored by his employer for a green card, allowing him to live permanently in the United States. H-1B visa holders are not considered immigrants but “temporary” workers, who are allowed to remain in the United States only at the pleasure of their employers. This is, in effect, indentured servitude – slavery – and creates strong incentives to accept lower pay.

Congressman Tom Tancredo began his crusade to end this injustice November 1, 2001, when he introduced a similar bill HR 3222.

Please contact your Congressman and ask that they support this bill.

Have you been replaced by an H1-B visa worker? I’d like to hear your story.

Annette M. Hall