09/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

United Airlines Ripping Consumers Off?

I had been planning my trip to Australia for over two months. It was on my daughter's top three places she has always wanted to go so for her 16th birthday, since a car was pointless after her "challenges" passing the written driving test, I decided to book our first backpacking trip to Australia as a surprise.

The flight I paid for was from LAX to Sydney and then connecting to a flight going to Melbourne. The flight plan was exactly the same on the way home. We spent 12 amazing days in 3backpackers hostels, 3 hotels, one friends house, 5 days in a stick shift car on the other side of the road and other side of the car with windshield wipers going on every time I needed to make a turn due to everything being opposite in the car.

Between the Great Barrier Reef snorkeling, driving Capt. Cook Hwy to the rain forest for some jungle surfing, petting the kangaroos and gazing in awe at the famous Opera House, I lost track of the days and forgot about the deadlines waiting for me back home. After thousands of miles across eastern Australia ending the trip to get back home was going to be a wonderful departure... Or at least that is what I had envisioned until I arrived at the United Airlines counter in Sydney.

We planned to leave Cairns to get to our flight out of Melbourne that had one stop on the way: Sydney. Instead of going all the way to Melbourne and turning around to go straight back to Sydney within a matter of an hour or two adding an additional 4 hours of flying time to our already 17 hours in the air, I decided to stay in Sydney and wait for our already scheduled and paid for flight from Sydney to LAX. Getting all this?

When we went to check in for our already scheduled and paid for flight from Sydney to LAX the man at the counter refused to issue us boarding passes claiming we made a "change" to our flight and we needed to pay $500 US dollars in change fees to get home. When I explained to him this was the exact flight that I already booked and paid for; was not making any change and the ridiculousness of flying from Sydney to Melbourne and right back, he said "You need to find a way to pay the fee, get a credit card or something, or I guess you will not be traveling today."

After a half hour of refraining from raising my voice or calling him any of the very accurate yet unflattering names exploding in my head and pleading my case trying to talk any common sense into this man, I handed over my credit card to pay the fees just so we could get home. But my blood was at boiling point at the social injustice of what had just happened. I couldn't sleep the whole flight home. It was like legalized theft... I felt like I had just been cornered and robbed in an alley by a bully that looked a lot like the United counter guy.

Aboard the flight the woman next to me told me she was on the Melbourne to Sydney flight they said I needed to be on. I video recorded her saying the flight was not even half full. She said they could literally dance in the isle and she slept across three seats all to herself. It wasn't like I caused them to not have a seat for someone. I asked a crew member if this was normal and he literally told me that they offer good deals and then "beat up the customer" and then apologized for my getting "beat up" by United on my way home.

Since coming home I have called with little luck getting anyone on the phone and when I finally did they said call back in a few days when they can access the record of charges to file a claim to investigate whether I should get a refund or not.

The simple truth is... United is emerging from a Bankruptcy filing and flying in the wrong direction when it comes to customer satisfaction. Beating up customers and robbing them blind every chance they get because the economy is so bad it is the only way they believe they can get into the consumers' pockets is simply bad business.

Weigh in: Do you agree with the $250 change fee per person for the exact flight I already paid for?