United sucks<br />This exchange tells you how United Airlines works and how they respond to consumer complaints. Below is the complaint I filed Sunday, March 14, with United Airlines. <br />I want to know what United Airlines is going to do to compensate my wife, Mimi J. Buttry, Mileage Plus # 02008369073, for the shameful treatment she has received during a trip this weekend to Jacksonville, Fla.<br />She booked the trip Feb. 3, to fly a round-trip to Jacksonville from Washington Dulles, confirmation # JH6PXC, paying $461.40, a substantial fare. She was planning to attend a family gathering in Florida, flying out Thursday, March 11, and returning Sunday, March 14.<br />The only development in this story that was not United’s fault was that our daughter-in-law went into labor March 10 with our first grandchild. I called twice, the evening of March 10 and early the morning of March 11, to inquire about pushing her flight back to later in the day. Your booking agents and supervisors offered no flexibility, refusing to change the flight without exorbitant charges. Both times the agents said she would be able to get a flight on standby later in the day. Just a few hours before the flights would leave, your agents and supervisors represented the later flights as having seats available.<br />As the labor continued, Mimi decided she was going to stay to see our new granddaughter, no matter what. She was born shortly after 11 and we were able to see her at about noon, too late to catch Mimi’s 12:21 flight. I drove Mimi straight to Dulles, so she could get a standby seat on the 4:30 flight. At the airport, she learned from a rude agent that the later flights had been overbooked, as well as the first morning flight (which your agents had also tried to rebook her on at exorbitant rates). She was not going to be able to fly to Jacksonville on her original ticket until Friday night. I quickly booked a one-way flight on Delta for the next morning.<br />I called United for the third time in 24 hours and learned that her return flight had been canceled. In the only satisfactory encounter with United through this whole ordeal, a supervisor reinstated her return ticket, refunded the luggage charge for the original flight and sent her a voucher for a discount on a future flight (he said he could not award a credit for the flight she missed). He apologized for the rudeness of the agent at Dulles and tried to compensate for (though he never acknowledged) the obvious fact that United representatives had lied about the possibility of standing by on later flights and, in fact, had tried to charge outrageous sums for seats on flights that were already overbooked (don’t expect me to believe those flights overflowed in the last few hours before their scheduled departure).<br />That was a thoroughly frustrating experience, but at least we had made the choice to miss the originally scheduled flight. Everything that happened today was United’s fault. Her return flight was canceled because of a mechanical problem. And your airline was unable or unwilling to get another aircraft to Jacksonville to meet your obligations. Your agents in Jacksonville offered nothing better than a US Airways flight connecting through Charlotte the following evening, a delay of more than 24 hours. I got on the phone and was able to book a Monday morning United flight through Chicago, though your agent could not assign a seat, saying she would have to do that at the airport. Your staff was unable or unwilling to find any way to get her back to Washington (Reagan or BWI would have been fine). I found flights online that appeared to have seats available on American and Southwest flights, but your agents insisted those flights were all full. Interestingly, though, they ignored the fact that the US Airways flight they rebooked Mimi on was also full. Mimi found that when she went to the US Airways counter to check in. They said the flight was sold out but for some reason United kept rebooking people on it. US. Airways rebooked her for another flight directly to Washington Reagan. Though that flight was later than her flights through Chicago, she decided to take the flight to Reagan. She has endured many other United nightmares at O’Hare and didn’t want any further dealings with your airline this weekend. I couldn’t check her into that flight online and the huge lines at your counters and kiosks in the airport told her that you were probably overbooking more flights and had not staffed adequately to handle the mess that your failures made in Jacksonville yesterday.<br />If we had more choice in airlines, neither of us would ever fly your airline again. This is not our first horrible experience with United, though it may be the worst. <br />Please let me know how you intend to compensate Mimi for your failure/refusal to provide the services we purchased and for the inconvenience and unpleasantness your employees caused her this weekend. Some combination of the following measures is in order:<br /><ul><li>Free flight(s)
A full refund of the fare for this lost weekend
Elevation to premier status, so she doesn’t have to pay your ridiculous baggage fees when flying without me</li></ul>You may call her at 703-473-994 or me at 703-474-0382 if you wish to discuss this.<br />Stephen Buttry<br />Mileage Plus Premier Executive member, #00904210684 <br /> <br />Here is the response initial response from United:<br />On Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 4:02 PM, CustomerSolutions <HYPERLINK "
CustomerSolutions@united.com> wrote:<br />Dear Mr. Buttry:<br />Thank you for contacting us about Mrs. Buttry's recent experience. I appreciate the opportunity to respond. First, on behalf of United, I do want to congratulate you and Mrs. Buttry on the new addition to the family.<br />I can just imagine with all that was going on, you really counted on the information provided by our representatives to be the best possible solution to Mrs. Buttry's situation. We do have rules and policies that can sometimes be hard to understand, as in our policy to make changes to a non-refundable ticket.<br />We try and offer our guest the most up to date information so that they are able to make informed decisions about their travel. This being said, the number of people booked on our flights can and do fluctuate prior to departure. There are a number of reasons that contribute to this. All things considered we cannot be responsible for the fact that Mrs. Buttry was not able to make a later flight. What we can and will take responsibility for is the rude agent she spoke to at the airport. We will make sure your comments are given to the airport station manager for review.<br />We're happy to hear that the supervisor that assisted with her return flights was able to reinstate her ticket as well as make an exception to refund her bag fees. Although we are unable to honor your request for free flights, full refund, upgrade in status or upgrades, your circumstances nonetheless warrant special consideration. We would like to offer Mrs. Buttry a token of our appreciation in the form one $200 electronic travel certificate or 9000 miles. Please respond accordingly and we will promptly fulfill her request.<br />Thank you for your time.<br />Regards,<br />Eny Marchant United Airlines Customer Relations<br />My response, at 5:45 p.m. on March 16:<br />Mr. or Ms. Marchant:<br />Your response is disappointing and grossly inadequate. You have only addressed the first half of our complaint, the misinformation your staff provided relating to her March 11 flight. (And I do not for one minute believe that the March 11 flight your staff had encouraged was overbooked at the last minute, especially given the fact that we know you were rebooking people onto a US Airways flight that was already full when you canceled her March 14 flight.) I acknowledged in my complaint that the March 11 problem was due in part to her own decision to stay for the birth of our granddaughter. The March 14 nightmare was entirely United's fault: Your failure to maintain your equipment, your failure to provide another airplane to fulfill your obligation when the mechanical problem developed in the original aircraft, your decision to rebook her onto an overbooked US Airways flight the next evening (when an earlier, direct US Airways flight had seats available).<br />I will add a specific example of how poorly your staff dealt with passenger issues, which I didn't even mention in my original complaint: As Mimi was insisting on being flown home less than 24 hours after her original flight, your employees responded to her irritation by saying that people who were flying to funerals were missing their flight and would have to miss the funerals. That just outraged her further, that your staff thought your failures with other fliers somehow mitigated you failure to meet your obligation to her.<br />Your airline failed, through your fault entirely, to deliver on her return flight on the date she booked it. And you did not even address that failure in your initial response. Try again.<br />Sincerely, <br />Stephen Buttry <br />At 6:38 p.m. on Wednesday, March 17, I received this response from “CustomerSolutions.”<br />Dear Mr. Buttry:<br />Thank you for the response to Ms. Marchant. I am responding on her behalf.<br />I am sorry that you feel United's response in this matter is inadequate. As Ms. Marchant stated, we can not be responsible for Mrs. Buttry not able to make a later flight. In situations like these we do not offer compensation but we do offer the goodwill gesture of a $200 electronic travel certificate or 9,000 miles as a token of our appreciation.<br />We will wait for your response.<br />Your business matters to us. Please give us another opportunity to serve you better.<br />Regards,<br />Daniel P. Alborg United Airlines Customer Relations<br />I responded at 6:55 p.m. on Wednesday, March 17:<br />Mr. Alborg:<br />You and Ms. Marchant are both conveniently focusing only on the March 11 flight my wife was unable to make. Even if I accept this offer of miles as adequate compensation for the bad advice your staff gave about standby possibilities if she was unable to make that flight and the rudeness of your staff when she showed up to fly standby, you still are ignoring another flight for which United bore full responsibility. What are you going to do about the March 14 flight you were unable to deliver? What are you going to do about the fact that when you failed to deliver the flight she booked, your staff knowingly booked her on a US Airways flight more than 24 hours later that was already sold out? "
does not sufficiently describe how outrageous it is that two consecutive United "
representatives have refused to even address the flight in which your airline bore full responsibility for the customer abuse, focusing instead only on the flight my wife could not make because she had failed to account for our granddaughter arriving a week early.<br />I will counter your insulting offer of 9,000 miles with an offer of my own. I have already posted my initial complaint to United on Scribd, where 131 potential United customers have read it. I will be posting your response and Ms. Marchant's as well, along with my responses. I will post these documents in my blog and Slideshare as well, and on my Twitter and Facebook accounts. My offer to you is that I will share the end of this story with all the hundreds of potential United customers who will read about your treatment of Mimi. I am not the singer or songwriter that Dave Collins is, but I do know how to spread the word when a company mistreats my family. I offer you the opportunity to help me share a happy ending to this story.<br />Sincerely,<br />Stephen Buttry<br />Furious, Insulted Premier Executive Mileage Plus Member<br />Here’s the response I received from United at 9:43 p.m. on Thursday, March 18:<br />Dear Mr. Buttry:<br />Your email was forwarded to me today. I will attempt to address your complaints about your wife's flight on March 14th, although I would like to state for the record there were several exceptions made for your wife related to the outbound ticket. I do not wish to debate the standby availability since you already stated Mrs. Buttry did not intend to take her scheduled flight on March 11. Whenever the originating flight of a ticket is changed, the fare is recalculated using the current fare availability; a service fee (for non-refundable fares) and any fare difference apply. Mrs. Buttry opted to fly on Delta the next morning. When she did not use her flight coupon from Washington to Jacksonville the status of her ticket was automatically changed to indicate no value for future use or exchange. The supervisor involved made an exception to refund the non-refundable baggage fee paid online when she checked in for her outbound flight. He also made an exception to open the ticket for return use. He then made two more exceptions allowing her to use the return ticket as is without recalculating the fare or collecting a service fee. He took into consideration the circumstances and tried in earnest to help.<br />Next, Mrs. Buttry's return flight on March 14th was cancelled. United Express Go Jet does not have extra aircraft to substitute in the event of a cancellation as you suggested. Cancelling a flight is always a last resort and in this instance could not be avoided. We don't like to do it; our guests like it even less. It is a costly decision for all parties concerned. Our agent booked your wife on US Airways connecting flights. We have an inter-active sell feature with US Airways whereby they show us real seat availability and United is permitted to sell seats without having to call the carrier first. As with all airlines, US Airways overbooks flights to ensure they fill their flights to capacity. Unfortunately, this was the case for the flights booked for Mrs. Buttry. US Airways then rebooked her on a non-stop flight the next day. You mention American Airlines and Southwest appeared to have seats available. I do not know the seat availability for American that day; their flights may have been in an oversold status as well and yet still offered seats for sale. Southwest does not cooperate with any other airline for protection of passengers.<br />Please understand Mr. Buttry, we do not like cancelling flights and we did not single out your wife and disrupt her travel plans intentionally. My colleague's offer related to an outbound flight that was never intended to be used was quite generous. This offer was made in the spirit of goodwill, not as compensation. <br />In hopes of coming to an amicable conclusion to your complaint, I am prepared to make a final offer and exception to Mrs. Buttry; a $300 travel certificate or 12,500 miles. Please discuss this with her and respond at your earliest convenience. <br />Regards,<br />Donna Hill <br />United Airlines Customer Relations<br />My response to United at 10:56 p.m. on Thursday, March 18:<br />Ms. Hill:<br />First, let me correct two false statements you made in your message, stating in your first paragraph that Mimi "
did not intend to take her scheduled flight on March 11"
and in your third paragraph you refer to a "
flight that was never intended to be used."
I am uncertain whether you didn't read the earlier email exchanges or were deliberately twisting what happened, but both statements are absolutely false. As I have made clear in every call and email to United, Mimi fully intended to use the flight until 11 p.m. the night before, when we learned that our daughter-in-law's labor had started a week early. I called immediately to try to change her flight and United refused to budge, citing the same rules (excuses, actually) you cited in the first paragraph of your message. Even then, Mimi intended to use the originally scheduled flight, hoping our granddaughter would be born during the night. When that had not happened the next morning, probably about 7 a.m., I called United again (this time from the hospital). Again, your staff showed no flexibility. Even then, Mimi intended to take the flight if the baby arrived on time. As the deadline to leave approached, she agonized over missing the original flight, but decided she would not leave without seeing her granddaughter. So let's factually state what happened: She intended all along to use the flight. But when it came down to deciding whether she would observe United's inflexible, unreasonable rules or stay to see and touch her first granddaughter, your rules didn't win.<br />I will not address in detail the absurdity of the rules you cite so extensively in the first paragraph of your message. I am sure those are your rules and I am sure that you are legally entitled to abuse customers that way. I also am sure that most of your potential customers who read that message will agree with me that your inflexibility in addressing customers' needs is bad business and your telephone representatives' offering the possibility of standing by on the later March 11 flights, if in fact they were already oversold, was outrageous.<br />However, to claim that the supervisor made an "
in refunding a charge for baggage that your employees never touched is absurd. And canceling the return ticket, when you knew that she was going to be returning and when she had already paid for a round trip, was not making an exception, even if your rules allowed such theft. Your supervisor knew those rules were indefensible. He knew the rudeness of your staff was indefensible and he responded appropriately (the only United employee in this whole exchange to have behaved appropriately). <br />What is absurd is that United charged Mimi $23 for a bag on the March 14 flight that you canceled. I won't belabor how poorly United handled that flight and the rebooking. Mimi will accept your offer of 12,500 miles and call this case closed, but we will not accept a $23 charge for a bag that never left the ground on a United flight (she did pay the bag charge for US Airways). Refund that charge and we will call this matter closed. If you don't refund it, we will contest that charge with our bank, since the service we paid for was never delivered.<br />As I noted to Mr. Alborg, I will post this exchange online. I think people should know how United treats customers.<br />Sincerely,<br />Stephen Buttry<br />