Saturday, October 04, 2008

Dear United Airlines

So you know I was delayed en route to San Francisco, which totally threw off my trip to Korea. Here is the letter that was sent to United Airlines via their website (and I did request a reply):

On September 17, 2008, I had tickets to fly on United Airlines from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Seoul, South Korea via Denver and San Francisco. I was making this trip to visit my husband, serving in the air force at Osan Air Base. He has been there since November 2007, so you can understand my anticipation of this trip.

While boarding the plane in Denver, the flight crew was quite clear that we needed to get into our seats so the plane could depart. As soon as all passengers were seated and the doors were being closed, the pilot informed us that we were to have a wait of at least an hour, due to problems in San Francisco. This wait soon became 90 minutes. I was due to board a flight to Seoul and alerted the flight crew that I was concerned as to my connection; I was told to “check the monitors” and the service desk upon landing, and she let me know in no uncertain terms that they would not hold my flight for me (I did not expect them to) but they would be aware that I missed it.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I was incredibly disappointed. I have been on flights where the crew were able to offer further information, including connecting gates and alternate flights for those who were unfortunate enough to miss their flight, and it was a disappointment that this information was not available.

When we finally arrived at San Francisco, I was told to contact the service desk and also told where it was located, but your employees were unaware that the desk they routed me to was closed. So I changed concourses and found the appropriate desk.

When I explained to the service representative my problem, I was informed that I would have to take the next flight from San Francisco, which left in 24 hours. I was also told that as the delay was not the fault of the airline, I would be responsible for making my own arrangements. I was offered a discount coupon for an area hotel. I asked the gentleman if I could at least be offered an upgrade on the next day’s flight for the trouble I was going to go through, and he chuckled and explained that he was not able to offer that to me.

And this is where I have a problem with the way your airline handled the situation. The customer service rep told me that the problem was “weather” but the pilot on the flight from Denver told all of us that the delay was due to an exercise at the San Francisco airport. I was told that regardless of which caused the delay, the issue was not the fault of the airline and they would not be responsible for it.

I can tell you that the delayed plane was no fault of mine either – yet I was the one responsible for the result. I spent 3 hours waiting to claim my bags. During that time, I spent an hour on the phone to Korea, trying to reach my husband to explain that my trip was delayed due to a delayed flight. I spent over an hour on the phone with the hotel reservation line and the hotel to secure my room for the evening. I then went on to spend well over $100 out of pocket for that hotel room and dinner that evening, breakfast and lunch the next day.

I am extremely disappointed in the lack of customer service or care that I was shown in this situation. I have flown with many airlines in the past, including United, and have never encountered a situation like this where I have felt so unappreciated as a customer. I did not fell that any of your employees were there to help me, which is truly troubling as you are a service industry.

In this economy, where money is tight, value matters. To me, “value” means that I have been appreciated as a customer, and not treated like a warm body filling a seat. I’m treated with respect as a person with choices.

At this point, when I make choices in the future, United Airlines will not be at the top of my list.

I'm not expecting miracles, but let's see what happens.


  1. You should write to the Consumerist to tell them about this. They LOVE stuff like this and they've had very similar stories lately.

    They have contact information on the blog and they're great about getting back to you with tips and suggestions.

  2. I would love to hear what their reponse is. Let me know.