Yet another reason NOT to fly United

Bill Hinton — a vice president at AOTMP, a firm with whom I’ve collaborated with in the past — had a family emergency that let his stepfather unable to travel. He had to talk with two airlines, each one responsible for a leg of the trip. One of the airlines was JetBlue, the other was United. Here’s his summary of what happened:

With JetBlue, the Customer Service Representative with compassion and immediacy provided a full credit for the flight – a fantastic customer experience and clearly positioning for additional business with any future travel plans as well as sharing the story of such great customer service.

With United Airlines, the Customer “disservice” Representative indicated the only thing United could do was charge a cancellation fee or a change fee and when the flight is re-used a ‘re-booking’ fee would be applied. When a Doctor’s note was offered along with escalation to a “Supervisor” nothing changed. So the leg of that flight will go unused as the most economic choice – a horrendous and despicable customer experience which will be considered for all future travel and shared.

Sadly, Bill wasn’t the worst-served customer in recent United history. All these incidents took place after the David Dao “re-accommodation”:

And yet, people will still fly United, even if they don’t want to. One reason is that airline passengers are price-sensitive and convenience-driven, but there’s also that fact that consolidation has reduced the number of major U.S. airlines down to four. Thanks to United’s 2010 merger with Continental, it handles more than half the passengers in Newark and Houston, and one in three fliers from Washington Dulles and San Francisco is boarding a United flight.

2 replies on “Yet another reason NOT to fly United”

United has bad corporate DNA. I did some consulting for them once when I was working for a big outfit, so I had a fair bit of legal and managerial buffering, but what I saw wasn’t pretty. The whole company was massively factional with the various groups – flight crew, cabin crew, stations, maintenance, marketing – jockeying for advantage, ready to take each other down over a few pennies. I understand that in the airline business you have to watch the pennies, but there was something mean about it at United.

Another reason United remains popular is because it’s the only American airline that’s part of Star Alliance. Book a flight with Air Canada (or Lufthansa or LOT or South African, etc.) and if you’re headed to the States, there’s a good chance you’ll have a United connection. If Star Alliance airlines start getting pressure because customers don’t want to connect onto United flights, then Star Alliance will pressure United to shape up.

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