My Story of Horrendous Customer Service on United

I’ve never used my blog before to vent….so this will be a first.  But, after my recent nightmare of an experience flying home from BbWorld 2012 on United, flight 6115, service from MSY to ORD on Fri, 7/13/12, I feel obligated to share my experience publicly in hopes that United may take notice and respond.  I’ve already submitted this complaint to United’s Customer Care form, but am skeptical that I’ll ever receive a response.  If I do, I’ll gladly share United’s efforts at making the situation right.

Date: 7/13/12
Flight: 6115
Departure: New Orleans, LA (MSY)
Arrival: Chicago, IL (ORD)

While our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:15AM from MSY, due to the crew needing some additional rest, the flight was originally delayed until 7:45AM. This delay was understandable. However, the following events were absolutely ridiculous.

The issues began once we boarded the plane at around 7:15AM. A full flight, we were informed by the pilots that there was a mechanical issue concerning a hydraulic pump that would need service. After deplaning at approximately 7:40AM, we were informed initially that we would be delayed approx. 1 hr. while the airplane was serviced. Every hour or so, the delay was extended another hour. Passengers needing to get to Chicago to connect with another flight seemingly were being booked on other airlines. However, those of us, myself included, who’s final destination was Chicago ORD were simply expected to wait for the plane to be fixed.

As the afternoon dragged on, those of us waiting in the gate area no longer were provided with any updates on an estimated departure time. Not until 5:00PM, after repeated requests for information, did a gate agent finally say that a part needed to fix our plane was arriving by another plane, and it would be approximately 7:30PM before we could leave. The agent did at that time finally provide me with a $20 food voucher.

By 7PM, we were instructed by the gate agent that we were switching planes and would need to depart from another gate. Upon arrival at the new gate, we were quickly checked in and asked to board the plane so that we could depart before the crew would “time out” for the day. Once boarded, the crew deliberately delayed our departure so that they did indeed “time out” and for the second time, we were told to deplane.

After waiting at the airport for 15+ hours, the flight was cancelled and United put me up for the night in a hotel, booking me on a 7:30AM flight the next morning on American to ORD. The gate agents were furious at the crew, telling us passengers that there was no reason we couldn’t have left, as all that needed to happen was for the door to be closed and we would’ve been cleared to takeoff.

Speaking with another traveler who is 1k and has flown for more than 100k mi/yr for past 10 yrs, he had never seen or heard of such horrendous service. We all should’ve been booked on other flights much earlier that day, or another plane should’ve been made available. Rather than waiting until the evening to then cancel our flight and then expect those of us flying directly to ORD to take a flight the following morning, every effort should’ve been made to get us to our destination that same day.

The crew should be reprimanded for deliberately sabotaging our departure on our replacement aircraft. Unfortunately, those of us few remaining passengers who really needed to get to our final destination at ORD were caught in an obvious power struggle between the crew airline gate personnel, which was incredibly unprofessional at best, but I would describe as childish.

I will think twice about ever flying United ever again and will certainly not be recommending United to others following this incident.

The meager $200 travel voucher that the gate agent finally provided me with hardly compensates for the situation, especially considering on my flight to New Orleans the flight was overbooked and the airline was offering $400 transferrable vouchers for anyone who would voluntarily be bumped to a later flight.

How is it United that someone who voluntarily gives up their seat is offered a $400 transferrable voucher, yet someone who spends the entire day in the airport and after the flight is finally cancelled, is offered a $200 nontransferable voucher?

Again, if United reaches out in an effort to truly make amends for this debacle, I will certainly share those developments here.

**Update 7/30/12**

I did receive the following email back from United in response to my complaint, along with a $250 travel voucher to be used within the next year.

Dear Mr. Rhode;

Thank you for contacting United Airlines.

I am sorry we were unable to respond to your request sooner. The merger of United and Continental Airlines has been a successful one, but there have certainly been challenges.

An airline merger of this size has never been accomplished before now. Some facets of our airline may be different, but our fundamental commitment to our valued customers has never wavered. Please be assured we do understand your concerns, and they have been documented for review and appropriate internal action.

Please visit us online at www.united.com as additional travel needs arise.

While my reply is brief and not as detailed as I would like, I want you to know I very much appreciate your business. To thank you for your patience and loyalty, we are sending an electronic travel certificate to you under separate cover. You will receive the travel certificate within the next three business days.

We are building an airline that will earn your confidence and approval, and we look forward to welcoming you on board your next United Airlines flight.

Sincerely,

Dan Thompson
Senior Manager

email

  • Brutal! I was stuck at MSY that morning for 7 hours due to weather delays in Houston and missed two subsequent connections, eventually renting a car at my own expense to get home… But I actually feel that our crew were quite gracious and apologic about it, in comparison to the airline which didn’t offer us anything even when basically stranding me in SFO for the night. Next time….Southwest!