Sunday, October 16, 2016

United Airlines' Response

After our awful experience trying to fly from Chicago to New York a couple of weeks ago, I wrote an email to the CEO of United Airlines, and also sent a detailed message to Customer Service via their website.

On Friday, I received a response.

I will show you their entire response below, but first let’s quickly recap what happened that day.
  1. Our 1PM United Airlines flight from O’Hare to LaGuardia was cancelled due to “air traffic control” and we were instructed by the airline to fly standby.
  2. We did not make it onto the first several flights we were standing by for, and as we were rolled over from standby list to standby list, we did not make much progress in moving up the list as the airline prioritized flyers “with status” over us.
  3. At around 6:30, my wife and son finally were able to get onto a flight. However, an hour after the plane had pulled out, it returned to the gate with three malfunctioning oxygen masks.
  4. One passenger volunteered to get off the plane and was compensated $500. Needing two more passengers to get off the plane, the airline told my wife and son that they would have to get off the plane as they were the last standby passengers. They did not receive compensation.
  5. At the gate for the next flight where I was standing by, the UA agent put my wife and son at the bottom of the standby list despite my explaining how they had made it to the top of the standby list only to be kicked off the previous flight.
  6. When the supervisor was called over, he told me that I would have to quiet my son who was understandably upset after hours of waiting and then seeing that other passengers were moving onto the plane ahead of us. My attempts to explain that he has autism and has difficulty waiting and dealing with unexpected events were dismissed by the UA representative.
  7. During the entire time from early afternoon to late into the evening, the attitudes of the UA personnel were uncaring and dismissive at best.

With that, here is the full-text of the response from Customer Care at United Airlines:

Dear Mr. Fukunaga:

I'm sorry your travel plans were interrupted as a result of Air Traffic Control.

I can certainly understand your frustration. I regret we were unable to get you on your way any sooner. I'll make sure to report your comments. We'll take that feedback to help us work harder and provide better recovery, while keeping safety our top priority and working closely with Air Traffic Control. I'll also send you and your family an Electronic Travel Certificate each, which will arrive via email in a few days. We hope this gives you a future opportunity to receive service you deserve.

As MileagePlus members, we thank you for your business and loyalty. We welcome the opportunity to provide better service for you the next time you fly with United.

Kind regards,

So they mention “Air Traffic Control” twice as if that is what my complaint was about. No, United, that is not this is about. I understand that flights get delayed or cancelled at times. It is your response to the situation that matters. And putting us at the bottom of the standby list after we had finally moved to the top of the list is not an acceptable way to handle this situation.

I am guessing that their response was a form letter or at least based on a template. But that is keeping with how they handled the situation to begin with. During our whole experience that day, the United response was consistently that of a bad form letter. Their personnel were not trained to adapt to the situation or to actually try to help their customers.

A day after this message came, I received another one from United that we would each be issued a $100 travel certificate valid towards the purchase of a United Airlines ticket. Sorry, United, that will not begin to make up for this entire experience.



  1. It is the lack of a sincere response that is the most frustrating thing for me in these situations. It is then the diversionary answers to pretend that the true argument was something different. They will then try to provoke you to try to then claim that they could extricate themselves from an escalating non-fruitful argument. Believe me, I know. That is why I would rather have a pure hearted person in my life over any other. They are sincere...and that is what matters most.

    1. Yes, what was most disappointing in their response was that they did not acknowledge that they did not handle things well.

      We have been trying to teach our son for years that it is better to be accountable for your mistakes rather than to blame others. He is starting to learn that now. Apparently, United has yet to learn that lesson.

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