customer service

United responds

I got back to Colorado today. The flight back from Phoenix (on US Airways, née America West crew) went off without a hitch – friendly airline agents at checkin, security (since when do airlines put greeters at security?), and the plane. My flight took off a little late but still arrived on time.

Also, United replied to my complaints about their delays and rude, lying customer service reps:

Thank you for your email. We’re sorry to have given you such a poor impression of our operation.

Mr. Weeks, I am sorry to learn your experience with our customer care agents at the airport. Our employees should provide professional service. But, you report that our customer service staff let you down, which resulted in your disappointment with our service. Your comments are important to us and will allow the appropriate management to provide feedback.

I also understand that you arrived but your baggage did not. I am sorry. This frustrating situation you describe happened despite quality control standards to assure baggage reaches its intended destination. So I’ll forward your good comments to our airport management so they can work to improve baggage procedures.

I hope you will give us an opportunity to renew a positive and valued relationship with you.

Am I satisfied with their response? Partly.  But I have the feeling that my efforts in writing them will only be a drop in the bucket for an organization so apathetic towards its customers. Oh well – I have no vendetta against these guys, but I will still vote with my dollars by not flying with them for a while.

United Airlines delayed my plane, lied to me, refused to transport my baggage, and doesn’t care.

from Ezekiel Weeks
to UACustomerCare8@united.com,
cc airconsumer@dot.gov,
tips@consumerist.com,
date Dec 20, 2007 11:20 PM
subject Flight 918 to 7140, 12/20/2007

To whom it may concern:

I am usually a Southwest Airlines customer. This Christmas season, United offered a better price than Southwest for my trip from Denver to Pennsylvania on 12/20/2007, so my family and I decided to give it a try.

My original flight, Flight 918, was delayed because the previous flight using the gate took 30-45 minutes after boarding to leave the gate due to baggage issues. Due to this delay, I missed my connection to Flight 7140 (DC to Harrisburg) at Washington-Dulles. A United agent in DC informed me that he could not book me on the next flight to Harrisburg because it was sold out. I asked if a flight to Philadelphia was available, and the agent booked me on one scheduled to leave in five hours.

Somehow, the person behind me in line managed to get a ticket on the “sold out” Harrisburg flight.

I then waited five hours for the flight to Philadelphia, which was itself delayed (first by 26 minutes, then by another 30). Upon my arrival, I learned that my checked bag had made it to Harrisburg on my originally planned flight. The baggage office attendant told me that there was nothing that could be done about delivering my baggage, and that I had no choice but to pick it up in Harrisburg. He spoke in an ambivalent, condescending tone throughout our conversation, and expressed no sympathy or desire to make things right for a customer. Instead, I was told that “We don’t have to do anything because we got the bag to where it was supposed to go” – even though United didn’t get the passenger where he was supposed to go!

Overall, my experience with United throughout the ordeal was thoroughly disappointing. It was completely within your employees’ abilities to load cargo in a timely fashion that avoids delays, to book me on the next flight to my original destination, to have my baggage delivered when I had to divert my flight, or to even just treat me in a sympathetic manner during an obviously stressful trip. Instead, I faced avoidable delays, false information and unequal from service agents who booked the next person for the very flight that I was told was “sold out”, and an indifferent, even rude, baggage attendant who embodied the antithesis to customer service.

When I went online to send this letter, I read about how United recently adopted a new “Customer Commitment” pledge. While your customer relations department and corporate marketing may reflect this, I felt that most of the United employees in the airport lacked any such commitment. The savings made in choosing your airline over Southwest was not worth the trouble I faced. I realize that I have taken their high commitment to customer satisfaction throughout their organization for granted, and I will remember it the next time I travel. I look forward to flying again on United, but will not do so until I know that it has made significant improvements in its customer service.


Ezekiel Weeks
Head of Design
http://www.Zeedub.com