United Airlines - A Case Study in Customer Service
The only thing consistent about United Airlines is their atrocious customer service. Once again, they managed, with ease, to put a big dent in my daughter's and grandchildren's spring break visit to Dallas.
As soon as my cell phone rang last Saturday AM, I knew things were not going to go well. Sure enough, flight delayed (weather delay, of course), missed connection, have to spend the night in Denver, blah, blah. So here is my daughter with 3 small children, 3 car seats and a large suitcase arriving late at night in Denver and not able to make it out until the next day to Dallas. They gave her a number to call when she got to Denver (late at night), to get a reduced rate at a hotel, but who is going to let their daughter fly into Denver (with 3 small children, 3 car seats and a large suitcase) and get on a shuttle and go to any old hotel. So I booked her a decent hotel that was the closest to the airport and had a restaurant so that if they should arrive at a reasonable hour (hope springs eternal), they could eat dinner on the premises. Cost $175. Delay time: 13 hours, precious hours wasted from our planned time together.
The afternoon before they are supposed to leave Dallas to fly home, an automated message comes to my cell phone. Their flight the next morning has been cancelled. Please call for rebooking information. Here we go again. United has given us no reason whatsoever during the last few interactions to have us believe that this will turn out well. Sure enough. No flights for the next 3 days. Forget getting home Saturday, going back to work and school on Monday, United can't find 4 seats until the following Tuesday. And this time it's not a weather related delay, it's mechanical. Back and forth, back and forth. Finally my daughter opts to leave on a flight in 5 hours that will mean another night in a hotel in Denver but at least she will get on the original flight out of Denver back to her home the next day. And, of course, United will pay for a hotel for them. After all, we all know the rules. Weather delay, it's all on the passenger. Mechanical delay, the airline pays. Or so we thought. No, they explain. If you stayed in Dallas until Tuesday, they would pay for 3 nights of hotels. But if you go to Denver, they don't have to pay. Now I am crazy. I start making calls. Every person I talk to gives a different answer, but the message is the same. They can't do anything, and the next person down the line will have to decide.
We arrive at the airport. Three small children, 3 cars seats and a large suitcase. Nope, you will have to ask about a hotel in Denver. And a bigger nope, no booking the car seats and suitcase through to Eugene. "But", we ask, "how will she manage with 3 small children, 3 car seats and a large suitcase when she has to get on a shuttle bus late at night and go to a hotel which we will pay for (even though that is against the 'rules' because we are not letting her fly into Denver late at night with....fill in the refraim) without a guaranteed hotel room?" The customer service rep says she should get a cart when she arrives. He also then begins telling us that he doesn't have enough people to work the counter and be able to handle problems such as this. I ask for the Customer Service supervisor and she is promptly called. She comes out with a demeanor similar to a bear that has been stung by a thousand hornets, or a large bull who has just seen 20 red capes. I know for sure that if I hired a customer service rep, let alone a supervisor, this would not be the person. She rolls her eyes, barks questions at me and storms back through the door behind the counter. I have no clue if she is coming back. But we have been at the counter for 30 minutes and we still don't have the 3 car seats and the large suitcase booked in, so we have lots of time to wait.
Of course, by now, the flight is delayed by more than 2 hours, so my daughter will definitely be arriving late at night. After 3 people spend more than an hour trying, each tapping for long spells on the keyboard, the bags are checked through to the destination. And about the same time, the customer service supervisor comes out, hands my daughter a voucher for a hotel in Denver. With a roll of her eyes, acting like she has done us a huge favor, she flips her hair, turns around, never says she is sorry, of course, and leaves. All that to get what we were entitled to in the first place
And then when the situation might have been somewhat recovered, the ticket agent announces with glee, "Your bag is overweight - 4lbs overweight." Good grief, they have caused us untold amount of grief, cut short our time together by a day and a half, cost us more than $200, and now they want to be paid for 4lbs of overweight. Please remember that this is luggage for 4 people and it is 4lbs overweight for one person. Pierre, anticipating what might happen when I become completely unglued, offers to pay. "$50", she tells us. "No way," I say. I open the suitcase, take out a set of sheets I had given my daughter, drop them from a vast height onto the scales and they weigh 4.5lbs. "There," I say, knowing that those 4lbs are the final straw.
Yes, Delta flies from where my daughter lives to Dallas and they are going to get our business from now on.
In the meantime, my daughter arrives in Denver after midnight with 3 small children and is still trying to get home and get reunited with her 3 car seats and 1 large suitcase.
United, there is something really, really wrong with your company. But with SEC filings that show that the United CEO has been awarded more than $20 million by the airline's board of directiors and that United's top five executives received $25.7 million in the form of cash, stock or exercisable options last year, while you have gutted the pay and benefits of your employees, I guess it's hard to get a workforce that cares. Believe me, it's showing. And the only option left for me is to vote with my customer choice. "Hello Delta, I want to spend $2000 for 4 tickets and get a little customer service next spring. Do you think you can manage that?"
The Sacramento Executive