Airline Called Out on Poor Customer Service

March 16, 2015

in Odds & Ends Stories

Another Open Letter to Jeffery Smisek, United Airlines President and CEO.

I am reaching out to you today to tell you my experience with United Airlines. It is my hope with this letter that United Airlines changes their ways. Not only did United Airlines put my family in danger, it was the worst experience I have ever had with the airline industry.

I look at your picture on your website and you look very approachable, charismatic and kind. Usually, a company takes on the personality of its leader. Perhaps in your situation this theory is different. United Airlines has the most uncaring, unhappy and rude staff I have ever seen in any business. Yet, the worst part is that your call center in the Philippines put me in danger.

Allow me to start from the beginning. We had a flight from Maui, with a layover in LAX, then to Carlsbad, California. There was an announcement that there was a mechanical difficulty and boarding will be delayed. I called the United Airlines 800 number to have them book us on another flight. They provided us with a Hawaiian Air flight to Los Angeles. This is where the problems began.

When we arrived after midnight to the United Airlines desk, they would not offer us a hotel room to pick up the 7:33 back to Carlsbad in the morning. I could not have my two minor children and my disabled husband sleeping on the floor of the Los Angeles airport.

I decided to rent a car and drive to San Diego. As we were on the shuttle bus, I thought I would try United Airlines’ 800 number one more time to see if they could get us a local room or a shuttle back to the Carlsbad Airport because I thought it would be dangerous to drive in the middle of the night, exhausted from our flight and experience.

When calling United Airlines, I received a representative in the Philippines and she said she could help. She directed us to go back to the airport where there would be an attendant waiting and she would book a shuttle for us.

So instead of renting the car, we go back to the airport and we go to the desk and no one is around. A United Airlines representative came walking out and I asked for her help. She said, “I’m off the clock, I can’t help you.” Why would this Philippine United Airlines representative play this trick? I just cannot imagine why someone would do that to another Human Being. Really – who does that?

I called Avis Rent A Car and they did have a car available. As I drove home, I had so many questions. Why would another human being play a trick on a family in the middle of the night? Where is my bag? How am I going to get reimbursed for the ticket that we never used from LAX to Carlsbad? So, naturally I call United Airlines and every representative told me I cannot talk to a human being; I have to fill out a form online.

This is not the way I do business when I’ve been treated so poorly. I want to talk to somebody. I called the corporate office and pick a random extension and a man transferred me to S’s voice mail. I left my name and phone number and somewhat of a detailed message and surprise, surprise, she never returned my call.

I received a phone call four days later from PW, another United Airlines employee who fabricates lies. She told me that she was going to give us $200.00 per ticket in United Airlines Miles for our troubles, and instead of the $140.00 you owed us for our rental car, she would give us an additional $200.00. So, the $200.00 came to my husband’s email but she never followed through with the $800.00. Lies… why?

So I picked up the phone to try to speak with someone else and I received TO’s assistant who told me that her name was CM. She told me she would fix this. Never did I hear from them again and United Airlines blocked my phone number.

Let me also add that a representative from Hawaiian Airlines personally called me four times to make sure I received my bag. Hawaiian Airlines was more concerned about my bag than United Airlines was about my person.

You tell me, what should I do now, give up? Or Should United Airlines do the right thing and follow through on their promises. Please tell me I am wrong about your leadership – reach out to me with a solution to this matter.

Adele M.

Editor’s note: Names were abbreviated for privacy purposes.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Bethany March 17, 2015 at 8:12 am

Sounds like it was your own fault. You asked the airline to change your flight even though your original flight wasn't cancelled. Then because you changed your itinerary, you had a layover over night at an airport. The airline isn't responsible for lodging you when you picked the flight yourself. And you're the one who decided to drive (putting your family in danger, as you say) instead of waiting at the airport.


Chris March 19, 2015 at 12:13 am

Your story seems likes it's missing a few details that may clarify a few things. But based on how it's written, this seems like the problems originated from when you decided to swap flights to a Hawaiian Airlines flight.

I can understand not wanting to drive 2 hours after getting off of a long flight. However demanding a hotel room when the flights you took weren't even on the same airline? I doubt ANY airline is going to offer up a hotel room. And then you decide to rent a car or try and get a shuttle….and still want compensation for the airfare for the puddle jump from LAX to Carlsbad even though you actively chose to take another way home?

I'd have either sucked it up and drove the two hours home (at least there won't be traffic at that hour) or just stuck with the original flight from Maui. While delays suck, when you start to change flights all of a sudden all you are doing is complicating your itinerary and displacing yourself from your bags and often a simple way home. I bet if you stuck it out on the original flight, you would have arrived in LAX a couple hours later and received a hotel room comped by United and likely some sort of voucher for airfare, food, etc.


Robert March 21, 2015 at 11:36 am

As much as I am also frustrated by the situations that exist in air travel these days, I have to agree with the previous poster. Sorry, but some additional thought is required to make things happen the way you want them.


RedHead0186 March 24, 2015 at 12:29 pm

No one put you in danger, you chose to do that yourself by renting a car instead of staying in the airport. No one canceled your flight, causing you to lose money, you chose not to take that flight. No one "played a trick" on you, it was likely a mis-communication, which, although frustrating, can happen.

I'm sure all this was annoying, but I don't see why you couldn't have just waited it out for the original flight instead of being so (apparently) impatient that you had to book a different flight at the first mention of delayed board (not a cancellation, just a delay).


Lucyfur September 21, 2016 at 8:29 pm

Ditto all the above ….. you put your family and self in jeopardy — just cause you made a huge mistake…. sorry won't attend your pity party.


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