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Refund Problems

  1. "Dissatisfied customers obviously not that important"
  2. Executive Premier Non-Flyer
  3. "And that's not just talk"
  4. Nightmares Forever on United
  5. No more meal ticket
  6. Lies, rudeness, and incompetence for Premier Execs
  7. Everyone makes mistakes. Fix them!
  8. Customer relations a joke
  9. You're on your own
  10. Mail now costs $125 per ticket
  11. United pretends they don't have your baggage claim
  12. United lost his baggage but will only pay half
  13. Follow the protocol but still no refund
  14. No refund if United cancels flight
  15. (In)voluntary separation from luggage

Dissatisfied customers obviously not that important
by: Lorraine, Denver CO
Thu, 4 Jun 1998 15:56:34 -0400 (EDT)

I am a premier member who had a bunch of upgrade certificates. I called the premier number to upgrade flights for my husband and myself. The man there was very helpful, but apparently badly informed. When I asked "Do I have to bring the upgrade certificates to the airport?", his response was "No, I have taken care of the upgrade electronically". When I got to the airport, I did not have the upgrades and the ticket agent called her supervisor. He stated that the contact on the phone had said no such thing to us, and that the only way we would get an upgrade was by purchasing one or using miles.

When my husband asked him if he was calling us liars, he replied that we were calling ourselves liars, he did not have to do it. When we asked if this was any way to treat any passenger, including a premier member, his response was "You can't be an important premier member or your status would be higher. Besides, United is making record profits so dissatisfied customers are obviously not that important." When we asked for his name and an address for a complaint, he said that "You can have it, but United gets a lot of fan mail."

As we walked away from the counter he laughed at us and said, "Have a nice flight". When we got to Monterey (a direct, non-stop flight), my luggage was missing. Coincidence? I sent a letter to United, but they have not responded.

Executive Premier Non-Flyer
by: Paul H. Smith, Westlake Village
Tue, 2 Jun 1998 02:25:36 -0400 (EDT)

Last year just qualified for Executive Premier flyer on United. Thought I was in for some nice perks. About the same time, I got my 78 year old mom a first class ticket for a flight from Phoenix to Seattle. The flight attendant was discourteous and had my sweet mom crying in her seat during the flight. Not called for. We both complained. They said they would look into it. The only feedback we got was: Were we satisfied with the way they answered our complaint. The answer was a definite no. Guess what. I no longer fly United Airlines. So much for the perks. Takes a while to build up customer loyalty. Just a few seconds to lose it.

"And that's not just talk"
Passenger's letter
by: Joe Moosavian
Thu, 19 Feb 1998 10:58:55 -0800

Dear Mr. Greenwald:

This letter is in regards to United flight #0112 to Chicago on December 24, 1997. Attached is a form letter sent to me by Ms. Denise Harvill. While I appreciate the gesture, this is a form letter that does nothing to appease my frustrations. I've received these letters numerous times in the past and they all say the same thing: "We're sorry and we promise we're going to fix things and change them." But you never do! The problems I had on the aforementioned flight were not about the flight being late, it was about the lack of information and misleading information. Ms. Harvill's letter does not and cannot address unethical employees, as my letter will explain.

Our flight wa diverted to Madison, Wisconsin because of weather in Chicago. After two hours of sitting on the plane, the captain told everyone to deplane briefly to allow another plane into the gate. We got off and waited another two hours without any further information, at which point we were told to get back on the plane and that we would be leaving immediately. The doors were shut and we did not take off for another two hours, all the while, with no lavatory facilities since they were full. Captain Dick Newton and the pregnant flight attendant got into a fight in front of the other passengers, as she was trying to get information for the tired and frustrated passengers, but the captain was so flustered and angry, he couldn't control his temper.

The first flight attendant(who was pregnant) tried to help answer the passengers' questions by asking the captain for information. I was shocked when, along with other first class and forward-cabin coach passengers, heard him shout at her "Would you get out of here and stop asking, 'Daddy, when are we going to leave?'"

When I finally arrived in Chicago, the first thing the Red Carpet Club attendant said to me was that they would not be paying for my hotel. Thanks. I pay $300 a year dues for the Red Carpet Club to ease travel annoyances, not make them worse. And while I understand that this was somewhat weather-related, if Captain Newton had kept us informed during our delay, I would have contacted friends in Madison, stayed there for the evening, and then flown the next morning. Alternately, I could have rented a car and driven to Ohio to spend Christmas with my family.

I'd like to think this was a "comedy of errors", but I didn't find it funny. I upgraded the entire trip using frequent flier miles, but when I called on December 28th to confirm my return flights, I was informed that I had been bumped out of first class, with no explanation. Then I had to spend about an hour on the phone while they tried to get me another seat.

When I got home four days later, I already had an apology letter from Ms. Harvill in my mailbox. But it was their typical form letter -- "we're sorry, please keep flying with us." It's a joke.

In your attached article in the June 1997 Hemispheres, you said "It's about what really matters to you, delivering the kind of reliability, comfort, and friendly, courteous, helpful service you have a right to demand. And that's not just talk." Well apparently it is just talk.

In your attached article in the December 1997 Hemispheres, you talked about how you're spending all kinds of money on seating, and comfort, blankets, and pillows, and airline alliances, but you have to know that you will never be credible until your employees overcome fundamental changes. Courtesy, honesty, empathy. These words are spoken all the time but I rarely see them practiced.

Your article continues: "Acknowledgment without action is meaningless." You're right...it's also frustrating and insulting. And that's the way your airline has left me and your other loyal passengers feeling.

I am extremely frustrated with United, and have reached my limit. This was one of the most embarassing and unprofessional displays by United employees I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot---I was a 1K flyer for three years and have been at least Premier status for six - seven years. No other business or service industry could treat their customers like United does, or act as unprofessional...why do they?

If I do not get any kind of satisfactory response from you, I plan on sending this letter along with my past six years worth of Mileage Plus statements (three years of those as a 1K flyer) to American Airlines, Northwest, and Delta. When they honor my Premier status, which I've been told they will, I will no longer fly United and I will move what used to be a loyalty to United, to another airline.

I'm also attaching the last set of "Service Award Certificates" you sent me. Please recycle them because I know I'll never use them.

United's form letter
from: Denise Harvill,
Director, Customer Relations

Dear Mr. Moosavian:

Please accept my apology for the delay of our flight 0112 to Chicago, on December 24.

We understand that schedule reliability is important to you with your exceptionally heavy travel schedule, and we've made on-time performance a top priority at United. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, delays do occur and we are truly sorry for your inconvenience.

As you are a Premier member, your satisfaction is vital to us and to the continuing success of our business. So I want to assure you that we are committed to doing all we can to improve our performance in this area, and in every area, until we are satisfied that we are providing our best customers with the very best level of service.

Again, we are sorry for the inconvenience you experienced. I hope we will have the continued privilege of serving you and demonstrating how much you are valued by all of us at United.

Nightmares Forever on United
by: Shayne L. Glessing-Karzmar, Mountlake Terrace, WA
Tue, 20 Jan 1998 13:32:16 -0500 (EST)

Dear Mr. Greenwald:

I have been a Premier Executive, originally enrolled in your program since 1988. My Mileage Plus number is 00133 466 932. During this time, I have walked from United, obtained Ambassador Status on TWA and Executive Status with BA, only to return to United a few years ago, hoping United had "got it right".

This past year has found me endeavoring to fly anyone, but United! It has become apparent that patience, understanding, and wishful thinking are mostly for naught when it comes to United.

I have, in my hand, a copy of your 1997 mailing of your "2000" brochure, in which you and Mr. Edwardson relay United's focus' for the future. I am most caught by the comment:

"In the coming months and years ahead, we hope you'll see, not only in our words, but also in our actions - in our old-fashioned desire to "do our best" - how much we want to serve you for a long time to come"

With all due respect, maybe it is time to re-read these words in this posting, as my experiences have presented myself with contrary opinions.

In the previous 2 years, I have been required to follow-up, via posting, e-mail, and fax, no less than 35 times, in excess of 100+ pages of documentation regarding events as the everlasting endeavor to obtain mileage credits, damaged personal items, lost baggage, promised efforts from Corporate Headquarters, and general poor customer service. A great headache of immeasurable time on my part. With GREAT frustration.

Before getting to my most recent "trauma" on the part of United, I would like to summarize a few key issues to me, notwithstanding the immense volume of problems I experienced in 1996. Throughout this period of time, I thought I must be the most unlucky person in the flying public, until I came across Untied.Com, which finally showed to me that I am neither a bad passenger nor singularly held out to be the resident victim of United and its strange perception on customer service and relations.

I must equally profess to my lack of understanding as why most faxed communications to United cannot either be found, responded to, etc., as has been my experience with Mr. Coltman and Mr. Falcone, of whose offices professed "loss" of my faxes over 7 differing days. In any other business, this would be unacceptable. During the past year+, I have had the lack of pleasure to experience:

My most profound "moments" with United recently were:
  • Flight from Europe to U.S. when I became violently ill prior to departing Europe. Unbeknownst to me, I had acquired a "severe case of Hep. A" virus. I was so ill I seriously thought I was going to die and infact later became life threateningly ill. During my flights home, I was unable to gain comfort and endeavored to garner additional items such as pillows, blankets, fluids, etc. to no avail. When I need flight attendant assistance, after ringing the service bell for in excess of 20 minutes, to no avail, my sister approached a flight attendant whom merely chastised her from my being on the plane. We never received kind treatment that flight. The sensitivity United displayed was chilling, at best. However, I have seen it time and time again, on to others.
  • My repeated experiences have been, most especially on transatlantic flights, that United Flight Attendants have an unpublished collective break rule, which keeps nearly all of them in the back hanging out for a good several hours of a flight. And boy, are they unhappy should you gather around to get something. Certainly less so in Business and First, but I have had to serve myself in all classes.
  • Most recently and Most Importantly: is my recent disappointment from United. In my endeavor to use mileage from my account and make my annual run to the South Pacific, I spent hours working on flights to/from Sydney, Melbourne, and/or Auckland during the Mardi Gras period. My original efforts to fly business were thwarted, and I was offered one way business and one-way coach, at full business mileage deduction. After finally getting on several wait lists and guaranteeing a reservation in coach (at least I facilitated a res.), I was told to call back and ticket up to/incl the 16th Jan. I called back 7 times, and still had nothing worthy of losing a guaranteed res. On the 16th, I called to ticket. Alas, I had the luxury of finding that my reservation had been cancelled and that no seats were/are available. How thoughtful of United. I now have prepaid party tickets, prepaid hotel reservations, time off, and now no flights.
I seriously do not know what United thinks a customer/client need do to use this airline and get what is promised.

I have flown so little on United in the past year, that I now qualify for nothing, which will further insure my lack of flying with the airline, as I could not imagine what you are treated like without preferences.

I have seen some improvements, but not enough, nor fast enough. I have actually received a "good customer" comment note from a First Class flight attendant, during Thanksgiving Day, and I awarded her one of United's Customer Service tickets that came in my premier mailing, for EXCEPTIONAL service. Unfortunatley, it is not often I have been able to use them, and I always carry them when I fly United.

Maybe United need reward me with a good customer award and meet the original reservation I had before United waived its hand and got rid of my reservation.

If you have any doubt of what I have gone through with United, I will be more than happy to fax over my repeated mailings, faxes, etc., but you should make sure you have your machine filled with paper. I await the generosity of a response on this most recent and prevalent matter.

It is very unfortunate that United is not responding rapidly enough to their customers concerns. From Seattle to the points I fly most often, United has the best routes, not always the best times. And certainly, the programs, when they work are by far the best. But alas, what you must endure to benefit, when you do.

As I now consider myself fully incorporated into the Untied.Com club for disgruntled passengers, I have forwarded a copy of this request/complaint to their attention.

Thank you for your time in reviewing these matters.

CC: Mr. David Coltman, Senior Vice-President, Marketing, United Airlines
Mr. John Edwardson, President, United Airlines
Ms. Denise Harvill, Director of Customer Relations, United Airlines
Ms. Barbara Seating, United Airlines
Complaints at Untied.Com

No more meal ticket
by: Tim Smith
Mileage Plus Number: 00088-568-672
Wed, 31 Dec 1997 09:55:31 +0000

Dear Mr. Gerald Greenwald

Let me begin by wishing you a pleasant New Year. However, let me also begin by saying that, without some rapid and meaningful improvement in customer service at United, it will be my last year as a frequent passenger-even with lifetime Premier Exec. Status.

You may examine my record as a customer to make sure my credentials are appropriate. What youíll find is someone who has, over the past 10 years, flown over a million miles, been 1K at least 6 of those years, and someone who, despite a consistent degradation in service, has continued to use United, even when it was not the most convenient mode of travel.

Youíll notice, as well, that I consistently buy full coach tickets, not discounted fares. I travel regularly at full price and buy upgrades. I am your "meal ticket". Not any longer.

Not only has United allowed its customer service to slip in the air (god knows you have enough horror stories about this and ground personnel as well), but in a time of increasing prosperity for the airline has chosen to penalize its best customers by reducing their perks, diluting their privileges, not providing ample upgrades for the most frequent (1K), failing to improve food and beverage to a world class level and, slow rolling cabin comfort changes and, well...the beat goes on.

Iím in the business of advising executives on a range of organizational issues. Hereís some expensive advice. Act now or lose more of your best customers. Donít look for more feedback, it abounds. Take care of what you know to be inadequate. Treat your best customers the best. If this is as good as it gets, youíre in for a rough ride.

Train your front-line people in the art of customer service - they are the face of your company, and in the stressful world of travel, they will make or break your business. Align your management philosophy and behaviors to reflect this commitment to customers - actions speak louder than all the expensive ad campaigns you present. Treat your people well, insuring that they will, in turn, do the same with US.

Keep your promises. If your say you are Rising, then RISE! Every year brings new degradations, yet every year you say you are striving to doing better. Youíll continue to lack trust and credibility with your people and with your customers unless you make changes that improve rather than degrade service. Drive arrogance out by insisting on service as the fundamental rule.

If your intent is to enrich your stockholders, do it through sound management, not by treating your best customers poorly or cutting back on service and perks. The evidence is overwhelming and historically verifiable. Those who fail to grasp this will not rise, but fall. Careful...youíre slipping.

Iím going to begin using other carriers this new year. Iíve used United exclusively (over 99% of my flying the past 10 years) and spent quite a bit of money with you. I thank you for the many safe rides youíve provided me over the years, and sincerely hope that when Iím next on a United flight, I can see a real difference.

Lies, rudeness, and incompetence for Premier Execs
by: Jim Mindling, Weston, CT
Thu, 18 Dec 1997 07:53:26 -0500 (EST)

I am a United Premier Executive Customer, and applaud your honest efforts to expose the most consumer unfriendly company I deal with.

My best lie to your face story was the ramp agent at LGA who looked me in the eye as we were boarding a flight 30 minutes after scheduled departure, and a mechanic was working on the left engine with part of the engine shroud removed. He said the flight was technically "on time", since the equipment had arrived late from somewhere else, and that didn't "count", and "no", there was no mechanical delay even though the mechanic was pulling parts and replacing parts off the engine.

The past year has been a chrous of mistreatment and aggravation including: Making transatlantic upgrade travel almost imposssible with bureaucratic rules and procedures, endless phone waits and uncooperative reservation agents (the flights used were, of course, largely empty in business class), refusing to take an MCO at JFK, issued by my travel agent for 2 dogs, and then making me wait 45 minutes while the MCO was refunded, and reissuing an MCO for the EXACT same amount but not issued by my travel agent (a violation of a UA RULE). This, while ignoring all the FAA/USDA documentation procedures for the safety and welfare of my pets.

I especially sympathize with cabin staff who walk down the aisles of the planes saying, Oh, yes, we hate that too and always write it up, but nothing happens, why don't you write a letter. Or the fact the cabin is short staffed and the crew tells you, expect slow service, we're short staff---does Mr. Greenwald offer a refund for inferior service onboard, especially in business or first class?

But, oh, I really miss the hoard of indifferent, rude agents, especially at Denver and the Red Carpet Club, who prefer their computer screens to looking at customers, and who's main delight is finding a way to say "NO", or perhaps coming up with a way to try and charge a few hundred dollars to switch destination airports at the same city. I HAVE NEVER BEEN OFFERED A REFUND ON ANYTHING BY ANYBODY AT UNITED.

And, of course, those wonderful "travel vouchers", apparently only usable for more transportaton only at United. A couple of weeks ago UAL lost my luggage on a connection at IAD from ZHR to LGA. I was exhausted, had a business meeting in NYC the following morning and only asked for a "toiletry kit"or some money to buy a few items in NYC. Nope, $50. of vouchers, which when I tried to use a few days ago in Denver for a first class upgrade booklet, was sternly told, "It clearly states in the fine print you may use these for tickets only". I guess after travelling 19 hours I should have read the fine print and argued with the baggage agent at LGA.

Lastly, my Kudos to United for the absolute worst catering imaginable, especially on non-competitive routes in and out of Denver, where they can charge high prices and give less. A first class flight between New York and Denver offers such gracious amenities as bagged peanuts or petzels, followed by a tiny, unappetizing meal, accompanied by stale rolls. Starbucks ought to be ashamed to have their name on the coffee served by United.

Additional letters concerning refund problems with United Airlines can be found in the archive.
Last update Monday, August 16, 1999. Copyright © 1999 Jeremy Cooperstock. All Rights Reserved.