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Old Jun 12, 12, 7:40 pm   #1
 
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Thumbs down A New Low for me in UA service

I recently took my fifth trans-Atlantic flight of the year, which was carefully booked four months ago so that I'd be on UA operated flights for the long legs (no way to avoid European airlines for the legs within Europe), with a layover of a few hours in London on the return to VIE so that I could fit in a meeting.

Two days before departure I reprint my itinerary to find that I have been rerouted and no longer go through London and am now on Austrian for the trans-Atlantic leg. No notification whatsoever, so who knows when or how this happened?

When I call, I'm eventually (not easy to get to that point) told that it's because BMI, my LHR-VIE carrier, has dropped Star Alliance, so I'm entirely rerouted and no longer going through LHR (despite the fact that Austrian and several Star Alliance partners have many flights that could get me back to VIE). This, by the way, despite an email from UA a few weeks earlier assuring me that if I have any already-booked travel on BMI the tickets will still be honored as if nothing had changed. I'm pretty sure this excuse is untrue, as I'm leaving Kansas City on the final day of a convention when many flights from there are overbooked, and I suspect they just didn't want me going to CHI and wanted to send me to IAD because there was more space.

I ask to be rerouted again, but the agent isn't too with it and can't understand why if I leave DC on the evening of July 9 on a red-eye to London I would then want my LON-VIE flight to be on July 10. She never is able to work that one out. So I find my own flights on their website and tell her which ones I want (the original two legs being my originally booked two legs). No seats available, says she. But I'm looking at them. Hmmm...she still says she can't and a good 1.5 hours later I'm transferred to her incredibly unhelpful and obnoxious supervisor, who tells me their only obligation is to get me to VIE no matter how they decide they want to do it. I explain to her that I have booked to go through LHR because I need to go through LHR, and there are still flights (many) that can do it.

NO, just NO. Your plans have already been changed once, and we only allow one free change. But I didn't make (or even know about) the change, says I. NO, just NO--we only allow one change and you have had yours. Incredibly rude and unhelpful in every way, from tone of voice to lack of effort on her part.

Eventually I have to cancel my London meeting and fly on Austrian to VIE from IAD in a cramped seat that I cannot fit into (the E+ seating is the ONLY reason I use UA and always make sure to get a UA operated flight for the long legs of the trip).

I have two more trans-Atlantic flights already booked for July on UA, but I guess I should have the miles credited to USAirways and see if they can do any better in terms of decent customer service? It was quite clear to me that UA appreciates my business not at all.

So I have to keep rewatching "United Breaks Guitars" to amuse myself and try to keep a sense of humor, and as a reminder that even though UA said loudly and clearly that that public relations fiasco had taught them a lesson about delivering good or at least respectful customer service, that also was just a platitude with absolutely no sincerity behind it.
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Old Jun 12, 12, 7:50 pm   #2
 
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Sounds like you got a lousy agent. While their rerouting you sans-LHR might have been within the absolute fine print on the contract of carriage it sounds pretty darn unreasonable given the existence of several perfectly reasonable *A carriers who can get you from VIE to LHR with or without stops.

But did you try phoning up again to see if you could get a more reasonable agent?

The real problem in this whole dealio, as far as I'm concerned, is United's habit of changing itineraries without even bothering to send out an email about it. Seriously, United, you can email me sixteen pieces of advertising per week but can't be bothered to mention "oh btw we cancelled your flight and you're now flying on the redeye via Adis Ababa"?

Mind you I've had an uphill battle arguing that last point on here before; apparently the average flyertalker checks their itineraries three times a day, just for fun. (Aw, who am I kidding? I do it too!)
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Old Jun 12, 12, 8:24 pm   #3
 
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It's not just the new United that is doing this with no email or phone call notification. I had this happen a few years ago on PMUA. My husband and I were flying CDG-ORD-BOS which would get my husband to 2P by a few miles and was cheaper than CDG-IAD-BOS. We showed up at CDG only to find ourselves rerouted via IAD and told that it was a "much better connection." Well, at least that part was true, but what if we had been traveling with someone else or meeting someone at ORD... Anyway, I stopped complaining once I realized that we were now in C. For some reason the agent failed to mention that and I realized it while in line for security. It all worked out well because we got the free upgrade to C as well as 1.5x EQM because we were rebooked as Y.
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Old Jun 12, 12, 9:33 pm   #4
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Rule 1 - When you get an unreasonable CSR, politely thank them, hang up and redial.

That said, all you were owed was transportation IAD-VIE. So long as that's what you got, your contract has been fulfilled.
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Old Jun 12, 12, 9:54 pm   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Rule 1 - When you get an unreasonable CSR, politely thank them, hang up and redial.

That said, all you were owed was transportation IAD-VIE. So long as that's what you got, your contract has been fulfilled.
And if United operates only within the letter of the contract, they will not be operating very long.

When it comes to serving the customer, United has lost all concept of what it takes to provide quality service. I don't know how they got here, but they are in desperate need of a new Iacoccoa-style leader.
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Old Jun 12, 12, 9:54 pm   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jorgen View Post
Sounds like you got a lousy agent. While their rerouting you sans-LHR might have been within the absolute fine print on the contract of carriage it sounds pretty darn unreasonable given the existence of several perfectly reasonable *A carriers who can get you from VIE to LHR with or without stops.

But did you try phoning up again to see if you could get a more reasonable agent?

The real problem in this whole dealio, as far as I'm concerned, is United's habit of changing itineraries without even bothering to send out an email about it. Seriously, United, you can email me sixteen pieces of advertising per week but can't be bothered to mention "oh btw we cancelled your flight and you're now flying on the redeye via Adis Ababa"?

Mind you I've had an uphill battle arguing that last point on here before; apparently the average flyertalker checks their itineraries three times a day, just for fun. (Aw, who am I kidding? I do it too!)
You won't get an uphill battle from me. You're absolutely right that a big part of the problem is a lack of notification re the change. And as for having to recheck reservations regularly - that's good advice, but with almost any other service industry the obligation is on the company to make sure that the customer knows of any changes and to make things as right as possible if changes take place. That clearly wasn't the case in this instance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Rule 1 - When you get an unreasonable CSR, politely thank them, hang up and redial.

That said, all you were owed was transportation IAD-VIE. So long as that's what you got, your contract has been fulfilled.
Your Rule 1 is absolutely right, though note that the OP escalated to a supervisor who was similarly unhelpful.

As for your second point, the contract technically might have been fulfilled but the customer service was atrocious. UA had it in its power to make this right. It couldn't be bothered to do so.
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Old Jun 12, 12, 10:51 pm   #7
 
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As a customer of UA, I find it very depressing to read more and more stories like this.

So UA makes a unilateral change without telling the customer and then accuses the customer of having made a change, and refuses to help any further. Short of a lawsuit, is there anything that we can do to force UA to help fix the situation?

Doesn't anyone at UA give a d*mn anymore?
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Old Jun 12, 12, 11:02 pm   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikew99 View Post
As a customer of UA, I find it very depressing to read more and more stories like this...

Doesn't anyone at UA give a d*mn anymore?
+1

Not only am I tired of reading about it, I'm tired of experiencing it first hand.
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Old Jun 12, 12, 11:05 pm   #9
 
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Yes vote with your feet (dollars).
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Old Jun 12, 12, 11:09 pm   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikew99 View Post
As a customer of UA, I find it very depressing to read more and more stories like this.

So UA makes a unilateral change without telling the customer and then accuses the customer of having made a change, and refuses to help any further. Short of a lawsuit, is there anything that we can do to force UA to help fix the situation?

Doesn't anyone at UA give a d*mn anymore?
Mike -

What have your personal experiences been like on UA?

I have never experienced anything like this (although I have had some problems).

The general rule of 'people with negative experiences are more vocal than satisfied customers' definitely holds true on FT.:.
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Old Jun 13, 12, 1:25 am   #11
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LarkSFO View Post
Mike -

What have your personal experiences been like on UA?

I have never experienced anything like this (although I have had some problems).

The general rule of 'people with negative experiences are more vocal than satisfied customers' definitely holds true on FT.:.
Jeez, LarkSFO, you sound so reasonable, then you call out a "general rule", ???

The OP couldn't have written a more reasonable and clear description of a real failure of good service, from changing his flight without notice to just shutting him down when he had good options available.

That's your idea of whining? I don't get it. Are you complaining that FTers don't sufficiently report their successful flights from IAD-ORD, for example?
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Old Jun 13, 12, 1:27 am   #12
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LarkSFO View Post
Mike -

What have your personal experiences been like on UA?

I have never experienced anything like this (although I have had some problems).

The general rule of 'people with negative experiences are more vocal than satisfied customers' definitely holds true on FT.:.
I have not had many bad experiences on UA, considering how often I have flown UA (probably 150K BIS on UA last year alone). My latest negative experience was in April, when I suffered a MX delay on a trip to FLR that cost me a whole day at my destination. I was satisfied with the compensation ($350 e-cert and $10 meal voucher for the 10-hour delay), at least until I was with a friend who got VDB'd and got nearly as much ($300 voucher and $20 meal voucher) for a 1-hour delay.

But what worries me is not so much the experiences I've had, but the increasingly negative experiences that I continue to read about. You're right that people are more likely to write about complaints than compliments, but when I read stories such as the OP's, I worry. What's to stop UA from treating me that poorly on my next trip? Just last year, I twice had segments disappear from my booking when partners cancelled flights. Thankfully I noticed, and I had no trouble getting UA to fix these. But I think I'd be livid if UA had accused me of lying and told me that I'd made a change that I didn't.

In the past, I have always felt as if UA had my back. But stories such as these make me feel that if something happens in the future, the new UA won't. And although I have moved the bulk of my travel to AA for other reasons, these stories make me want to avoid UA, even when flying on UA makes sense.
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Last edited by mikew99; Jun 13, 12 at 1:33 am.
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Old Jun 13, 12, 1:27 am   #13
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
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For forget, the new United's main business is trying to get you to buy one of the many credit cards that it offers. I am shocked by all the mailings I get, all of the advertising, etc for the damn credit cards. And some of the cards offer better perks than one who flies 100,000 miles a year.

I made reservations earlier this month. Had to speak to an agent. I was making US-Europe reservations and wanted to use GPU. On-line would not offer a fare that was upgradeable unless I gave it the exact fare code. No big deal - the agent who came from CO spent close to 30 minutes explaining to me while the old CO was superior to the old UA. She could not believe that UA customers were leaving because all of the bad customer service from the new UA.'
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Old Jun 13, 12, 2:28 am   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LarkSFO View Post
Mike -

What have your personal experiences been like on UA?

I have never experienced anything like this (although I have had some problems).

The general rule of 'people with negative experiences are more vocal than satisfied customers' definitely holds true on FT.:.
While pmUA was far from perfect, my post-merger experiences have included a number of disappointing phone and online interactions that I never had before, including IRROPs that took hours to sort out and that resulted in a 24-hour delay in my travel. Similar IRROPs in the past with UA and currently with AA have been resolved much more quickly and effectively.

The fact that people complain more than praise service is a given. The reality is that there is a lot more to complain and be concerned about now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bow Rider View Post
Jeez, LarkSFO, you sound so reasonable, then you call out a "general rule", ???

The OP couldn't have written a more reasonable and clear description of a real failure of good service, from changing his flight without notice to just shutting him down when he had good options available.

That's your idea of whining? I don't get it. Are you complaining that FTers don't sufficiently report their successful flights from IAD-ORD, for example?
+1
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Old Jun 13, 12, 7:21 am   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikew99 View Post
As a customer of UA, I find it very depressing to read more and more stories like this.

So UA makes a unilateral change without telling the customer and then accuses the customer of having made a change, and refuses to help any further. Short of a lawsuit, is there anything that we can do to force UA to help fix the situation?

Doesn't anyone at UA give a d*mn anymore?
To be fair, this isn't just a matter of customer service. With BMI no longer in *A, for UA to put OP on another routing, they would have to buy a ticket for him. It's one thing to hand someone a free drink coupon for an inconvenience, but before I would make a judgment here, I'd want to look at what OP paid for the ticket vs. what it would have cost UA to fly him on a routing of his choice.

Sometimes on the pax side, things we think of as simple or cheap for a carrier aren't. And, there's got to be some limit. If anyone has any insight on the cost-benefit here, would be helpful.
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