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Is United quoting wrong reasons for delay? How is the reason determined?

Is United quoting wrong reasons for delay? How is the reason determined?

Old Apr 14, 2014, 5:10 am
  #1  
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Is United quoting wrong reasons for delay? How is the reason determined?

Last night I was on a PIT-ORD UX flight connecting to my mainline flight to SFO. Due to ORD traffic management we were given a 1.5 hour delay which was eventually cut down to 13 minutes - so we were expecting an almost on time arrival.

After we closed the door, we had to sit there for 45 minutes and reopen the plane for the GA to come back on and manually verify passengers against the manifest one by one as the counts didn't match. The issue ended up being a nonrev in the last row who had somehow cancelled their res and then boarded, messing up the count.

Upon arriving at ORD I was already within 15 minutes of my departure, which showed on time upon landing (we were told to check via our apps as the crew for some reason couldn't get us connection info) and needed to shuttle to the other terminal. So I went straight to the desk. I was later told UA held the plane for a few minutes...but didn't tell us, negating the nice customer service gesture.

At the desk I was rebooked for a 7a flight in E- (down from F) and then told I was not eligible for a hotel room as the delay was ATC. Despite telling what happened multiple times, as a passenger on the plane I was told I was wrong and that in fact we pushed 7 minutes late and arrived 58 minutes late but it was due to ATC, so no hotel. To dispute that I was told to go online with their 3 week response times.

Fortunately, I did go to anther concourse and get a new rep (still wearing a tulip badge) to issue me a hotel voucher for a few hours sleep. I'm now waiting for my downgraded flight home.

How common is this misquoting of delays, and what can I do to dispute it now and in the future more effectively argue it at the service desk?
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 5:18 am
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This has been reported ad nauseum. During IRROPS caused by weather, UA can and will use "weather" as cover to mask the real reason for any delays. Disingenuous, but you are certainly not the first victim of this.
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 6:02 am
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Originally Posted by fjfv19
This has been reported ad nauseum. During IRROPS caused by weather, UA can and will use "weather" as cover to mask the real reason for any delays. Disingenuous, but you are certainly not the first victim of this.
The "out" time is when the breaks are released after all doors were closed for the final time. How did the CS rep get off the plane after 7 min but before 45 min if the doors were closed and not re-opened? If the doors were reopened, that should have reset the "out" time, if my knowledge of the automated systems is correct.
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 6:08 am
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Originally Posted by phxrsng
Upon arriving at ORD I was already within 15 minutes of my departure, which showed on time upon landing (we were told to check via our apps as the crew for some reason couldn't get us connection info) and needed to shuttle to the other terminal. So I went straight to the desk. I was later told UA held the plane for a few minutes...but didn't tell us, negating the nice customer service gesture.
Always try to make the flight. 95% of the time you'll just end up at an infuriatingly empty desk watching the aircraft taxi out, but the other 5% of the time well, you do want to get there, right?

I've been one of about 8 pax on a severely delayed IST-ORD (3hr+ mx technical stop) where UA silently held the connecting ORD-CLE flight about 45 extra minutes without telling the pax. We just went for it re: the connection and ended up being at the gate early!

Originally Posted by phxrsng
After we closed the door, we had to sit there for 45 minutes and reopen the plane for the GA to come back on and manually verify passengers against the manifest one by one as the counts didn't match. The issue ended up being a nonrev in the last row who had somehow cancelled their res and then boarded, messing up the count.

At the desk I was rebooked for a 7a flight in E- (down from F) and then told I was not eligible for a hotel room as the delay was ATC. Despite telling what happened multiple times, as a passenger on the plane I was told I was wrong and that in fact we pushed 7 minutes late and arrived 58 minutes late but it was due to ATC, so no hotel. To dispute that I was told to go online with their 3 week response times.

Fortunately, I did go to anther concourse and get a new rep (still wearing a tulip badge) to issue me a hotel voucher for a few hours sleep. I'm now waiting for my downgraded flight home.
Since it sounds like you got the right outcome eventually (a hotel voucher), there's not a lot of room to complain to regulatory authorities here what was the harm? You had to wander around concourses half-asleep for a few hours until an agent did the right thing? Bummer but kinda par for the course.

With respect to your downgrade (F=>E-), did you pay for F? Or were you upgraded on the flight you missed? If you paid for F and ended up in coach, you're owed at least a partial refund (and a priority position on the departure-management premium-cabin standby list). If you missed an upgraded flight due to irrops, UA doesn't owe you anything and also doesn't typically offer any compensation.

Given that the cause of your forced overnight delay was a problem within UA's control (failure to correctly count pax onboard), you might want to write in to UA succinctly stating those facts and expressing disappointment that their internal process failure caused you a delay. You could also express disappointment that they mis-coded the delay reason and you had trouble getting a hotel, but this is kind of secondary to the issue that their irrops caused your problem in the first place. If you write in, UA may offer goodwill compensation.
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 8:28 am
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Originally Posted by mherdeg
Given that the cause of your forced overnight delay was a problem within UA's control (failure to correctly count pax onboard), you might want to write in to UA succinctly stating those facts and expressing disappointment that their internal process failure caused you a delay. You could also express disappointment that they mis-coded the delay reason and you had trouble getting a hotel, but this is kind of secondary to the issue that their irrops caused your problem in the first place.
UA recharacterizing all kinds of delays as wx-related to worm out of providing required compensation is a big enough issue that I would consider a formal DOT complaint. The all's-well-that-ends-well bit is IMO secondary to the lying bit. And this is a systemic issue at United. If an aircraft was held up by weather upline, on the other side of the country, three segments ago, they may cite weather as the reason you're buying your own hotel 12 hours later.
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 8:43 am
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Originally Posted by BearX220
UA recharacterizing all kinds of delays as wx-related to worm out of providing required compensation is a big enough issue that I would consider a formal DOT complaint. The all's-well-that-ends-well bit is IMO secondary to the lying bit. And this is a systemic issue at United. If an aircraft was held up by weather upline, on the other side of the country, three segments ago, they may cite weather as the reason you're buying your own hotel 12 hours later.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 9:52 am
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Originally Posted by fjfv19
This has been reported ad nauseum. During IRROPS caused by weather, UA can and will use "weather" as cover to mask the real reason for any delays. Disingenuous, but you are certainly not the first victim of this.
And it doesn't have to be a weather delay as this happened to me back in January

My flight: UA1654 EWR-SFO 1/8
Departure time: 5:41pm
Boarding Time: 5:06pm
Gate C137
Aircraft#: 3437

Inbound Flight: UA1047 CUN-EWR 1/8
Arrival time: 5:00pm
Gate C137
Aircraft#: 3437

The first problem is that there ain't no way in God's green earth that any airline can turn a plane from arrival, de-boarding, cleaning and catering to boarding the new flight in 6 minutes. (plus, where I always check the status of the inbound flight as soon as it's available via UA's flight status link, I noticed this from the beginning and it never changed from the above)

The second problem is that the inbound was an international flight so it should arrive at the international terminal for the pax to clear customs, have the aircraft searched and whatever else CBP needs to do.

The Inbound aircraft did fact arrive at the international terminal (gate B61 & 20 minutes early) and eventually arrived at my gate where we departed 43 minutes late

The reason for the departure delay is noted as an "aircraft change" (yeah, right )

Aircraft# 3437 was assigned to both flights on United's flight status page starting from when I could view it (3 days out on the website and 4 days out on the mobile app) and it never changed right up to it arriving at EWR ex-CUN and including me flying on it EWR-SFO (and I constantly look at the aircraft# to see if there are changes right up to departure time [and especially with a 737-900 to see if it changes to/from a "dark" variant] so unless United has two 737-900's assigned as aircraft#3437 and changed one for the other and that being the reason for an aircraft change, as they say, "something ain't right"
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 11:22 am
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Originally Posted by phxrsng
Upon arriving at ORD I was already within 15 minutes of my departure, which showed on time upon landing (we were told to check via our apps as the crew for some reason couldn't get us connection info) and needed to shuttle to the other terminal. So I went straight to the desk. I was later told UA held the plane for a few minutes...but didn't tell us, negating the nice customer service gesture.
You mean you needed to get from E to C? You know you can walk from E to B to C, right? I would always first try to go to the flight unless I actually know it's left the gate. And I would walk rather than wait for the shuttle, unless it's right there. You can also check on flightstats.com or another site to see if it's actually reported to the FAA as having left the gate (more detailed information there than on united.com). I find self-help more satisfying than waiting for or depending on someone else.
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 11:34 am
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There were multiple reasons for the OP's delay (as the OP states), when there are multiple reasons, UA will tend to post the reason most generous to them. Not sure why you would expect any other behavior.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...ght-delay.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...n-due-atc.html
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 11:56 am
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA
There were multiple reasons for the OP's delay (as the OP states), when there are multiple reasons, UA will tend to post the reason most generous to them. Not sure why you would expect any other behavior.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...ght-delay.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...n-due-atc.html
In a previous life, I was the delay caller. When multiple thing impact a flight, our SOP at my station was to quote whatever took the most or limited the final dptr. For example, Flight attendant shows up 5 min late, but CS doesn't board after they should for 6 extra min, CS eats the delay. Now you sit for pushback due to ramp traffic for 5 min, it's still CS, but if the pushback is held for 7 min due to ramp traffic, they now get blamed (ramp congestion.). Other than on a plane change or late inbound, only 1 delay, the biggest would be quoted. On a late inbound, anything beyond the minimum service time is blamed on whatever extended the delay in addition to the late inbound. Same thing on a plane change due to mechanical. Not sure what the current SOP is.

Last edited by fastair; Apr 14, 2014 at 12:06 pm
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 12:28 pm
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This is one of those things that United can make true since they control the swapping of slots. First you had a slot putting you in 90 min late. Then you swapped you into a slot that was only 14 min late, possibly due to another flight cancelling or having it's own problem. Then when your flight had the headcount issue, they could swap you into a later slot, allowing another flight in earlier. Since you arrival is still slot controlled, and the delay program is due to weather, your delay can be coded as weather.
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 12:57 pm
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Originally Posted by mherdeg
Since it sounds like you got the right outcome eventually (a hotel voucher), there's not a lot of room to complain to regulatory authorities here — what was the harm? You had to wander around concourses half-asleep for a few hours until an agent did the right thing? Bummer but kinda par for the course.

With respect to your downgrade (F=>E-), did you pay for F? Or were you upgraded on the flight you missed? If you paid for F and ended up in coach, you're owed at least a partial refund (and a priority position on the departure-management premium-cabin standby list). If you missed an upgraded flight due to irrops, UA doesn't owe you anything and also doesn't typically offer any compensation.

Given that the cause of your forced overnight delay was a problem within UA's control (failure to correctly count pax onboard), you might want to write in to UA succinctly stating those facts and expressing disappointment that their internal process failure caused you a delay. You could also express disappointment that they mis-coded the delay reason and you had trouble getting a hotel, but this is kind of secondary to the issue that their irrops caused your problem in the first place. If you write in, UA may offer goodwill compensation.

I agree that there was very little harm overall (though had I not found a second agent who gave me a hotel I would be much less happy), but I'd like to formally dispute the reason given for the delay. I did fill out the customer care form to do so, and this post was in hopes that others had gone through the same thing and may have advice.

Also so that others facing this know that the real-world version of HUCA seems to be necessary in these situations.

My upgrade was a paid one, not a CPU, and they're working through the refund for that. I was not offered any additional downgrade compensation, though that makes sense to me. Strangely, though, I was never offered priority waitlist in the F cabin, and I had to proactively ask for a refund and/or downgrade compensation. The agent seemed to be unsure if she could give it to me, so I'll be hanging onto the receipt to make sure it happens.

Originally Posted by DaviddesJ
You mean you needed to get from E to C? You know you can walk from E to B to C, right? I would always first try to go to the flight unless I actually know it's left the gate. And I would walk rather than wait for the shuttle, unless it's right there. You can also check on flightstats.com or another site to see if it's actually reported to the FAA as having left the gate (more detailed information there than on united.com). I find self-help more satisfying than waiting for or depending on someone else.
F to C. And in retrospect you are correct. I checked the united app which was reporting an on-time departure, so I tried to beat the line at customer service instead of wasting time running and on a shuttle to an empty desk. Doing it again (and I'm sure there will be a next time) I'll be booking it to the gate and stating the process there, instead.

Originally Posted by WineCountryUA
There were multiple reasons for the OP's delay (as the OP states), when there are multiple reasons, UA will tend to post the reason most generous to them. Not sure why you would expect any other behavior.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...ght-delay.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...n-due-atc.html
There were multiple factors, but the ATC delay would have been 5 minutes/negligible (the posted times showed a ~15ish minute delay on departure, making up some time in the air, landing only 5m later than scheduled) and the discrepancy caused the delay to be almost an hour, I think common sense shows that the factor causing IRROPS was not ATC/Wx. Were it equal or overlapping then of course I would expect UA to choose the reason benefitting them.
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 1:45 pm
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I had a flight last year that was delayed over 2hrs at the gate. Plane was there, but they were having problems with hydraulics. About 3hrs later, a storm came in and delayed us another 45 min. United stated weather as the delay for the whole thing.
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 9:27 pm
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Last week (April10) UA 1145 SEA-SFO departed approx 3.5 hrs late because of "customer service" issues. Originally, this was said to be mechanical, but then it magically changed to customer service. So just what *is* "customer service" as the ostensible reason?
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Old Apr 14, 2014, 9:45 pm
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Originally Posted by BH62
Last week (April10) UA 1145 SEA-SFO departed approx 3.5 hrs late because of "customer service" issues. Originally, this was said to be mechanical, but then it magically changed to customer service. So just what *is* "customer service" as the ostensible reason?
What difference does it make? I understand the concern about 'reasons' that affect compensation, but if it's not going to affect your compensation (or in a positive way---surely "customer service" means the airline is responsible) then who cares what they call it?
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