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United Gets a Second Letter

To Whom It May Concern:
The past few months I have been traveling extensively and exclusively on United and your Star Alliance partners. I achieved Premier status in about a month and am quickly on my way to Premier Executive. I also now have a Chase Mileage Plus Visa which I’m now using instead of the Chase Rewards card I’ve had for five years. The good news is that for the majority of my flights I have had nothing but exceptional service from all of your staff. This makes me confident that my company has made the right choice in who they have us travel with and that I am making the correct choice when booking personal travel on your airline. I have however had experiences within the past three weeks which do not live up the level of service I have come to expect.

Thursday July 13th on flight 518:
I have two main pieces of luggage that I use while traveling, both are very nice from Victorinox. One is small and perfect for short trips and is easily carried on board. As most of my travel extends over three days, I travel with my slightly larger piece and while it physically fits as carry-on luggage, I prefer to check it as to be courteous to other passengers. Having checked in many times traveling both domestically and internationally with it, I have never had problems with it being lost or delayed.

On this short flight to Portland I chose to carry it on as to not deal with luggage in Portland. Upon entering the Premier/First security line, I was rudely told by one of the security contractors that I had to check the bag. While I certainly understand the desire to keep large bags out of the overhead bins, and as I mentioned I normally check this bag to make additional space for others, I felt this was completely inappropriate. It is one thing for one of your agents to tell me that I need to check a bag, though for this person to do so and be unwilling to change her opinion despite my informing her that I had traveled with this bag as carry-on in the past and having a first class ticket seemed inappropriate. While I had no problem retrieving the bag in Portland, I do not expect to be hassled over an inch when I am traveling in first class.

Tuesday July 18th on flight 715:
My return flight from Portland I had a much better experience boarding the flight with my luggage mentioned above. I spoke to the desk agent specifically about it and she saw no problem with me carrying it on. Security also gave me no hassle with it which reinforced me questioning the decision made by the security contractor in San Francisco. As this turned out to be a regional jet there was no problem traveling back to SFO. The problem only occurred once I reached SFO.

As we were deplaning we were told to stand in a line in the jetway to collect our luggage. This is reasonable except for the fact that the person dealing with us had no customer service skills. Instead of politely asking us to stand to one side, or there being an announcement on the flight letting us know about how luggage would be dealt with, he stood there shouting at people to stand on the right side. This sort of action led to many passengers not feeling valued as customers as we stood in line for fifteen minutes waiting for our gate checked bags.

Monday July 31st on flight 0662:
A little after midnight I received an Easy Update telling me this flight had been cancelled and I had been rebooked on a red-eye. I got onto united.com and found both flights 830 and 838 earlier that day which I preferred. Calling your reservations number I was connected with an agent who was able to move me to flight 830; I do however find it curious that she was unable to assign me a seat, despite telling me that I was confirmed on the flight. What really annoyed me about this was not that my flight had been cancelled, but that both times I spoke with your agents they tried to sell me a car rental from Hertz! While I understand that upselling and cross-promotions are good sales tactics, at the end of a call when I’m dealing with a cancelled flight is absolutely not the time to try and sell me another service.

Arriving at the airport the desk agent was helpful and put me in the furthest forward seat he had, middle in row 24, telling me to speak to the gate agent to see about moving to Economy Plus. When the gate agent arrived I waited in line, presented my boarding pass, and asked if it were possible to me moved into Economy Plus. Without even looking at my pass, she retorted with "There are no Economy Plus upgrades for sale", I responded with "I am Premier", she said "No" inferring that there still were no seats, I said "What about after you process upgrades?", and she curtly responded with "I’m about to check in full" and dismissed me. While I understand that it is stressful working a full flight, this is certainly not the level of customer service I expect when my flight has been cancelled.

Boarding the plane I took my seat, 24E. The aisle seat, 24D, had a loose cushion that had been delivered just minutes before, though it was not installed and just sitting atop the seat frame. The passenger in 24F arrived and sat down though as we were both buckling our seat belts we noticed our hands became very sticky. It turns out that there was jam left on the armrests and seatbelts of all three of these seats. The bottom cushion in 24D was replaced due to being covered in jam, though the seat back had many sticky spots as well. The passenger for 24D arrived and brought this to the attention of a flight attendant, who was quite helpful, and gave her a blanket to cover the sticky seat. While this issue was ultimately resolved for the flight, I do not understand why the cleaning team did not take the time to inspect all three of these seats and clean the jam from them.

As I said, I have had many pleasurable experiences with your airline in the past four months which I wish I could have also highlighted in this letter. It is however quite disturbing to see this downward trend recently between poor luggage handling, delayed flights between San Francisco and Portland, and the way I was treated with this cancelled flight. I hope that if nothing else, this feedback will allow you to improve your service in the future.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 2nd, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
I think what you went through is deplorable. You handled yourself well and although the letter may not make much, if any, impact the airlines are on an edge now even with the gov't propping them up. They will be more likely to take each letter they receive more seriously and especially so if they receive an abundance of them.

Too bad you couldn't get your planemates from the Jam Incident to write letters too.
Jan. 26th, 2007 05:41 am (UTC)
Thanks a lot for this great resource!
Great job done, keep it up!with the best regards!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )