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What else to do with 11 hours?

So besides catch up on email, I wrote United another letter. Not an unhappy letter, well maybe part of it. Planning to send it tomorrow, so any comments are appreciated.

To whom it may concern:
Since June I've been traveling quite extensively on your airline and wanted to take the time to provide you with feedback on some of my experiences. (I write this at 34,000 feet on UA901 near Iceland) Overall I want to congratulate you on the numerous positive experiences I've had during this period. I believe I've only written you one letter during this time expressing discontent and since then have had virtually nothing but great experiences. In no particular order:

When flying out of IAD, I arrived to find the terminal extremely busy. I had to speak to an agent, versus using the machines, due to wanting to get on an earlier flight. The Premier line was probably about thirty minutes long, which gave me time to watch your staff and there was one person who just from the body language of the passengers interacting with him was providing exceptional service. I too ended up talking with him and he very quickly got my bag checked on the earlier flight as it was getting very close to the cut-off. All through this process he was relaxed and helpful, despite the many annoyed customers that had no patience. I gave him one of the feedback forms you had sent me as I truly believe he demonstrated customer service at its best.

On another flight from PDX to SFO, I had upgraded and during the tail end of the boarding process the captain came through the first class cabin on the 757 and personally introduced himself to every passenger and thanked each of us for choosing United. While simple, this act once again exemplified customer service and bought your airline far more good will than whatever the hidden cost in the pilot's time was to do this. On another flight later in the week, LAX-IAD, the captain also took the time to address the entire first class cabin telling us about the flight and thank us for choosing United versus just doing so over the audio system. These two simple acts went a long way in making me feel like a truly valued customer.

Last weekend, on my way to Italy, my original flight had mechanical problems (TUS-DEN) and thus I was unable to make my DEN-FRA connection. When I woke up to head to the airport in the morning, I had an EasyUpdate giving me this information and telling me I was being rebooked. This once again is the level of service I've come to expect from United and by the time I called one of your agents I had already been rebooked through IAD. I did have a slight issue in terms of losing a confirmed upgrade, (chronicled on my blog http://daveman692.livejournal.com/284184.html and http://daveman692.livejournal.com/284473.html), though your customer service staff in Dulles really took the time to understand why I was frustrated, look at various solutions for me, and we ultimately resolved the problem in what I feel was a very fair and reasonable manner. Once again, for that day being one of the busiest travel days of the year, your staff showed the level of service I've come to expect.

What is now interesting is that I've now come to expect this high level of service from all of your staff, on the phone, in the airport, and on the planes. I have however seen some situations recently where other customers have not been receiving this level of service that I now personally know your staff can deliver.

Obviously when I arrived at the Tucson airport with the cancelled flight, there were quite long lines and only a handful of staff. I was helped quickly, due to the premier line, but while I was waiting couldn't help overhearing customers that had not received an adequate level of service. Some had been waiting on hold for 25+ minutes, other had been told by your agents to go over to the US Airways desk to be booked on their flight only to be sent back to wait in line again since your agents hadn't issued the needed paper ticket, as well as your staff generally not providing any sort of regular updates to the 50+ person line. In addition, while waiting for my flight at the gate I saw passengers I recognized waiting in line come through close to two hours later. I don't mean to sound cliché, but I know you can do better.

My mother and brother also traveled to Savannah Georgia a few weeks ago and had a quite poor experience. Their trip was riddled with weather and mechanical problems as well as staff who were uninformed and generally unhelpful. To give one example, they had boarded a flight and after everyone was on board the pilot "rebooted" the plane a few times due to problems. About 30 minutes after boarding had completed, he announced that the flight would have to be cancelled due to the computer that controls the flaps not working correctly. A customer behind my family was on the phone with one of your agents at the time and they refused to rebook them without the $100 change fee since the computer showed the flight being cancelled due to weather; despite this customer sitting on the plane with mechanical problems. On their return flight they were forced to have their tickets signed over to Delta, once again due to mechanical problems and full flights, but this took close to two hours; one ticket was quickly signed over but it then took over an hour to get a United agent on the phone again to do the second. Once again this was a very poor experience on my family's part and with their infrequent trips they do not understand how I actually have had positive experiences with your airline. My father has also had his share of poor experiences to the point where today he refuses to even consider your airline. To be quite blunt, it does me no good as a frequent flyer having great experiences if you alienate the majority of your customers.

On my flight from IAD to FRA, the seat situation actually turned out quite well. I was in the economy section, but the row behind me had free window and middle seats so it was a fine flight. One of your flight attendants though, maybe he was just having a bad day, consistently through the flight performed below my expectations. His body language inferred that he didn't care about any of us, let alone that he valued his job. When serving dinner, one customer asked how the beef was prepared and his response was, "I have no idea, maybe in strips". To me, this is ridiculous that one of your staff did not either a) take the time to look at the meals he was serving in the galley or b) take the time when asked to open one of the beef meals and show the customer before responding. Once again, maybe he was just having a bad day, but did not come close to the level of service I've come to expect from your staff. For my meal I chose the pasta, didn't want to see what was with the beef, and to be quite honest, it was horrid. The noodles were like rubber, the sauce bland, and well…just horrid. On this flight today, I had the pasta and it was actually quite good. It was prepared differently than on the flight over here, but certainly met my expectations for food served in economy.

So I'm hoping that the combination of the really positive experiences I've had, and please keep in mind that the majority of my experiences has been positive, as well as the poor experiences I've described can help in improving customer service as a whole on United.

David Recordon
03087 274 232



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 4th, 2006 04:01 am (UTC)
In my experience...
United is terrible. Obviously they just care about their 100K customers, but for those of us unfortunate enough to have to fly them quite often-- BWI being a United hub, and since only 3 airlines fly in to BIL-- it really, really sucks. Glad to hear that you occasionally get good service from them, but *man* I have bad times with them.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )