I just had the most bizarre phone conversation with a United “manager” named Sheila from Houston. She had the sass of a drag queen and the petulance of a hormonal teenager. This was in regards to a flight I booked for my dad to attend a funeral in London. Since it was such a stressful time, I decided to book him on United business class. My dad had a great flight and raved about the in-flight experience.
The return was a different story. There was no business class availability, so I booked him in first class so he could still have a lie-flat seat and get some sleep. When he checked in, the rep didn’t even look up as she spoke to him. He thought she was still chatting with a colleague, when she snapped and repeated her question in a loud tone. My cousin was with my dad and told the rep there was no need to speak to him that way. She snapped back, “You, stop talking and stand back!” Everyone was dumbfounded by this response and my cousin informed her that he would not be moving, and it was within his right to stand at the check-in counter to see off his guest. She folded and said, “Fine. But don’t talk to me.” With this charming encounter over, my dad made his way to the gate.
On board, he found his seat wasn’t reclining at all. The flight attendant told him the engineer was off to lunch and it would be another 20 minutes before he could be helped. The engineer came by, tried to fix it but couldn’t. The seatbelt wasn’t working either. This isn’t just a comfort issue, it’s a safety issue and one that I’m sure United could face fines for.
In any case, he spent the entire flight with a broken seat and seatbelt. When I complained to United about this, they didn’t respond.
After a few interactions on Twitter (in which I was told they would follow up with customer service), I finally received a call today from a very hostile “manager” from the Houston corporate office. She started off the call in a very aggressive tone. She claimed they had sent us two “apology” emails and appeared angry that I had contacted United via Twitter. In addition, the seat had been fixed and “the matter has been resolved.”
I didn’t think it was unreasonable to get part of the points I spent on the ticket back, since I had shelled out 67,000 miles for a lie-flat seat that wouldn’t recline an inch. She offered me 5,000 points and got even more agitated. I told her I didn’t think I was making an unreasonable request, since I would have gladly booked a coach ticket rather than waste 27,000 miles if I’d known the seat wouldn’t lie flat and the seatbelt wouldn’t function. She took offense to my wording and responded dramatically, “Travel is never a waste!” Was this a prank call? Things were getting weird. I told her of course travel isn’t a waste, but shelling out 27,000 miles for a seat that doesn’t work, is.
She claimed “there is no difference in miles between Economy and First.” I explained to her that there is in fact a 27,000 mile difference between Economy and First, and as a “corporate manager” she should know that. She claimed she does in fact know how award travel works and stuck to her guns.
She still harped on the fact that I received two apology letters, even though that’s now irrelevant. Even if I had received these phantom apology letters, this unpleasant interaction would have countered any good will the letters might have extended. She reiterated, “I will not be crediting more than 5,000 points – maybe 7,500.” She was getting loud and when I asked to speak to a supervisor, she countered with “I am a supervisor!” I guess this explains why her behavior goes unchecked. I asked for her full name and she surprisingly spelled it out, adding “You’ll probably tweet about that too.” I didn’t know whether to admire her gusto or tell her off. I have never dealt with a customer service rep (let alone a manager) who was so hostile, belligerent, and unprofessional. It was unnerving and slightly entertaining at the same time. Like arguing with a teenager, though I’m not sure who I was in this scenario. An innocent by-stander?
I explained that her anger was completely out of order and perhaps she needed to find another line of work if she can’t deal with customer complaints. She took a breather and offered me 15,000 points as compensation. Fair enough. She also made a point to remind me “They will not count towards your bonus!” I assume she meant elite status – yet another example that she didn’t understand award programs…or revenue travel for that matter. Either way, I wasn’t expecting these points to count towards my “bonus.”
She finally let go of some of her aggression and wished me a nice day. Am I going to “tweet about it” like she so disdainfully pointed out? Hell yes, I’m going to tweet about it. When your customer service is this terrible in every aspect, you’re going to get called out on it.
I’ve flown United domestically and never had a problem (this was pre merger). In fact, when I decided to go for status next year, I considered United until the slew of complaints I came across. Any time I mention United to someone, I hear “I’m never flying with them again. They ___ (insert complaint here).” Then there’s the fun The Points Guy had when he showed up at the airport with a confirmed ticket that couldn’t be issued. Clearly, customer service is a weak point that needs to be addressed.
Does anyone else have a problem with United, or is it just me? Please share your grievances and maybe United will take a hint and change the company’s anti-customer culture.
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