United Airlines: I’m Watching You

I just got an email from United Airlines….  ahhh, we paid off the guy in the video that America is mad at us about and now we seek to save face.  $10,000 to give up a seat?  Yeah, they say that now, but will it ever happen?  Nope.  But in the case of Mr. Dao that would have been getting off cheap!!!  I wrote them back and hold no hope of hearing back from them, but, write back to them,  I did.  Below is their corporate letter and my letter of response.

I hope more travelers let them know we aren’t just mad about this one incident.

MileagePlus # XXXXXX66
Dear Mrs…,
Each flight you take with us represents an important promise we make to you, our customer. It’s not simply that we make sure you reach your destination safely and on time, but also that you will be treated with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect.
Earlier this month, we broke that trust when a passenger was forcibly removed from one of our planes. We can never say we are sorry enough for what occurred, but we also know meaningful actions will speak louder than words.
For the past several weeks, we have been urgently working to answer two questions: How did this happen, and how can we do our best to ensure this never happens again?
It happened because our corporate policies were placed ahead of our shared values. Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right.
Fixing that problem starts now with changing how we fly, serve and respect our customers. This is a turning point for all of us here at United – and as CEO, it’s my responsibility to make sure that we learn from this experience and redouble our efforts to put our customers at the center of everything we do.
That’s why we announced that we will no longer ask law enforcement to remove customers from a flight and customers will not be required to give up their seat once on board – except in matters of safety or security.
We also know that despite our best efforts, when things don’t go the way they should, we need to be there for you to make things right. There are several new ways we’re going to do just that.
We will increase incentives for voluntary rebooking up to $10,000 and will be eliminating the red tape on permanently lost bags with a new “no-questions-asked” $1,500 reimbursement policy. We will also be rolling out a new app for our employees that will enable them to provide on-the-spot goodwill gestures in the form of miles, travel credit and other amenities when your experience with us misses the mark. You can learn more about these commitments and many other changes at hub.united.com.
While these actions are important, I have found myself reflecting more broadly on the role we play and the responsibilities we have to you and the communities we serve.
I believe we must go further in redefining what United’s corporate citizenship looks like in our society. You can and ought to expect more from us, and we intend to live up to those higher expectations in the way we embody social responsibility and civic leadership everywhere we operate. I hope you will see that pledge express itself in our actions going forward, of which these initial, though important, changes are merely a first step.
Our goal should be nothing less than to make you truly proud to say, “I fly United.”
Ultimately, the measure of our success is your satisfaction and the past several weeks have moved us to go further than ever before in elevating your experience with us. I know our 87,000 employees have taken this message to heart, and they are as energized as ever to fulfill our promise to serve you better with each flight and earn the trust you’ve given us.
We are working harder than ever for the privilege to serve you and I know we will be stronger, better and the customer-focused airline you expect and deserve.
With Great Gratitude,
Oscar Munoz
Oscar Munoz
United Airlines
To which I reply:
To Whomever Is Fielding These Emails,
I have been a longtime frequent flyer.  I have registered complaints with United in the past and, to be honest, they have gone nowhere.  I have heard the words, “What do you want me to do about it?” far too many times from United employees.  The words I respond with, “How about caring?”  That response usually declines to outright anger and less-choice verbiage.  Why?  Because you don’t care.   I gave up flying your airline several years ago (except when it was absolutely necessary).
Your company NEEDS to know the culture of rudeness is rampant.  At times it has felt like employees seem proud to be rude like there is a hidden backstage space where they share ‘funny’ stories about not caring.  Who can be the worst wins a prize.
I specifically recall a blown engine on a flight from CVG to IAH.  We had to emergency land in Memphis at ~4-5pm.  Firstly, we were told it was a quick landing and not to disappear from the gate area.  I was pretty sure we were not taking off again and sought to get on another plane almost immediately.  Second, the way we, your paying customers, found out we were not taking off again was to the sound of the flight attendants walking by with their luggage, laughing, as one yells out to the passengers “I don’t know why yall are still sittin’ around… the plane’s BROKE!”  and they all laughed and walked away.  No help. No direction.  Walked away.
By chance, at the next gate over was a flight to Houston.  That gate agent made the decision to not let anyone on that flight even though there were (to my memory) over 20 seats available.  She could not have been nastier to the stranded passengers, people even offered to buy a second full fare ticket just to get home.  I was one of those people with my credit card in-hand. She was quite vocal about she didn’t care about our plane, she would not accept our money, her plane would not be accommodating anyone and she told us to leave her gate area.
I then called Southwest Airlines as they had one flight in another terminal that was boarding.  I give them most of my several 100,000 miles per year.  The agent on the phone called the gate while I was on the phone, told me to run but got them to hold the plane for me.  She stayed on with me while I ran and cheered me on while I panted dragging my suitcase. I swiped my card at the counter and was on that plane to get home very quickly.  Further to this kindness, the flight attendants announced to the other passengers they were going to help a frequent flyer who was stranded by another airline and they would make up the few minutes in the air and to please be patient.  I boarded that plane, winded, and to the sound of applause and kindness.  Another passenger helped me with my bag as the already had the overhead space ready for my one piece of luggage.
This is only one awful experience I have had with United.  It was a doozy because so many people were left stranded with no real support and I was lucky.  There have been many bad experiences and I’ve been very vocal on my personal social media about the decline of your airline’s service since the Continental merger.  What happened to Mr. Dao is awful and really, when I saw it, I was not surprised it was United behind the story.  That is a sad state of public opinion.  Now suddenly your airline cares because it was finally outrageous enough and caught on film.  Had it not been filmed I think the problems would continue.  That too is a problem.
I have met with a few nice agents and attendants before but I regard them more as the exception.  I have seen attendants do warm and kind things that went above and beyond.  I have also had an attendant roll their eyes at me for requesting a cup of ice. I have had a gate agent break a handle on a suitcase cramming it into the luggage size thing that lets us know if it will fit or not.  It fit, she just yanked it from us and slammed it in there without lowering the handle.  Her response to us was it wasn’t her problem as she is not responsible for broken articles.  These are a few more of our experiences and there are more than these accounts.
I would encourage the company to not just try to throw a coat of shiny paint on the jalopy but to examine internally the people you hire and the corporate culture.  It starts at the top.  I have given over a million miles to Southwest because of their culture first and their rewards program second.  That they don’t charge for bags or flight changes is a practice that came later.  My frequent flyer status predates this horrible air travel practice.  Both of those latter points keep me with them in spite of their lack of international destinations.
On the few occasions I have to give our company money to your airline I will be watching with a critical eye for this ‘change’ you now tell me you intend to make.  Why critically instead of openly?  Because you’ve earned my distrust.
Good Luck to you airline,

2 thoughts on “United Airlines: I’m Watching You

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