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Old Jun 7, 2010, 5:18 AM
GatesOfBabylon GatesOfBabylon is offline
 
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Default Worst service I have experienced from any company

Last week United Airlines failed on many levels. It has failed in its quality assurance, service delivery and contingency. I will detail below how and why and why I am absolutely devastated by the poor service provided to me by the airline.

I booked my flight about 3 days before flying out to go from Melbourne to LA. I was going to a public memorial service for Ronnie James Dio (a singer who had been very important to me throughout my life, as you can imagine if I would catch a 16 hour flight to LA to go to it) that was happening on the 30th of May and I had to be there by 10am. I booked my flight to LA on the 29th, leaving at 11.20am so I could make it to LA in the morning the same day and have plenty of time to get ready for the memorial and actually get there.

Long story short, my flight on the 29th was cancelled about an hour before departure, due to an engine failure, we were notified about this in the check-in queue and told that they were re-booking people on an Air New Zealand flight, but spots were limited. After waiting about 2 hours in line, we were finally told that no flights to LA were available and they would have to re-book us for the next day. I explained this was unacceptable as I had to be at a memorial service. They didn't seem to care, the customer service consultant I was talking to was even smiling in bemusement as I kept pleading with her to find a different flight for me as I had to get LA that day. No one could do anything for me, all they offered was a voucher application form that would be processed within 4 to 6 weeks and a taxi back home.

Shattered, I went home, coming to terms with the fact that I had lost about $90 for one night at my hotel and missing out a whole day of my short 7-day trip to the US. The next morning I was finally flown to the US without incident (albeit disappointed at the lack of individual TV screens)... I arrived at LAX at 11.20am... after the long customs and immigration queues, I was out of the airport by about 12.30 and got to my hotel at 1. Hungry as hell, I went to grab some food before getting to the cemetery for the memorial well after 2pm. Due to arriving by then I could not get inside where the service was being held as it was full by then, so had to stay outside and watch it from the big screens. It was blistering hot outside, I had no hat or sunscreen as I had to rush to the service after landing at LAX. So I had to watch the memorial while jetlagged, tired and hot. I have recently had health issues resulting from sun stroke and dehydration and these came up again, but I won't go into that.

Basically, due to United's failure in service delivery, I missed a portion of the service (the main reason I was in LA for) and had to watch it through great discomfort and stress resulting from the earlier cancellation. I am a full-time student doing a double degree and also work 30 hours a week, and had already been stressed out prior to the trip, the cancellation just put me over the top.

What makes the cancellation worse is that I flew to Vegas 3 days later on American Airlines (without incident), and when I had to fly back to LA from Vegas 3 days after that, our flight was delayed by over 3 hours, once again due to mechanical failures. Luckily, my flight from LA to Melbourne was 7 hours after I was supposed to land at LAX, so it wasn't a problem for me, not so for other people, who had to get a hotel for the night.

Needless to say, 2 out of 2 of my United flights had some sort of mechanical problems. That does not instill a lot of confidence in me, as a passenger, and suggests that United fail drastically in their quality assurance. I have flown at least 30 different times before this and have NEVER had a flight cancelled or delayed. I can only think of a single time when a flight was shifted to another time, but we were advised of this by email well in advance.

There are a few other issues I haven't gone into detail about, but it is appalling service by any standard. Their contingency plan was in shambles, for both flights they could do absolutely nothing for us as consumers and the amount of time they spent with each customer to work something out was a joke.

What can I expect from United? Are they going to send me some lousy 10% off next flight voucher? That's completely insufficient for their failures as a company. Two flights with a mechanical failure in a week (THAT I KNOW ABOUT) is unacceptable.
  #2  
Old Jun 7, 2010, 6:53 AM
The_Judge The_Judge is offline
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Firstly, I'm sorry for your loss.

If I were attending a one time event, such as a funeral, wedding, cruise, etc., I would allow an day extra at the arrival point. For cases just like yours.

Admittedly from you, the seats on Air New Zealand to LAX were not sufficient to accommodate all the passengers from the flight you were on. I don't know how UA handles their priority order but my airline gave First Class customers priority, then Platinum, Gold and Silver Elite. After that, it was first come, first helped. If the seats ran out, there is not much that can be done. Aircraft have limited space.

As far as the smiling agent, I won't comment other than to say it probably was a had to see it type moment to understand it. And getting a taxi paid for back home is actually pretty rare. Most airlines aren't in the habit of giving ground transport in the passenger's domicile.

You mentioned having to sit outside in the 'blistering' hot and having no suscreen or hat as you had to rush to the service. Here I have no sympathy for you as you had just mentioned you had to grab some lunch so there really was no rush.

Bottom line......you expected to be delivered to your destination on time and that is what should have happened. However, from what you wrote, UA did what they could with what was available. Yes, aircraft shouldn't break. I understand that but when they do, it's how the airline handles it that will truly decide what kind of experience you have. I saw, by your words, no rude agents, no lack of communication and no complaint by you of anything else. I think the UA agent did the best he/she could to get you there as expeditiously as possible.

Going home you mentioned a delay and the amount of time spent with each customer. Hmmmm.....that's called customer service and trying to please each one with their individual concerns. Some people complain when they are hurried along and forced into decisions and some complain when the airline takes too much time with a passenger. I wrote it yesterday and I'll write it again. Airline can't win for one or the other.

Hope your travels in the future are much less stressful.
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Last edited by The_Judge; Jun 7, 2010 at 6:55 AM.
  #3  
Old Jun 7, 2010, 8:19 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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If a flight is cancelled, the airline should take all reasonable measures to get their passengers expeditiously to their destination. The routes from Australia to LA are numerous.. I simply don't believe that there were no alternative routes or seats over a 24 hour period. Is it just co-incidence that this passenger was only offered a routing with fellow Star Alliance carrier ANZ?

There are loads of carriers who can operate this route, especially if you include indirect flights, including V-Australia, Qantas and Singapore Airlines.

I think this poster has a legitimate complaint. Sadly it is wrapped up in a load of guff for which poster should take personal responsibility. Why a grown adult would write to an airline and complain that they had to sit in the sun without a hat and attribute the blame for that to an international airline is beyond me. Some people clearly never watch Judge Judy.
  #4  
Old Jun 7, 2010, 8:14 PM
GatesOfBabylon GatesOfBabylon is offline
 
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I agree, a lot of gaff - I wasn't sending this to the airline, just trying to establish why I am so angry with United and am willing to take action, but me having to stand around in hot weather with no sunscreen isn't something I'm blaming United for, it's the failure to provide a reasonable service.

Working for a big company and having dealt first hand with service failure to customers, I can sympathise with United's attempts at doing what they could for me and the other passengers to get us to our destination. My point isn't that they didn't TRY, my point is that they FAILED.

If it was one failure and it was minor, I wouldn't have even said anything, but this was 2 in a week and on my first experience with United as well. It's a big coincidence maybe, but it happened and someone has to be held responsible.

They pride themselves in being the "#1 on-time US airline in 2009", but the planes landed approximately 24 hours late and 3 hours late, respectively. Thus, failing in delivering a timely service and causing great inconvenience.
They have a responsibility to passengers to provide a safe service and assure us of the reliability of the planes, however, two mechanical failures in a row doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence.
In their customer commitment they outline a contingency policy to "minimise delays of over 2 hours and prevent delays of over 3 hours", I would say that they failed in that contingency policy for both flights as well.

Checking airline stats between January and April, I can see that over 2000 services have been cancelled by United. It doesn't matter that it's only 2% of their total flights, 2000 is still a big number of flights to cancel in 4 months. That's about 16-17 flights they cancel daily at this rate. That's massive when you consider the amount of people that get affected on each plane.

If I was missing a day of work and had to take an extra leave day or something of the sort, then I wouldn't really care, but I was missing a memorial service for someone dear to me and it's reasonable for me to expect some form of compensation from them.

Again, I'll re-iterate that I appreciate they tried to do what they could for me, as is expected of them, but they failed and they have to answer for that. Given it was my first time flying United, I would at least expect some sort of goodwill gesture from them if they want any hope of retaining me as a customer.
  #5  
Old Jun 7, 2010, 8:27 PM
GatesOfBabylon GatesOfBabylon is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimworcs View Post
If a flight is cancelled, the airline should take all reasonable measures to get their passengers expeditiously to their destination. The routes from Australia to LA are numerous.. I simply don't believe that there were no alternative routes or seats over a 24 hour period. Is it just co-incidence that this passenger was only offered a routing with fellow Star Alliance carrier ANZ?

There are loads of carriers who can operate this route, especially if you include indirect flights, including V-Australia, Qantas and Singapore Airlines.
Yes, the reason we were offered ANZ was because they were partnered with them, they told us they could not try to re-book us on a flight with another carrier despite my pleas. They told us V Australia was flying out later that day, but they would not book us on the flight themselves because they were not partnered with them, but we could pay the $2000+ or so for a ticket with them ourselves if we had to get there urgently.

Their attitude was truly awful, I was told that I "should've been in line earlier" to have a better chance of getting re-booked onto ANZ and when I asked to speak to a manager the attendant blatantly lied to me and said she was the manager. The fact that they acted with no sympathy to me whatsoever did not impress me at all, here I was stressed, frustrated and grieving and all they can do is smile at me in mockery.
  #6  
Old Jun 7, 2010, 10:17 PM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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So this is my point. Here we have seats available which will get the customer to LA on time, but United didn't wanna pay. This should be regulated. However, rule 240 of United's Conditions of Carraige certainly does allow for the airline to book you onto an alternative carrier. However, the caveat that they will only be on carriers they have an agreement with is unacceptable... it should be on any available carrier.

Quote:
A) UA WILL TRANSPORT THE PASSENGER WITHOUT STOPOVER ON ITS
NEXT FLIGHT ON WHICH SPACE IS AVAILABLE IN THE SAME CLASS OF SERVICE AS THE PASSENGER'S ORIGINAL OUTBOUND FLIGHT AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE PASSENGER.
B) IF UA IS UNABLE TO PROVIDE ONWARD TRANSPORTATION
ACCEPTABLE TO THE PASSENGER, UA, WITH CONCURRENCE OF THE PASSENGER, MAY ARRANGE FOR THE TRANSPORTATION ON ANOTHER CARRIER OR COMBINATION OF CARRIERS WITH WHOM UA HAS AGREEMENTS FOR SUCH TRANSPORTATION. THE
PASSENGER WILL BE TRANSPORTED WITHOUT STOPOVER ON ITS (THEIR) NEXT FLIGHT(S), IN THE SAME CLASS OF SERVICE AS THE PASSENGER'S ORIGINAL OUTBOUND FLIGHT AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE PASSENGER.
C) IF SPACE IS ONLY AVAILABLE AND USED ON A UA
  #7  
Old Jun 7, 2010, 11:02 PM
azstar azstar is offline
 
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it should be on any available carrier.

Airlines can only rebook passengers on airlines with whom they have reciprocal ticketing agreements. It has nothing to do with an alliance, or partnership. UA probably has no ticketing agreement with Virgin Australia, but they certainly do with Qantas. If Qantas had available seats, you should have been rebooked and reticketed on them.
  #8  
Old Jun 7, 2010, 11:18 PM
GatesOfBabylon GatesOfBabylon is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by azstar View Post
it should be on any available carrier.

Airlines can only rebook passengers on airlines with whom they have reciprocal ticketing agreements. It has nothing to do with an alliance, or partnership. UA probably has no ticketing agreement with Virgin Australia, but they certainly do with Qantas. If Qantas had available seats, you should have been rebooked and reticketed on them.
They certainly could've. Looking at both the Melbourne Airport and Auckland Airport websites, I can see that there were flights later that day to Auckland and plenty of flights from Auckland to LA via airlines that are part of the star alliance. So surely something was available that they could've organised if they really tried.
  #9  
Old Jun 11, 2010, 5:33 PM
Gromit801 Gromit801 is offline
 
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The key phrase there, was if Qantas HAD available seats. You need to find that out if possible.
  #10  
Old Jun 11, 2010, 9:12 PM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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Quote:
Airlines can only rebook passengers on airlines with whom they have reciprocal ticketing agreements
If the airline cancels, the law should mandate that a customer can purchase an alternative routing with another carrier if the original carrier is unable to re-route to land within 6 hours of the originally scheduled landing time. In this case, the passenger could then have booked on Virgin Australia and billed United. That would put a stop to this nonsense of customer service agents "not trying very hard" to re-route passengers, whcih happens all the time.
  #11  
Old Jun 12, 2010, 5:42 AM
The_Judge The_Judge is offline
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I take a bit of exception to the last sentence above. This is a general statement that reflects on all CSA's. Of course there are laxy agents as there are laxy people in any field. It does not benefit and agent to not help someone when they are needing help, in this case, rebooking. The money is not coming out of the agent's pocket. If there is a seat on another carrier that the airline has a ticketing agreement with, it's pretty simple to make the entry to book them and a couple more steps and the ticket is reissued.

It takes very little time and effort to look for and rebook a new flight. The only issue comes when the customer is so concerned with berating the agent for him canceling the flight that the agent then may not try very hard.
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