Old Jun 19, 2007, 12:36 AM
cstaab cstaab is offline
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Default Terrible Customer Service

From: Christopher Staab <cstaab (at) airlineinformation (dot) org>
Date: June 17, 2007 7:53:11 PM EDT
To: [email protected]
Cc: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], Ed Staab <[email protected]>, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
Subject: United Airlines: Terrible Customer Service

To: Pamela A. Costlet, General Manager of Customer Relations, United Airlines
CC: Joel Widzer, Travel Columnist, MSNBC.com; Joe Sharkey, Travel Columnist, NY Times, Roger Collis, Travel Columnist, International Herald Tribune; U.S. DoT Aviation Consumer Protection Division; Samuel Podberesky, Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, US DoT; Jaan Albrecht, Chief Executive Officer, Star Alliance; Martin Riecken, Director Corporate Communications, Lufthansa; Natalie Hartman, Director Public Affairs, Lufthansa; Jennifer Urbaniak, Media Communications Manager, Lufthansa; Jens Bischof, Vice President, The Americas, Lufthansa; David A. Castelveter, Vice-President, Communications, ATA; John M. Meenan, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, ATA; Better Business Bureau of Pittsburgh; Graham Atkinson, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, United Airlines; Peter McDonald, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, United Airlines; Jane Allen, Senior Vice President - Human Resources, United Airlines; Scott Dolan, Senior Vice President - Airport Operations and Cargo, United Airlines; Srisu Subrahmanyam, Vice President - Continuous Improvement, United Airlines; Alexandria Marren, Vice President - Operational Services, United Express and Ted; Douglas Leo, Vice President - Revenue Management, United Airlines; Judith Bishop, Vice President - Customer Contact Center, United Airlines; Michael Whitaker, Senior Vice President - Alliances International and Regulatory Affairs, United Airlines; Sara Fields, Senior Vice President - Office of the Chairman, United Airlines; US DoT Policy Officials

Dear Ms. Costlet:

My recent experience flying on United Airlines with my wife between Pittsburgh and San Juan, as outlined at the end of this email, was terrible beyond the words which I can effectively write in this message. We experienced offloading due to overbooking and resulting re-booking/re-routing on two other airlines for the outbound portion of our journey, and two flight delays and two flight cancellations for the inbound portion of our journey, resulting in a 40 hour one way travel time from San Juan to Pittsburgh, including driving from Washington to Pittsburgh.

I understand that problems arise due to weather and the complex nature of the airline business. As an airline customer, I simply expect that when problems do arise, the airline effectively communicate with me to limit inconvenience and make me feel like the airline is doing its best to resolve the situation. However, we experienced very poor communication from United Airlines' staff at the Pittsburgh, San Juan and Washington Dulles Airports. Finally, the manner in which our flight from Washington Dulles Airport was cancelled late at night with no prior communication from the airline, while all hotels in the area were completely full, exacerbated the severe hardship faced by many United Airlines' customers that day.

I am copying this message to various representatives of the media, as well as officials of United Airlines, Star Alliance (whose code was on these flights), Lufthansa (whose code was on these flights), the Air Transport Association, consumer rights groups and government officials to make them all aware of what occurred with the hope of preventing similar incidents in the future.

Best Regards,
Christopher Staab
Allison Park, PA USA
Tel: 1 412 548 3128

Offloading due to Overbooking from UA Express Flight#7437 from Pittsburgh to Washington Dulles on June 9, 2007:
- We checked-in using the self-checkin kiosks and our boarding passes indicated to go to the gate for seat assignment. It was not possible to receive clarification as to why no seat assignment was provided, because there was no United Airlines' staff assisting passengers to check-in at the counter.
- Our group of four passengers was eventually offloaded and re-booked/re-routed on two other airlines at the gate due to overbooking, forcing us to lose half a day of our short vacation.
- The most effective time to re-book/re-route us was at the check-in counter, over an hour before we were offloaded at the gate. At the time of check-in, there were additional flight options available on which to re-book us for an arrival time closer to our originally scheduled one. It was highly probable at the time of check-in that our group of four passengers would not be boarded on this flight, which was overbooked by 17 passengers, but United Airlines' staff was not available to assist us at check-in.
- At the gate, United Airlines' own employees complained in front of its customers that there was no airline management there to assist them with the overbooking.

Cancellation of TED Flight#1642 from San Juan to Washington Dulles on June 13, 2007:
- I checked-in for this flight online at approximately 9:30 PM on 12 June, the night before the flight. At the time of checkin, United.com indicated that this flight was on-time. However, I later learned that at the time that I checked-in, the flight coming to San Juan to position the aircraft for Flight#1642 was already hours late, but United.com did not indicate that a delay was possible.
- Despite the fact that I checked in via the Internet, United Airlines did not email me to inform me of the flight cancellation.
- United Airlines did not call my cell phone to make me aware of the flight cancellation- contact information contained in my Mileage Plus frequent flyer account.
- As a result of not effectively communicating this flight cancellation to me, my wife and I were forced to spend 9 hours in the San Juan Airport waiting for the flight upon which we were re-booked to depart. No meal vouchers were provided.

Delayed Flight#9810 from San Juan to Washington Dulles on June 13, 2007:
- This flight replaced cancelled Flight#1642 and was scheduled to depart San Juan at 14:30, but departed 40 or 50 minutes late. No announcement about the delay was made by United Airlines' staff at San Juan Airport. Passengers, already waiting 8 hours due to the cancelation of Flight#1642, faced another delay without any announcement from United Airlines' staff to let them know when the flight would be departing.

Cancelled Flight#7195 from Washington Dulles to Pittsburgh on June 13, 2007:
- This flight was scheduled to depart at 10:05 PM. From 6:30 PM, when I arrived at Washington Dulles Airport, until 10:00 PM, the electronic flight board indicated that this flight was "On Time." No announcement was made by United staff regarding the possibility of its cancellation, despite the fact that other flights were being cancelled due to ongoing weather conditions.
- At 10:00 PM, five minutes before it was scheduled to depart, the flight was cancelled without explanation from United Airlines' airport staff. The only announcement made was to cancel the flight and to ask its passengers to wait in a line extending hundreds of feet (reportedly a 3-hour wait) for United Airlines Customer Service in order to be re-booked.
- No reason for the cancellation was ever officially announced by United Airlines staff, but it was reported by other passengers that it was due to having no flight crew available. Whether the flight cancellation occurred due to a lack of available crew or simply due to weather, communication about the status of the flight before it was cancelled should have occurred to allow passengers the possibility to look for alternate transportation and/or lodging. As a result of this flight cancellation, as well as the cancellation of other flights, passengers were forced to wait in customer service lines for hours late a night in order to be re-booked and many were forced to sleep on the floor of Dulles Airport in poor conditions due to no hotel room availability in the area. United Airlines' lack of communication regarding the cancelled flights at Dulles Airport on June 13, 2007 exacerbated the terrible circumstances faced by its customers that night.
- I was fortunate enough to rent a car before all available car rentals at Dulles Airport were sold-out. So, rather than sleep on the airport floor, I drove to Pittsburgh, incurring the cost of a rental car, a night in a hotel (80 miles away from Washington where hotels still had availability) and gas.
- My also wife missed an unpaid day of work as a result of this flight cancellation.

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