Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Much Nothing About Ado

I managed to get hold of the UAL rep today and this is what has happened. UAL is willing to refund the unused portion of the prorated amount for Singapore to Sri Lanka. But, to get that I have to send them my unused tickets. So, I wanted to find out how much that amount will be and she told me that she doesn't know that, and that she will forward it to the right people and that they will determine the amount that can be refunded.

She said that ultimately the tickets are expired, and there is nothing that can be done. That the tickets have been extended beyond the maximum 3 month period by a month. I told her that the issue was that they could have told us about those problems in multiple places, in San Diego, Omaha, and finally when my parents were to board at the airport in Omaha. Instead, UAL told me they changed the tickets, assured that the flights are confirmed all the way to Sri Lanka, told the same to my father in Omaha, and even allowed them to fly from Omaha to Los Angeles without any problems! Then she asked me what difference it would have made, that it would only have been more expensive if they caught the error in Omaha. I told her that if we had known about this then, we could have purchased round trip tickets for what UAL and Sri Lankan Airlines charged us for this one way trip. She said that the regular price they charge for a ticket from Omaha to Singapore is $962.60 and that by charging my parents only $500 per person service fee, they have actually saved us some $462 per person!

She asked me if I had contacted Sri Lankan Airlines, and I said I had not and that I will have to do that if UAL wouldn't work on my my behalf since UAL is the primary carrier. She said that when you purchase a ticket from an agent they issue other tickets under their tickets and UAL cannot be responsible about the other carrier. OK, fair enough. But the whole reason why my parents were forced to purchase new tickets was because of the errors UAL made in the first place.

The question that has remained unanswered to this day is "Why do my parents have to pay for UAL's mistakes?" It is human to make mistakes; we all do. However, UAL has yet to accept responsibility for the mistakes they have made. They have admitted problems with their computer systems, and have tried to put the blame on us by claiming that the ticket itself has been extended beyond the maximum allowed (again their error), and that what I thought I was issued in San Diego were not tickets, but itineraries with dates, gate numbers and flight numbers. Maybe so. I am not an expert in airline tickets, but when I request the tickets to be changed, I expect them to change the tickets, or to hear from them that it cannot be done. I would not expect them to give me itineraries with dates, gate numbers and flight numbers and tell me that the flights are confirmed all the way!

May be I have been too impatient to expect a solution this fast. After all, Untied has been collecting complaints since October 1998 and have compiled over 9500 complaints to date. Now, that is perseverance!

Since the beginning of this saga, I have always shown our good faith to UAL, gave them the benefit of the doubt and have given them ample opportunity to correct the wrong, only to have them come up with one excuse after another about their mistakes. As the latest gesture of our good faith, my parents will be flying UAL once again for their next trip back to the USA, scheduled for mid february. I have even given UAL a way out without loosing face. This is really a sad state of affairs. So I have come full circle, back to square one again.

The short version of this story can be read here and the complete story here

Don't forget to check out The Consumerist, a wonderful site for giving a voice to the consumer.

If anyone from Google or Blogger is reading this, can you please leave a comment about how to enable the Blog Archive tree to be expanded for all nodes? I would like to have the older archives visible, instead of having to click each node to expand. Thank you for the wonderful work you guys have done in making a great blogger. I haven't upgraded to the newest version because I didn't want to loose anything accidentally.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Weather forecast: partly cloudy with sunny skies expected.

I am sorry that I could not write for a short while. I have been busy catching up with the parts of life that I have neglected due to this.

UAL has called me last week for more questions and again late last friday evening and left a message that they are ready to make some amends. I am scheduled to be having a very busy day today, so I left a message for UAL to contact me on tuesday.

On a different front, I received this heart breaking e-mail about an innocent young boy who is fighting for his life. If UAL is willing, here is a wonderful opportunity for UAL to participate in something very special. I am even willing to give up what I was expecting of UAL if they choose to donate our money for this good cause. Yes, thats right, all $2860 of it. Here is the e-mail I received, and you can read his blog here.

From: "manjulawick"
Subject: Fw: Appreciate your help in saving a young life
Date:Mon, 22 Jan 2007 02:45:07 -0800
Dear Friends,

Piyumal Abeysinha Gunawardane, a 3rd year student at the University of Moratuwa, is suffering from a cancer in his tongue and throat area.
At the moment he is in a critical situation at the Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore and needs emergency surgery. Now he is undergoing chemotherapy prior to the surgery. Doctors have estimated a total cost of 6-6.5 million SL Rupees (US $ 60185 @ 108 SL Rs./US$). (Breakdown: for chemotherapy (2 million) and the surgery (4-4.5 million)).
Piyumal’s parents cannot afford this vast amount of money, his father being a retired stationmaster and mother being a teacher. All his four siblings are still studying.
Today (Jan. 21, 2007) we talked to Piyumal’s sister in Sri Lanka and she informed us that chemotherapy treatment is underway and surgery is yet to be performed for which they need the money most.
If you wish to donate through us, please respond to this email. We will send your contributions to Piyumal’s family;
Or else you can send your donations directly to the following account: 
Account No.: 1661497– Bank of Ceylon Bazaar Branch, Matara (current account)
Name: M.A. Gunawardane / S.Gunawardane (Joint Account)
Thanking you,
Yours sincerely,

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I had a draft here for Much Nothing About Ado, and when I published it was makred as posted on sunday instead of today, so I had to move it up by emptying this out and creating a new one.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Anonymous posts enabled.

I have now enabled anonymous posts. I was so busy with everything that I didn't have the time to explore how to turn on anonymous postings. The blog was set to use the PST, which I switched to the EST today.

I faxed the original tickets and the ones issued in San Diego to the UAL representative today after lunch.

I was reading the consumerist and ran across this article American Airlines Loves You Now, isnt this the what good customer service is all about?

Thank you everyone for all the help and support you have given me, not just on this blog, but everywhere. This is so draining, but all the kindness and the supportive comments and help I have had from people I have never met, makes it all worth while. I'll Keep on truckin, thanks to you.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Empire Strikes Back or The Groundhog Day?

So far, this is starting to look just like The Groundhog Day. A UAL representative had left a voice mail yesterday around 5:45 pm EST asking me to contact her today between 8:30 and 5.00 PM. I left her a message last night that I will contact her in the morning. Today I tried to call her around 9:40 EST, then again at 10:00 am EST, and left a message asking her to call back at her convinience as I couldnt get hold of her. She called me back around noon, and said that they have started an investigation into the matter and that she needs to ask me some questions. She asked me if I had the new tickets and I told her that she can get it from my blog and that I didnt have anything with me at the moment. She asked for the url and I gave her the url and appologized for the name I had chosen; told her that it was out of my frustration at the time. She wants me to fax her those tickets, because she was having trouble locating it on the blog. I told her that I will have them faxed over to her tomorrow as it takes me about an hour to get home and back. I will fax those to her tomorrow. She seemed a bit confused at first as to how I had the new tickets, and I felt confused as to her line of questioning. I told her that they were the unused new tickets issued from San Diego and Omaha, and that my father had mailed them to me after they went to Sri Lanka since UAL didnt honor those tickets.

After more questioning, she asked me if I had paid a fee for changing the tickets, and I told her that I had not, and that I would have gladly paid a fee if they had requested. Then she mentioned to me that the tickets my parents had purchased could only be changed on medical grounds for 3 months and that my parents tickets were extended one month beyond that.

No one had mentioned anything about this either to me at the San Diego Airport or to my father at the Omaha Airport at any time. This had not been mentioned in the 2 letters I received from UAL either.

This left me pondering these questions for myself; Why then did UAL issue new tickets in San Diego and later corrected the issue with the 2 reservations in Omaha, instead of telling us that it would not be possible due to the reason that was given today? Should'nt UAL have told us about these at that time? Would not my parents be in a better situation if UAL had told us that information before they started the journey, instead of telling us that the tickets have not been approved, authorized and authenticated partway during the journey? Why was UAL was telling them that their tickets were confirmed all the way to Colombo, Sri Lanka, giving us a false sense of security, only to become victims at the most unexpected way? If UAL had declined to issue those tickets when the request was made, we could have easily bought 2 round trip tickets for the price they had to pay for that one way ticket from LAX to Sri Lanka.

Whichever way you look at it, promises were made, tickets were issued, fixes were made, confirmed, reconfirmed, only to catch them with an unpleasent surprise partway during the journey, at the most unexpected point.

Monday, January 8, 2007

UAL agrees to correct the wrong.

Thanks to a tip by The Consumerist, I was able to open a channel of communication with the UAL's Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, who has made an appology and has promply agreed to resolve this matter. I have accepted his appology and await the completion of this saga. I will keep you posted as to how things pan out.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

All the letters, tickets and receipts uploaded

Dear readers, please note that I am in no way suggesting that you boycott or not fly UAL due to the issues that I am facing with them. The purpose of this blog has always been to document my frustrations in dealing with UAL Customer Service, and for communicating with others facing/having faced similar situations. I have flown UAL in the past, and would gladly fly again if needs to be.

As of today, I have uploaded all the letters I have exchanged with UAL and they can be viewed at My Communication with UAL (aka How to break both legs!)

You can view the re-scheduled tickets issued by UAL and receipts for new tickets my parents had to purchase at the airport by clicking the links next to the letters.

I havent heard from UAL as of yet... they seems to have received the letter I sent on the 2nd of January, so that gives them till the 22nd of January to respond (15 biz days).

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Thank you everyone

Several news sites, including BoingBoing and digg has picked up the story, as well as The Consumerist, a wonderful site for empowering the consumer.

Thanks to everyone that took the time read my blog and special thanks to all those that gave me constructive advice and worked hard to spread the word.

United Airlines, if you are reading this, please understand that I am not working hard to get some one fired. I dont want a letter telling me that you have fired a poor innocent pawn. All I am asking for is refunding what you have wrongly taken from my parents. I must also request that you change your policies, so that some one else wont have to go thru with this same scenario in the future. As can be evidenced from the comments, there are others who have been victims of your policies. In the future, please learn to act as an honorable company.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Shame on UAL (Short Version)

My parents, weary from having undergone surgery, needed to change their travel plans on medical grounds. As the primary carrier, UAL agreed to change the travel plans for both the UAL and Sri Lankan Airlines (a code share partner of UAL and a memeber of The Star Alliance). They were to fly from Omaha, NE to Colombo, Sri Lanka, starting on the 30th of July 2006. Everthing went fine with the first leg of the flight from Omaha to Los Angeles, but when they went to check in for the flight from Los Angeles to Singapore, UAL refused to honor their tickets, claiming that the tickets have not been approved, authorized and authenticated. My father had argued with them that UAL did not have a problem with the first leg of the flight and how the tickets had magically become invalid. Without recourse and being in the middle of their journey, they were forced to purchase new tickets at a cost of $1000 to fly to Singapore. UAL's code share partner, Srilankan Airlines did the same in Singapore, claiming that new tickets have to be purchased at a cost of US $1860 for them to complete the last leg of the journey. The total cost for the flight was $2860 for both of them, which is the price of 2 round trip tickets. Since the middle of October 2006, I have written 3 letters to UAL, requesting them to do the right thing, which is to either refund the money or to give them 2 new round trip tickets. UAL has refused to do either, instead sending us 2 coupons, valued at $300 each. The last letter I received mentioned that they have re-visited my concerns but, the UAL policy dosent permit them to respond with the "genorosity" that I had anticipated, and that they had forwarded my "valuable" feedback to the "appropriate management team." I patiently waited for a response from the "appropriate managment team" for well over a month, wihout a response. I started this blog to tell my story to the rest of the world, so that others can see how serious UAL is about their customer service.

The complete version of this story can read here