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

15 comments:

Tony K said...

You should take them to small claims court, and serve notice to the ticket counter at the airport. The odds of someone from united actually up to small claims court is like 1%, which means you automatically win the case.

If they fail to show, the judge will rule in your favor for the full amount, and the max is $5000.

Good luck!

tim said...

I heard about your story on Consumerist. Hope things work out in your behalf; it sounds as if United Airlines has really behaved badly towards your family.

You may be interested in perusing United Airlines' "Code of Conduct."

I think it might be interesting if you anonymously called their "Business Conduct Office" to see if their Ethics Office thinks the way you were treated is ethical. Pretend you were involved as a lower level supervisor and you don't feel quite right about what you were forced to communicate. Record your conversation with Audiohijack Pro or something similar...

Here's the information for reaching them:

Business Conduct Office

The Business Conduct Office is also a resource for employees to obtain guidance or clarification in complying with our business conduct guidelines. The Business Conduct Office can be reached toll-free in the United States at 888-700-4244. Callers outside the United States should dial 847-700-4244. Employees may also mail questions or concerns to WHQOC - Business Conduct or send an e-mail to business-conduct-office@ual.com. You do not have to give your name, calls and letters may be made anonymously.

none said...

I'm with Tony K. Small claims court in California is stinking great. And United can't show up with a lawyer.

laila said...

I read about your story on BoingBoing and Consumerist and I hope that your parents get their refund soon. I had a horrible experience with United about 3 years ago and got a $50 voucher after their incompetance ruined a major family event. After their inability to solve the problem or refund me properly I decided to never fly United again. Best of luck and I am pleased as punch that you are getting such great exposure. Hundreds of thousands of people are reading about your story now.

Adam said...

If you paid with a credit card, just have them reverse the charges.

ARR said...

yeah why not just initiate a chargeback? that will get their attention.

zmanzero said...

god bless ya, with the attention this is getting your parents should be getting a refund back in a week. whoa, that was just plain wrong what ual did.

janepain said...

It's baffling to me that the admission of error on their part would not be followed up with a refund or even a credit for the amount your parents had to pay for UAL's mistake.

I'm sorry to hear your parents experienced this. I've sent this link on to others -- esp. my expat friends who fly home to the U.S. via United to encourage them to use a different airline.

Good luck!

Sassan Sanei said...

Essentially they are saying "You had a valid reservation, but Singapore Airlines couldn't locate it because we are having problems with the interface from our computer to their computer, so you had to buy a new ticket, but we won't refund you either the new ticket or the old ticket, even though it was because of a problem in our computer system"?

That's the most laughable defence I have ever heard, and not one that will stand up in any courtroom. Sue them. I'd wish you luck but you won't need it.

Randy said...

If you haven't already, go to Conde nast Traveler's ombudsman:

Ombudsman offers a free service of advice and mediation. Because of the volume of letters we receive, we cannot act in all cases. Write to Ombudsman at Condé Nast Traveler (4 Times Square, New York, N.Y. 10036) and include documentation and all photographs. Please note that we cannot respond to submissions sent via e-mail. Correspondence must be typed and must include a daytime telephone number. All submissions become the property of Condé Nast Traveler and will not be returned.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

I am involved in a similar situation with United. They put me on a Delta flight for the second leg of my trip when they cancelled the United flight. After flying the first leg on United, Delta said United didn't transfer authorization to them so I ended up paying $1400 for 2 1 way flights to my destination. I would have been stuck in Chicago otherwise. It's been 3 months and United will not make any reasonable restitution for this. I have not even been able to talk to a real person yet. The customer service interface is set up to frustrate the customer to the point of giving up. I would advise against disputing the charge with the credit card company. I did this and I got stuck with an additional $127 finance charge because I actually used the tickets I purchased. UNITED SUCKS!

Mahesh said...

Thank you for all the comments. It is very nice of everyone to be so supportive of this. I didnt realize that there was a setting for requiring a login to make a post. I turned this off today, so anybody should be able to post a reply now.

Mahesh said...

Steve,

I am so sorry to hear that you are going thru a very similar situation. There was a third person that had posted a similar situation as well, and another that had a similar situation with a different airline. I will try to compile these for reference. Thank you for making your post.

violinsolo said...

This is unbelievable! All airlines seem to follow the same code of misconduct when it comes to customer service. Somehow, their stupidity is never held accountable, and the passenger always pays. I hope your parents get their money back, and I hope this publicity goes all over the world.

I had a similar experience with Delta Airlines recently, and I blogged it here. I too got their $200 vouchers, which do not seem to count to much.