It’s 10:30 pm Eastern and I’m trying to force myself to stay awake until at least 11-11:30 pm to reset my body clock. It’s been a whirlwind week. While I’m trying to stay awake a little longer, here’s a story of how United Airlines did something very right.
My trip home from Dreamforce was a bit of an adventure. It started raining just as I left the Moscone Center on Friday morning. The cab driver to the airport warned me to expect flight delays due to the rain and he was right. My 3:02 pm departure on United 186 to Philadelphia became 3:40 pm. Then 4:18 pm. Most flights were delayed due to the weather.
The far right column on each screen is the status. Yellow flights are delayed.
Instead of getting in to Philadelphia at 11:35 pm, we were now due to land a little after midnight.
The plane came in from wherever it was coming from and the gate attendant announced that after standard maintenance checks we’d be ready to board.
A few minutes later, he came back and announced that something was wrong with the plane and we’d have to wait for a new one. It’s about 4:30 pm now. New departure time: 6:40 pm. Arrival in Philadelphia: 2:51 am.
Was I thrilled? No, especially since we were going to an event in Maryland on Saturday morning. But was I freaking out? Not at all. I’ve certainly had worse experiences at the airport with my “condoms are not refundable” experience in 2006 on Delta quickly coming to mind. I was relieved that they found whatever was wrong with the plane while it was on the ground and not when it was 30,000 feet in the air. I killed the time by grabbing some dinner and chatting with a fellow nonprofit Salesforce friend who was waiting for another flight. While other passengers would have of course preferred to be on their way to Philadelphia, no one seemed overly angry or upset.
The flight left at 6:40 pm as promised and was pleasant enough.
This email was waiting for me when we landed at 2:40 am. I read it before I even got off the plane:
On behalf of all of us here at United, I want to express my sincere apologies for the experience you had on Flight 186 on November 20, 2009.
At United, we take pride in being a reliable part of your travel plans. Your satisfaction and business mean a great deal to me, I would like to invite you to visit the following website to select a token of our appreciation.
Please have your flight information handy when you visit the site. Family members who traveled together using the same email address should access the site individually.
Thank you for your time. Your satisfaction is important to us and we look forward to serving you better in the near future.
I followed the instructions, entered my information, and was presented with a choice of one of the following:
- $250 e-certificate to use towards a future domestic flight within the next year
- 20% off a future domestic or international flight within the next year
- 10,000 points
I opted for the $250 certificate, which if all goes according to plan I hope to use for NTEN NTC in April.
After I submitted my preference, this letter appeared:
Dear Mrs Judith Sohn,
On behalf of United Airlines, please accept my apologies for the inconvenience you experienced on Flight 186 to Philadelphia.
I was made aware of the delay of your flight from San Francisco, on November 20th, because a mechanical issue prompted us to arrange a different aircraft.
Regardless of the reason, I understand how frustrating and upsetting it can be to have your travel plans suddenly altered. I know that in choosing air travel you do so with personal commitments in mind, and I am truly sorry if we did not provide the timely level of service that you expect or deserve from United. All of us at United want to thank you for your patience and cooperation as we made preparations to get you safely on your way.
While I can not replace the time lost while waiting, I am pleased to offer you this goodwill gesture. We value your business and welcome an early opportunity to better serve your travel needs in the near future.
United Airlines Customer Relations
Not fun to get home in the middle of the night, but hey…my baggage came off the carousel quickly and there was no traffic leaving the airport. Anyone who has traveled through PHL knows the miracle that is. It was only about 3 hours lost when all was said and done. I’ve had worse. And it’s not like folks had connections to worry about, given that the flight was originally due in at 11:35 pm.
I didn’t complain. I didn’t threaten to take my business elsewhere. Yet United recognized that I was inconvenienced and proactively and quickly apologized and offered compensation that I gratefully accepted but never demanded.
I guess we live in an age that we expect travel to suck so we’re not overly disappointed when it lives up to expectations. It’s nice to be surprised in a good way for a change.