United Airlines customer service success story

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.

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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.

http://www.united.com/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.

Sincerely,

Sherri Hermance

United Airlines

Customer Relations

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.

Sincerely,

Sherri Hermance

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.

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9 thoughts on “United Airlines customer service success story

  1. gerald Brandenburg says:

    I recently was on a flight from Chicago to Richmond, VA. We were on a small plane and I was asked to leave my seat in the front to take a seat in the last row by the engine. For my inconvenience, I was given a card which instructs me to go to http://www.united.com/appreciation to select a token of appreciation. The problem is that all I can find are success stories from other people. Where is the list of possible selections? Where is the magic place to enter my serial number to receive my token of appreciation?

  2. merrill p. strange says:

    on united flight 933 from frankfort ,germany to dullus,va. on jan.22.my seat had no video screen and no sound. the flight attendant gave us pasta when we asked for chicken.that is not a real problem. the problem was his rude retort when we reminded him we asked for chicken. he gave me the apology card when i looked affronted. thanks for giving me the opportunity to vent. merrill p. strange

  3. Bill Ray says:

    I was traveling from Missoula to Denver Colorado on the 23rd of this month, Feb. I arrived at the airport at 6:16am. I attempted to check into the “kiosk” , as no one was at the counter, only to find out that “I missed my fight” I was forced to fly the next flight at 1:00 pm. I tried in vain to go through security but without a boarding pass it can’t be done. I just wanted to tell the “only” employee that I was there to check in. My flight left at 6:59 am. Normally plenty of time considering that there were maybe 150 people total at the airport including TSA , workers of the airport and other airline employees. Come to find out there was only one employee working the counter and then after checking everyone in, accept me of course, that one person had to go upstairs and work the check in for boarding. I was not an hour early but was there in plenty of time. If you have ever been to our small airports in Montana they are most accomadating and normally very easy to check in, not like the bigger cities. I missed my 6:59 am flight which, in my oppinion had plenty of time. If there was just one more person staying at the United counter I would not have had any problem. It’s probably only a couple of hundred yards, going through security,from the United airline counter to where you board and literally only a couple of hundred feet to the boarding counter from United ‘s counter. I look forward in United responding to this e-mail and helping with this issue. I am a United Mileage Plus member and go out of the norm and fly this airlines because of the great service I have had in the past. United has helped me with my 86 year old mother when she fly’s, United has helped when I have flown my children without an adult. I can’t begin to tell you how many accomodating and gracious people I have met that have been United Airline employees. I was just shocked that there was only one United employee “multi tasking” , as it was that day. I have flown this flight a number of times, be it myself , relatives, family or friends, it’s United Airlines I trust. I hope they will see fit to accomodate me for this last travel issue. It cost me an appointment which translated into a lost contract. That added up to about a 6.5 million dollar order. It’s tough in this economy and I appreciate that everyone is “cutting ” back and attribute the lack of help at the United Airline’s counter to these rough times. The gracious stewardess gave me this “Please Accept our Apology” card which number at the bottom is:

    WZ T640 W510 J100 7083

    I would be happy to offer my United Mileage Plus Member Number in a private e-mail, not for pulic “eye’s” to a United Representative and discuss this issue further. My flight number was UA6735, Date 2/23/10, Missoula to Denver. Thanks you for your time and consideration in this matter

  4. alice delucrezia says:

    on april 28,2010 i was book on flight ua7473 from wash/dulles departure time lO; l5pm …we boarded and approx 45 mim. later we were told to deplane because of mechanical problems…about a couple of hours later they got a second plane and that too had a problem but it was fixable and we started to leave and then waited at the end of the runway for about 20min. and did not arrive in rochester until approx.4;15 am. i left santa barbara ,ca. at 10;22 AM so it was a very long day for an 80 year old..i emailed united appreication and hope you can help with a discount on my next ticket in the fall…thank you

  5. diane zell says:

    I have never experienced such cold UA personal. These employees must be so disgusted with their jobs that they don’t even care they are transporting human beings. It’s not UPS! I was grounded from #253 on Tuesday night in Denver- tornado warnings. After sleeping on the concrete floor during the night I was beside myself- not knowing when I would get out of there and home to Seattle. Finally – a smiling, caring face- Karen Walker- this UA employee provided customer service- she took charge and gave us confidence we would get on a plane out of there and on our way home. She listened and then she took action. Is there a website where we can post names in locations to go around the folks who should find another field and not make the paying customer feel like a cardboard box. Thank you- KAREN WALKER- United Airlines- Denver. Diane Zell

  6. This comment should be transmitted to the UAL Manager, San Antonio, TX, Airport:
    I would like to compement Supervisor Robert Farga for his assistance to me yesterday, Oct. 31. I was scheduled out on Flt. 1624 to Houston with connection to Denver and Great Falls, MT but the flight was delayed for 1.5 hours, apparently leaving me with the option of departing 36 hours later as the first opportunity identified by a clerk. I requested a visit with a supervisor regarding somne question over lodging obligations. Mr. Fraga, obviously under the stress of many crew rest related delays responded as soon as possible, listened to the problem,and had the issue resolved to my benefit within 20-30 minutes, securing a rerouting that got me to Great Falls at my previously scheduled time – no minor feat i am sure. Mr. Fraga was attentive , cool, concise considerate and competent. Congratulations on your having such an excellent employee.
    Stuart A. Reynolds MD, FACS
    Havre, MT

  7. Eugene E. Gilbreath says:

    On flight#951 from Brussels to WashingtonD.C. on l2-14-11the TV monitor was not working correctly. The stewardess gave me a card and advised me to contact your office by email within 90 days. At which time an adjustment of $75. would be forwarded to me. The serial number at the bottom is: wz L2lj 504W l041 3111.Please advise me if additional information is necessary.

  8. JP says:

    UA 221 was delayed yesterday for more than 3 hours for some mechanical issues. I appreciate flight attendant frequently announcing apology and about appreciation website. I also received an email expressing apologies and token of appreciation, but this link never loads. Wasted three hours yesterday to mechanical failure and wasting time now on appreciation website not loading issue. This mechanical issue with UA has been a regular issue when I have travelled and even with my wife. Will it ever end.
    Passengers will appreciate and feel much better of the service if a token of appreciation is offered right in the aircraft than making announcements about the website that may be thousands are trying to use and is crashing. As little as free food on the aircraft is more appreciable that $250 e-certificate that you have to go claim isn’t it.

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