A United at the end of the tunnel?

luggagsseRepMan readers know all about my dysfunctional relationship with United Airlines. Some might liken it to the tensions that currently exist between Hamas and the Israeli government. Others see me as Barack Obama to the airline’s Vladimir Putin. Still others have said it reminds them of a latter-day, airline version of the Hatfields and the McCoys. Let’s just say it’s contentious to the max.

So, imagine my surprise and sheer delight when, after they crippled a recent climbing vacation of mine by losing a bag containing ALL of my equipment, United’s customer service team did the following:

- Stayed in constant touch with me on Twitter
- Alerted me as to my missing bag’s whereabouts (it was apparently still touring the various terminals at Newark Airport instead of being at my side in Austin, Texas).
- Suggested I buy replacement gear in Austin, and submit the receipt for reimbursement. Yeah, right.

Still, with the missing bag nowhere in sight and my climbing team heading towards Texas Hill Country, I had no choice but to buy some $562 worth of new equipment.

I did my climbing, forwarded United the receipts and, truth be told, forgot all about it.

So, imagine my surprise when the country’s worst airline sent a deeply apologetic letter (see attached) AND a check for $562.28. Talk about a partial thaw in the Cold War! Holy Checkpoint Charlie!

In her surprisingly well-written missive, Claims Analyst Shannon Walther said, ‘Your unpleasant experience was a disappointment for both you and us, but I can assure you that it was the exception, not the rule (Sure. And the Cubs will win the World Series in my lifetime). I hope you’ll choose to fly with us again to give us a chance to rebuild your trust in United.’

How sweet! My eyes actually welled up with tears.

While one check and a tear-jerker of a letter may not restore my trust in United, it did go a long way towards taking the sting out of my Austin misadventure.

As for flying again with United, I have no choice. They are pretty much the only airline of choice at Newark, the closest airport to my house.

I will say, though, that United has clearly gotten its social media and customer service acts together. Now, if they can only do the same with their pilots, flight attendants and baggage handlers, United just might lose it bottom-feeder position in ALL of the meaningful airline customer satisfaction surveys.

Until then, I’m sprinting to the nearest branch of Chase Manhattan to cash my check. Based upon my past decade of interaction with United’s unfriendly skies, I half expect the teller to sigh and say, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Cody, but there are insufficient funds in the United account to cash your check.”

3 thoughts on “A United at the end of the tunnel?

  1. When Steve told me he had gotten a check from them I go so excited, I jumped up and down, tripped on my computer cable, fell out my window and landed on one of those Park Avenue maple trees. AND, I want to add that the claim was filed less than a month ago.

  2. It’s a good story Steve. I wonder if your tweeting at them prompted such good service, or was it the luck of the draw regarding who was running the social response team that day? And of course, they lost your property so they should make up for it. (Had a similar experience on a cruise, they broke a wheel on a suitcase. Took a few trips to the service desk but we got a letter and approval to replace the bag; sent in the receipt and got the check.) That said, there’s this:

    “As for flying again with United, I have no choice. They are pretty much the only airline of choice at Newark, the closest airport to my house.” THAT is what I mean when I talk of being crisis, PR or marketing-proof. For many a consumer it doesn’t matter what offensive tweet is sent or questionable business alliance exists or even regularly spotty service. If you’re the only game in town or if you’ve got the better deal or have that super convenient corner location – odds are you’ll still get the business. FWIW.