Hey United Airlines, Ever Hear of Damage Control?

Every now and then I like to see how a company is handling a crisis or complaints.  Often it’s something I hear about in the news or a blog, but today I can bring you something from personal experience:  the debacle that is United Airlines, flying me from Los Angeles to Michigan yesterday and this morning.

Never before have I seen a single company fail on every possible level.  They managed to screw up every stage of my travel, with the exception of the planes not exploding.  They still haven’t been able to deliver our luggage, which might or might not arrive tomorrow.

First the flight was delayed to the point of missing my connection flight… which required us to wait 11 hours for the next flight, which was at midnight… which we nearly missed because, after standing in line for the  2.5 hours it took for customer service to help a mere 15 people in line ahead of me, I learned we were somehow booked on a flight, yet we held boarding passes for it.  (Go figure that one out.)

Every United Airlines employee I interacted with completely let me down.  I’ve never seen such incompetence, indifference, and carelessness.  From the very first guy checking in our bags, who communicated in vague grunts and points, to the woman who rebooked our flights, while admitting she’s “not good with numbers”, thinking that a 50 seat plane, with 38 seats booked, left “something like 17 seats, right?”  Even asked the customer service specifically to make sure that our luggage was bound for the right airport.  She barely looked up at me or listened to me, but assured me that it was all right, and- surprise!- it wasn’t.

But I digress- I don’t want to vent (too much) on here.  While waiting, I played with Twitter on my phone, looking up the United Airlines hashtags and reading numerous furious posts from all sorts of people, including the band Foster the People.  It seemed that United Airlines was dropping the ball all over the place- Toronto, San Francisco, Colorado, etc, ruining flights right and left, but the company was doing nothing to stop it.  It seemed that they couldn’t care less that their customers were screaming for heads to roll; does this level of corporate apathy shock anybody else??

I spent most of today trying to make a complaint and to get some kind of compensation for the terrible experience that the airline inflicted on me.  I was repeatedly told that there was no live person contact to speak to, that I must file complaints or request compensation online.  And this attitude carried over to their Twitter account, where they didn’t seem to react or reply to any of the numerous complaints hurled at them across the Twitterverse.

Does this sound like a smart policy for ANY company?  Why would you create a policy mandating your customer service to NOT help a furious customer, where they might have the ability to defuse the situation, to repair the relationship, to build customer loyalty?  Instead, they ask that pissed-off customer to go write something up on the internet????

WTF?  Would you recommend this kind of behavior for ANY company?  I don’t know what sort of management is running United now, but I sincerely hope that they lose customers to any other airline that can show some care and concern and gratitude for their customers.

It wouldn’t have taken much to handle the situation better, but I’m still stunned that they went out of their way to screw everything up.  Dump your United stock now, friends.

Allright, enough venting on the soapbox.  I’ll have more interviews for you soon.

You can follow United Airlines on Twitter here,  but you may want to follow United Air Fail here, instead.

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  • Do you use social media in a unique way for your work, career, or industry? If so, would you like to be featured in one of our interviews? Email us and tell us what do you.

  • Become a follower of us on Twitter at: @Tweets4SmallBiz

  • For ours posts about topics in small business and entrepreneurship, follow our updates via RSS here

  • Comments (2)


  1. Colin Beveridge

    Sounds depressingly familiar. I wrote a song about United's failure to get me home several years back: http://kensson.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/united/ ...

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  2. Jason Shoup

    Damn- this is ridiculous. I'm never using their airlines again. I still can't believe the level of indifference …...

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