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I already knew about this story. My wife met one of the family members. My wife was in line to complain about our family being split up after our first flight. My wife, 7 year old and 4 year old were bumped off our connecting flight because it was oversold. So, they had to find another city to fly into. We took the overnight from LAX to Dulles. After arriving in DC, we discovered they had been bumped. My one year old and I were confirmed but they were out of luck. They split up a family in the middle of the trip. Someone please contact me at 310-291-4485 if they can help get anyone from United to call me back. Dave Nash


This goes back a few years, but I'm sad to hear that nothing has changed-attitude-wise at United. I arrived at Rome airport with my pre-printed itinerary (seat assignment included). I was told they didn't have my reservation. After much cajoling, they checked further and said "We have you reserved from Dulles to San Francisco."

"Uh...but I'm in Rome"

"Sorry there's nothing we can do"

I went to Lufthansa, a Star Alliance partner, and they jumped thru hoops to get me rebooked, in Biz Class (as I was reserved on UAL). I had to pay a $275 booking fee (after all, it wasn't their original ticket), and they said that United should reimburse me the fee.

Long story shorter, I got a $75 voucher, that had many limitations on it. After many eMails and conversations, I wrote letters to the top 4 executives at United in Illinois. NEVER RECEIVED EVEN ONE SHORT RESPONSE ACKNOWLEDGING MY LETTERS.

As with some others, I was a long-term, frequent flyer with United (PanAm was much better...what a shame). After using up my FF miles, I haven't flown United since...even when it would have been more convenient. American Airlines isn't perfect, but there seems to be a better attitude on the part of their people.

Fontaine Fleetline

This lack of customer service incident is a perfect example of the reasons that United Airlines has this complaint website about it:

They are the worst. I just wrote about how they (and Jet Blue) ruined a group getaway to Quebec - and couldn't care less. And to your point in the last paragraph, see the difference in treatment between United and Jet Blue (who incidentally issued $75 credit).

Steve Kartchner

Compare this with an incident that happened at LAX and how South West delt with it: A father was running late and had to catch a flight to be with his daughter who was going to have to turn off life support for his young (8-10) grand child. He needed to be there to support his daughter in a very trying moment in her life. He explained the situation and asked to be let to the front of the line. TSA derided him saying "Dying grand child that's a new one on me. Get back to the end of the line". It was obvious that this man was very up set and some of the others passengers at the front of the line saw what happened and passed the info on. Once he was finally through security his flight was supposed to have taken off 10 minutes or so before. He was sure he had missed his flight but ran to his gate anyway. To his surprise the plane was still there and the South West employees were calling his name. He was asked if he was "can't remember his name" and he said yes. The man said "your flight is on that plane and that plane is not going anywhere without me. I'm the pilot, and I'm not going anywhere without you. Relax, I'll get you to where you need to be."

Common humanity of those at the front of the line and a Captain that took it upon himself to delay the plane.

The reason companies have bad service is the work environment is such that employees are afraid to take anything upon themselves for fear of some repercussion. "Everything by the book". CYA. Thus the lady was more than happy to help out as a understanding mother but paralyzed to in-action as an employee of the airline.


If you want really fast customer no-service from United, make sure to talk about your experience on twitter. They're @united. They keep a close watch on it because it's too visible and hard to control if it gets out of hand.


I agree with the horribleness of the above article, and can't even imagine if it was someone with a medical or other disability that had been lost! But I do not agree with the author saying things would have been better if it were Virgin America. They lost my luggage for 45 days and refused to pay me for it for a long time, since they said it has to be lost for more than 45 days (convenient timing?) to be considered lost. They returned my stuff covered in mold and some of it unusable (told me it had somehow gotten left on the tarmac out in the rain and then stored somewhere for the next month). Many, many hours were spent writing letters and trying to reach humans on the phone, whose responses were things like, "Why did you check any luggae? I never check my stuff." There were worse things dfuring the whole experience, but it would take a book to write it. Bleh.


I don't wish to defend United at all, but I do wish to suggest that we (the flying public) are part of the reason that their employees are so disengaged. I regularly see passengers yelling and screaming at United employees when a flight is delayed, as if that employee can change anything. I've seen horrible abuse meted out when an unexpected overnight stay has been required, even as the employees were staying longer than they were getting paid for to process hotel vouchers.

If we collectively treat United employees horribly and dehumanize them when they can't do anything, we can hardly expect them to suddenly be human when they can.

In short, the system gives them little to no options and management bears responsibility for that. However, it's partly our horrible behavior that explains why United employees don't leverage even the little power they do have.


it seems the only thing worse than United breaking guitars is losing kids...


This is a horrible story. I know how they feel Delta Airline lost my 12 year old son and did nothing about it. He called home thank goodness and we got him on the flight home. We had paid for him to be escorted also but he was not and we were never refunded our money. We just came back from Alaska on United an 8 hour flight time took us 30 hours to get home. Through no fault of our own, due to their mechanical issues on a flight out of Anchorage it delayed us by 4 hours then missed our connecting flight in Houston and then they had overbooked all the flights out of Houston. The United employees were rude one even rolled his eyes at me. Even After talking to 3 employees at United Houston's terminal with no results and 4 United employees on the phone which most had a very thick accent and very hard to understand in a noisy airport, I asked for a supervisor. She then put me on hold I really don't know how long I was on hold but then came back and said the supervisor was busy but we would be on the 4:18 flight if we didn't make the 2:00pm flight we were on standby for. I went back to customer service to get my boarding passes and they didn't even have us on that flight, matter of fact, they couldn't find my husband at all and put me on the 7:50 flight which we both were suppose to be on and had boarding passes. We finally made it home at 11:10pm some 30 hours later. The only employee that helped us had worked for Continental 25 years and did get us a refund but still nothing from the airlines themselves. I had filed a complaint on the website but have heard nothing to this date. That was the first and last time I will fly United.


Was it at Midway or O'Hare?

I used to fly as a UM a lot at a child to visit family. The only time I almost missed a transfer was at O'Hare. The woman who was supposed to take me to my next flight spent 30 minutes talking to her coworker at the gate I had arrived at. She finally decided to take me over to my gate about 10 minutes before my flight was supposed to leave - from a different terminal. We had to sprint the whole way. The plane was already backing away from the gate, and they had to pull back in to let me on.


This story is ghastly. If all airlines had the same corporate culture as WestJet, you'd never hear a story like this one. That's because WestJet is owned by its employees - they don't just work there, they're stakeholders in the company's success. I never fly with another airline if WestJet has a flight to wherever I'm headed.


I retweeted this in the hopes that public pressure will spur United to action. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as the adage goes.

Incompetence Compounded by Indifference: How United Airlines Lost 10 Yr Old Girl & Her Luggage on Flight. #noloc

Melissa Herrett

Bob - Thank you for sharing this story. It's an appalling situation, but a great example of how disengagement in the workplace can lead to awful customer service. We are posting this on Twitter and other social media outlets, as it provides a great leasson for engaging employees.


Since the acquisition of Continental, I have been exposed to the obvious employee attitude of United airlines. I have been told face to face, they are the largest in America and they don't need me as a customer. I have been a Platinum member of the Continental system but now have the very minimum of mileage with United. I will take virtually any alternative and 99% is due to the employees in Dulles, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. The professional travelers I have talkedtoahve similar impressions, so it's not only family unfriendly.


I've noticed for about two years that United has become explicitly hostile to families and children. Just about every airline I fly allows families with small children to board first -- still today. But when I tried to board early with my eight-month-old on United, the flight attendant informed me, in a snide voice, that "children are a blessing, not an disability. Only the disabled get to preboard." Then I flashed my Star Alliance Gold card and only THEN it was okay to preboard. And yes, the first class/frequent flier passengers boarding in the line around me were all PO'ed at her tone, too, and told me (and her) so.

United and children don't mix -- I'm convinced it's an institutional policy there.


Interesting that JetBlue gets mentioned a few times for good behavior - I had a very similar situation with JetBlue and my niece, who was 10 years old and traveling as an unaccompanied minor at the time.

JetBlue didn't actually lose her, but they did somehow manage to strand her at JFK airport due to a flight delay, without informing either me or her mother that she would be arriving much later than expected. (This was despite the fact that I was required to wait at the airport until her flight left.) My sister ended up spending 6 hours at the airport waiting for her daughter, and only found out what was going on when another kid on the flight used his cell phone to call his father, who was at the airport waiting just like my sister.

Other questionable actions occurred (not letting my niece go to the bathroom, not providing any food or drink to the kids who were stranded at the airport for hours, etc.), and the ultimate outcome was that my sister got a very pro-forma apology and a voucher for JetBlue, which it turned out later was essentially useless due to the "regulations" on how she could use it.

So, in my experience, JetBlue is no better than any other large, faceless corporation where responsibility can be passed along from one nameless drone to the next.


I used to fly 150k miles a year with United but no longer. Their merger has made the company value in whole decline. The new rules and the attitudes of the staff there is horrible. The last of many incidents I came in for a connection into LAX and the crew refused to fly me to my connection (3 hours by car) seven hours later they where able to locate a pilot. We were suppose to arrive at 5pm we showed up 15 mins until 2am. Bags have been lost and many other issues. Sad, the company was great for so many years now it has become an example of how not to do business.


Good grief, this is becoming a trend. United lost my brother and cousin in LA one time. They were older at the time at 14 and 13, but still very young. The family was making our way out Hawaii with a stopover in LA. The flight from Dallas was delayed somewhat so we all had to hurry. Our whole party boarded the plane, but the flight attendants actually kicked my brother and cousin off the plane because they didn't want to make some of the standby passengers disembark.

Didn't even bother to tell any of us about it so we could wait with them. My brother didn't have anything with him; not his luggage, backpack, or wallet (I believe). Same for my cousin. They ended up having to wait overnight for the next flight. No apology, no recourse.

Paul Cone

United CEO Jeff Smisek is a weasel. Hopefully a story like this will rock United some more, because they don't seem to learn.

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