Two experiences w/ United Airlines this year. Two nights on airport floors.

United Airlines is supposedly trying to make a customer service comeback after years of hemorrhaging customers due to unreliable, poor service. But the only experience I’ve had with them is unreliable, poor service.

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I’ve only had two experiences with them this year, so I can’t speak with much authority, but both experiences included unexpected nights spent on airport floors.

I should start by saying I’m tired of the steady stream of complaints on Twitter from grumpy, entitled frequent fliers about every little gate change. No upgrades to first class available. In-flight Wifi not working. Gold flakes on cheesecake not shiny enough…

What I’m trying to say is: I realize these are ultimately petty issues, and this kind of stuff can happen when traveling. But still, I’ve never experienced with other airlines the two experiences I had with United this year.

Night #1 on airport floor: My girlfriend was flying United from Florida to visit me in San Francisco last summer. Her connecting flight in Denver was a close call, but she still should have been able to catch it. She made it to her connecting gate well before the scheduled departure, but sure enough the flight departed early and was gone. With several people in her same boat, it’s strange that United wouldn’t have been aware of the arriving flight with people needing to connect.

There were no hotel vouchers available, and the next flight departed the next morning. She got what sleep she could on the airport floor. A few days later, she had a severe and painful earache and fever. Related? No way to know, but I have no doubt her immune system would’ve been in better shape to fend that off without the restless night on the hard, germy floor.

Night #2 on airport floor: I chose to fly a redeye on United to Newark last week. The afternoon of the flight, United emailed me saying the flight had been canceled for aircraft maintenance.

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Because I had to pick up a rental car and three friends from the JFK airport at 8:30a, then drive to Philly and back that day, this rebooking would not work. The only other option was to leave that afternoon and get to Newark at midnight, so I chose that. If it were in my budget I would’ve paid for a hotel room, but luckily my flight back to San Francisco would be on American Airlines.

Upon getting to Newark, I politely asked one of the customer service specialists if a hotel voucher was possible. He said no, checked with his coworker, and said no again. They can’t provide a voucher if I’ve already arrived at my destination, even if it was their fault that I was there 8 hours early. They were out of blankets and pillows, but did provide me a care kit with a toothbrush, etc. Nice touch.

One positive: United’s social media team is responsive and personable, even though they apparently don’t have much power to help with things such as providing hotel vouchers. I tweeted them an explanation, and they further explained why they weren’t able to help me.

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Though I wasn’t able to get any sleep that night, I was treated to a $10 breakfast voucher from United, and a glorious sunrise behind the NYC skyline:

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I’d love to hear about your experience with United. Have they won your trust?

6 thoughts on “Two experiences w/ United Airlines this year. Two nights on airport floors.

  1. As the aforementioned girlfriend, I will do my best to never fly United again. They let my connecting flight go early, folks. I and about 15 others were left out in the cold- it was the last flight of the night, and they “had no hotels” due to an event going on in Denver. I had a neurobiology final exam scheduled online for the following morning, and could not take it in the airport. Because of this, I was in tears and was pretty much told “sorry, there is nothing we can do”. The service desk was quite unhelpful and my crewmates were positively outraged over the experience. I barely made it to California in time to take my final exam. Plus, the strep throat and a subsequent double ear infection I incurred put quite a damper on our time together.

    Not to sound jaded, but United Airlines has lost my sister’s luggage twice, on top of this; luggage containing thousands of dollars worth of clothes and equine equipment. Negative experiences all around.

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  2. I fly United about 75k to 100k miles a year. Even during the awful Smisek years. Their customer service is awful and I never expect anything from them, even as a platinum/1K flyer. They have lost my bags, they have cancelled flights and told me to “deal with it” and I have had to tell them how to reroute my flights since they couldn’t be bothered to figure out the best way to route it.
    But sadly, Newark is my main hub and I am stuck with them. When US Air was in Philly I could use them as a backup, but sadly not anymore.
    Though I am probably going to start flying more Southwest. Anyway, long story short, I am stuck with the awfulness that is United. Maybe I will just move to a different hub, that will be easier haha.

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