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Racism Remarks and Poor Customer Service

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
21,047
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@Neil Maley I've already indicated that it was a basic ticket. It did not say basic when I purchased it on Expedia. Anyhow, the good thing is the traveler has made it to his destination.
That’s why he had to pay for the bag. If the carry on doesn’t fit under the seat- it has to be paid for, so it appears he isn’t owed a refund of the bag fees and he will be charged again when he returns. Whoever purchased his ticket did not understand the restrictions of the ticket.

In addition, if he needed some assistance because he doesn’t speak English well, whoever booked his ticket needed to contact the special assistance department at United and note that so he could have received assistance at the airport.

None of us work for the airlines- we are all volunteers here and are explaining why he was charged the bag fees. Please refrain from insulting those assisting or we will have to close the thread .

If you feel he was discriminated against, you should write to United using our company contacts or contact a Civil Rights Attorney.
 
Jan 12, 2020
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The PDX UA employee that treated us like an animal should not be working at a place where he has to deal with all sorts of people. He made a racist comment and purposely messed up my uncle’s travel because he didn’t want to do his job for different people. I told this staff, this is my uncle’s first time traveling alone, because I wanted to ensure everything would be okay, but instead, he made it difficult for someone who speaks little English.

!
What was the 'racist comment'? And how did he 'purposely mess up your uncle's travel'?
Yes, someone did not provide the level of service you expected. I highly doubt, however, that the purpose or comments were racist.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Dec 27, 2014
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@Neil Maley I've already indicated that it was a basic ticket. It did not say basic when I purchased it on Expedia. Anyhow, the good thing is the traveler has made it to his destination.
I just did a mock booking on Expedia-it gives you a choice of the type of ticket you want to buy.

It seems that this was simply an error in choosing a fare you might not have understood, even though it says no carry on.

Is your Uncle going to be returning to SFO on the same ticket? If so, please call and ask United to add to the booking that he needs assistance as English is not his first language. If it’s not on the ticket, it isn’t known. You can’t assume because the people at the desk saw you interpreting that they are going to relay that information on- it needs to be on the actual ticket, just as the need for a wheelchair. Did you know that passengers with wheelchair assistance indicated on there ticket get preference over people that just show up and want one?

You can request assistance of someone who speaks his native language to escort him to the gate but you must call the special assistance department and add it to his ticket.

Hope this helps in the future or if he has to return home. I hope he is enjoying beautiful Kona.
 

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Feb 8, 2018
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@California thank you. I honestly think that when you're working with all kinds of people, it is essential to ensure that you don't use any words that can offend them. Just because we look like Hispanics, it does not mean he can call us amigos. We're not friends, we're customers!
How am I going to know what offends or doesn't offend someone. People need to grow thicker skin. Was the employee too casual...maybe...but casual isn't racist.
 

VoR61

Jan 6, 2015
3,430
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the United States
I wanted to offer my thoughts about your experience, but waited for them to emerge clearly. I now think that I am ready.

First, I wish to acknowledge the discomfort you and your uncle felt at PDX and later him at SFO. Even for seasoned travelers, the unexpected can be a challenge. But for a first time traveler, the stress level is already high, and goes even higher when changes occur. Add to that the LEP (Limited English Proficiency), plus a long delay at the airport and there exists a recipe for trouble. I support your claim that United could have done better.

I also understand that travel is more stressful than ever. Security is very tight, and airport/airline/cruiseline employees are often in high-stress jobs. They cannot wait until later to deal with most issues, and are required to face a wide variety of personalities who are often less-than-polite (not attributing this to you). They are going to miss things, including decorum at times.

So my advice to you, which I also try to follow, is to respond to changes and people with grace, even and especially when they do not. In my case, every time I have responded unfavorably that action has carried over into the remainder of the trip. Since I travel for leisure/pleasure, it becomes self-defeating. Regarding mistreatment, I can generally deal with that post-trip. As it relates to this trip, my recommendation for you is to learn from this and then allow the events to pass. It may or not be an instance of racial profiling, but I do not think a request for compensation will be fruitful.

One practical action that comes to mind for future travels (your uncle) would be to print cards (4x5) that say something like this:
Please note that I am an inexperienced traveler with Limited English Proficiency. My primary language is XXXXXXXXXXX​
Any extra assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated. My name is YYYYYYYYYYYYYYY​
These could be handed out at each touch point so at least the provider understands his limitations up front and might then be better inclined to help . . .
 
Last edited:

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
1,590
2,899
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I wanted to offer my thoughts about your experience, but waited for them to emerge clearly. I now think that I am ready.

First, I wish to acknowledge the discomfort you and your uncle felt at PDX and later him at SFO. Even for seasoned travelers, the unexpected can be a challenge. But for a first time traveler, the stress level is already high, and goes even higher when changes occur. Add to that the LEP (Limited English Proficiency), plus a long delay at the airport and there exists a recipe for trouble. I support your claim that United could have done better.

I also understand that travel is more stressful than ever. Security is very tight, and airport/airline/cruiseline employees are often in high-stress jobs. They cannot wait until later to deal with most issues, and are required to face a wide variety of personalities who are often less-than-polite (not attributing this to you). They are going to miss things, including decorum at times.

So my advice to you, which I also try to follow, is to respond to changes and people with grace, even and especially when they do not. In my case, every time I have responded unfavorably that action has carried over into the remainder of the trip. Since I travel for leisure/pleasure, it becomes self-defeating. Regarding mistreatment. I can generally deal with that post-trip. As it relates to this trip, my recommendation for you is to learn from this and then allow the events to pass. It may or not be an instance of racial profiling, but I do not think a request for compensation will be fruitful.

One practical action that comes to mind for future travels (your uncle) would be to print cards (4x5) that say something like this:
Please note that I am an inexperienced traveler with Limited English Proficiency. My primary language is XXXXXXXXXXX​
Any extra assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated. My name is YYYYYYYYYYYYYYY​
These could be handed out at each touch point so at least the provider understands his limitations up front and might then be better inclined to help . . .
@VoR61 Really great post......this can be helpful to all of us in the future.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
21,047
20,864
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
I wanted to offer my thoughts about your experience, but waited for them to emerge clearly. I now think that I am ready.

First, I wish to acknowledge the discomfort you and your uncle felt at PDX and later him at SFO. Even for seasoned travelers, the unexpected can be a challenge. But for a first time traveler, the stress level is already high, and goes even higher when changes occur. Add to that the LEP (Limited English Proficiency), plus a long delay at the airport and there exists a recipe for trouble. I support your claim that United could have done better.

I also understand that travel is more stressful than ever. Security is very tight, and airport/airline/cruiseline employees are often in high-stress jobs. They cannot wait until later to deal with most issues, and are required to face a wide variety of personalities who are often less-than-polite (not attributing this to you). They are going to miss things, including decorum at times.

So my advice to you, which I also try to follow, is to respond to changes and people with grace, even and especially when they do not. In my case, every time I have responded unfavorably that action has carried over into the remainder of the trip. Since I travel for leisure/pleasure, it becomes self-defeating. Regarding mistreatment, I can generally deal with that post-trip. As it relates to this trip, my recommendation for you is to learn from this and then allow the events to pass. It may or not be an instance of racial profiling, but I do not think a request for compensation will be fruitful.

One practical action that comes to mind for future travels (your uncle) would be to print cards (4x5) that say something like this:
Please note that I am an inexperienced traveler with Limited English Proficiency. My primary language is XXXXXXXXXXX​
Any extra assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated. My name is YYYYYYYYYYYYYYY​
These could be handed out at each touch point so at least the provider understands his limitations up front and might then be better inclined to help . . .
I wish I could love this post. The card idea is outstanding.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
9,026
9,697
113
San Francisco
I agree that using the word lacked professionalism. It seems that the level of professional behavior is slipping in recent years. Flying these days is, unfortunately, not what it used to be. Basics like please and thank you even seem foreign to many employees.
I will take friendliness and humor from anyone rather than face the sullen "I couldn't care less" demeanor that we often encounter. Sophisticated, frequent travellers are often very glad to encounter friendly faces at airports and hotels. I'm truly sorry that you're offended and I hope that some day nobody will ever get upset by such a innocuous use of the word "friend".

If you want to make a concise list of the facts of your case in chronological order, perhaps we can see what the problem is. Leave out all emotion and judgement, just tell us exactly what happened. If United owes you or your uncle any compensation, we'll tell you how to obtain it.
 
May 30, 2019
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The other distinction not mentioned here is ... why was there a delay that led to missing a connection in SFO? If it was weather-related, the UA did everything appropriate to accommodate the passenger. (In fact, the proactive rebooking is a step up compared to UA 2 years ago.) If it was due to mechanical issues or something that UA could have controlled, the OP's relative should have received at least a meal voucher.
 
May 30, 2019
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@Skippy I was not with him on his journey to Kona, Hawaii, I only helped him check in from PDX. His flight from PDX to SFO was delayed and he would have missed his flight to Kona when he arrived at SFO. United Airlines did not provide anything, no room, no food voucher, the only thing the ticket agent did was change his ticket and booked him on the 8:30am (next day) flight from SFO. He spent nearly 14 hours in SFO, he needed to be in KOA for a family function.

I didn't need to ask for language assistance for my uncle. The staff that was working with us saw me helping and interpreting for him during the whole process when he was checking in. The UA staff knew the traveler was a LEP.
Um ... It appears to me that you *did* need to ask for language assistance. It should have been added to the reservation to ensure that he had adequate support throughout the journey. The UA staff @ PDX may have knew the traveler was an LEP from watching you, but that doesn't mean that the gate staff @ PDX would know that, or the staff @ SFO.
 
Nov 22, 2019
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I think the topic should be closed now, I read it after a long day and this is making me very unconfortable.

The issue has been found: one "long connection" is not a " real connection", so the bag should be re-check: there was no racially motivated reasons to get more money from the uncle or disturb his trip on purpose. For sure, UA should have offered one flight PDX-SFO the next day (if possible) instead of this complicated trip, or give more information about the bag.

I have the feeling that LALE96960 spend much more time to convince others that the UA employee was racist, ruined the trip on purpose, and that the usage of amigo is an insult, rather than trying to find the cause of the issue to solve it. If the UA employee was hispanic (most probably since he used amigo) and you don't like hispanic people or don't like to hear words from other language, he doesn't make him a racist but you... This employee did probably his best to rebook a flight, he should not be punished because he used amigo. Even as a paid customer, it is common in USA to be friendly with customers, compared to Europe which is much more formal.

Treating people like animal due to their race exists sometimes, like recently the TSA employee who played with the hair of a native american girl. This is racist.
 
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Aug 29, 2018
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Um ... It appears to me that you *did* need to ask for language assistance. It should have been added to the reservation to ensure that he had adequate support throughout the journey. The UA staff @ PDX may have knew the traveler was an LEP from watching you, but that doesn't mean that the gate staff @ PDX would know that, or the staff @ SFO.
If the first flight hadn't been delayed, would assistance have been necessary?
 
May 30, 2019
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If the first flight hadn't been delayed, would assistance have been necessary?
Yes ... for boarding at both ariports; getting around SFO; explanation of luggage policies; etc. The OP was with the pax only outside of Security @ PDX. Based on my reading, it appears to me that the OP was on the phone or using a video app like FaceTime at SFO, but that can't fully substitute for physically being with the pax.

Having helped infrequently-traveling friends and those with LEP relatives, I advised them to contact the airline prior to the flight and have ask that LEP be noted. Noting that, I like @VoR61's suggestion in Post #46 and would also suggest that to the same friends in the future -- because airline employees don't always have the opportunity or interest in reviewing customer records.
 
Feb 3, 2019
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If the UA employee was hispanic (most probably since he used amigo) and you don't like hispanic people or don't like to hear words from other language, he doesn't make him a racist but you...
I think we all need to stop telling OP the United employee wasn't being racist. None of us was there. Perhaps the employee meant no malice; perhaps the employee didn't even consider the use of "amigos" to be in any way inappropriate. I don't see where the OP has revealed their racial, ethnic, national, or cultural background, other than Uncle speaks limited English and the agent heard them speaking in a different language, so it's hard for us to understand OP's reaction, but saying OP is wrong for taking offense is neither helpful nor constructive. If everything else had gone smoothly, perhaps the OP wouldn't have been irked by it in the least. But it's clear OP did not appreciate the comment, for whatever reason.

Nevertheless. In the absence of supporting details to the contrary from OP, that seems to be a completely separate issue from Uncle's travails on his actual journey. Unless OP is suggesting United deliberately treated Uncle differently - and worse - than other passengers similarly situated, I don't see how even the perceived racially insensitive comment factors into his overall unpleasant experience.
 
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Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
21,047
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www.promalvacations.com
You are right - there are two separate issues here and we have advised the OP that for the racism claim he needs to go to United or contact an attorney. This is a serious allegation and beyond what we can advise here.

The ticket and the Uncle's struggles in the airport are due to the type of ticket purchased that didn't allow for a carry on that didn't fit under the seat and not having an special requests on the booking for an interpreter. I am concerned the Uncle is going to have the same problem coming back home. He either needs to get a carry on that fits under the seat unless he wants to be charged again for the bag, and the special assistance department at United needs to be called and add that an interpreter is needed to help him in the airport. Or use VoR's excellent advise about the index cards asking for assistance. We can't help what happened on the way out but perhaps we can help make it easier and more pleasant when he returns home.
 
Feb 3, 2019
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I, for one, had no idea how restrictive United's Basic Economy carry-on allowance is, so if OP didn't realize they had a Basic ticket (as stated), I can absolutely understand the confusion as to why they had to pay th $30 in the first place.

This is apparently one area in which the usual whipping-boy legacy carrier, American, actually is relatively generous!
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
21,047
20,864
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
I, for one, had no idea how restrictive United's Basic Economy carry-on allowance is, so if OP didn't realize they had a Basic ticket (as stated), I can absolutely understand the confusion as to why they had to pay the $30 in the first place.

This is apparently one area in which the usual whipping-boy legacy carrier, American, actually is relatively generous!
You have to choose the fare class you want and as shown on the screen print from Expedia, the class tells you what is and isn't included. Check the screen print in my post above. The OP may have been in a hurry to book the ticket and didn't pay attention to what the fare class said. Sometimes people book the least expensive fare, not understanding what they bought.