REIMBURSEMENT FROM UNITED

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Aug 4, 2017
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#1
I am writing on behalf of my wife Cecilia E. O’Leary (United # removed by mod) and myself, Anthony M. Platt (United # removed by mod) regarding flight UAL #901 from San Francisco to London on Friday July 14, 2017.

UNITED CASE #removed by mod

As long-time customers of United, this was the worst experience we have had traveling on any airline during the last thirty years. It caused us economic loss, distress, and considerable inconvenience.

Here are the specific details of our complaint.

(1) We bought our tickets months ago in the expectation that we would be able to upgrade from Economy Plus to Business. In recent weeks, due to my wife’s injury to her leg, we called United to check on status of the upgrade. The day before the date of our departure, my wife was told that she was number three in line with a good expectation of being upgraded. On arrival at the airport, a United agent informed her that she was sixteenth in line.

(2) Flight 901 was delayed due to a mechanical error that needed to be fixed. We waited until we were told to go to another gate since the mechanical problem could not be fixed. At the other gate, we were told to return to the original gate because the mechanical problem had been fixed. We boarded 901 and the plane taxied along the runway. Before takeoff, the pilot announced that there was still a mechanical problem and we had to return to the gate. At the gate there was a delay since there was nobody there to open the gate. A flight attendant informed us that the cabin crew was exhausted and was now “illegal,” having gone over its time limit, and that we would likely not to be able to leave that day.

(3) After de-boarding, we were told to go to another gate, that another plane was ready for us. After a delay, we boarded the plane and eventually taxied along the runway. Just before take off, the pilot announced that he had exceeded the time limit and was unable to continue. The head flight attendant announced that she did not know if the flight crew was to be replaced or if we would be assigned another plane or that we would have to re-book for a flight on another day. She was on the floor by the exit door trying to get the attention personnel o the ground.

(4) After a delay, due to the fact that the gate crew did not know that our flight had been cancelled, we returned to the gate and were told to return to the United desk in the airport to rebook our flight. Nobody guided us through this transition. No effort was made to provide help to travelers in need. My wife was unable to get a wheelchair.

(5) A driver came to Heathrow airport to pick us up as originally scheduled because the United website reported that the plane was arriving on time.

(6) Back at the United desk, it was a chaotic scene. Initially there was only one desk agent to help hundreds of people. There were no United managers on hand to explain the situation, answer questions, help with special needs, or provide information to travelers for whom English is a second language. Many people were upset, frustrated, and angry. After we were told that it would take several hours to find out about re-booking and lodging, we left the airport and did our re-booking by phone. We were not able to re-book another flight until July 16, thus missing two days and two nights of our visit to London.

(7) For the first hour at the United desk, nobody could tell us how to retrieve our luggage. When we were finally informed how to do this, United did not make a wheelchair available to my wife.

In sum, United is responsible for telling us to return to a plane #1 in which a mechanical error had not been fixed; failing to provide a flight crew on plane #2 that had not exceeded its time limit; not having managers on sight to explain the unfolding situation to customers; not providing services to disabled and elderly customers as required under the ADA; and not re-booking a flight within 24 hours.

Aside from the inconvenience and distress that we experienced, my wife was denied a wheelchair when she most needed it; I missed important meetings scheduled for July 15 and 16 in London; our lodging costs for two nights in London were not reimbursed, plus we had out of pocket expenses for two nights in San Francisco.

United offered an apology and compensation of either 10,000 miles or $200 e-credit per person. This is not an adequate compensation given that we had $574 in additional expenses, two lost days in London, plus missed meetings. A fair settlement would be the equivalent in dollars or miles of two round-trip econ-plus tickets from San Francisco to Europe.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Apr 10, 2017
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#2
I'm sorry you had to endure such an ordeal and I hope your wife recovers soon. Was the flight by chance a codeshare with a European carrier or was it United metal? If it was Lufthansa, for instance, you might be able to seek some compensation via EU 261.
 
Likes: jsn55

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#3
This is every traveller's nightmare, Tony, endless mechancals, delays, mis-communications, flight crews timing out, and running around like chickens at the airport.

Let me see if I can address a few things. I am not making excuses, but offering a clear-eyed take.
1. Upgrades on United are a thing of the past unless you are in the very top of Mileage Plus, and even then I hear stories about upgrades being denied.
2. After a mess like you went through, nobody knows where your luggage is. That's an issue that takes some time to straighten out, they unload it all at some point, but nobody knows what to do with it.
3. While I'm glad you got re-booked by phone, it's possible that an airport agent could have gotten you to LHR more quickly, had you waited.
4. Airlines don't have roving bands of managers and agents to swoop in to handle the aftermath of delays like yours. They should have them, but they don't. Therefore, passengers already upset by delays and cancellations are expected to stand in line until more personnel arrive to help them.

What I find inexcusable is denying your wife a wheelchair during all this hullaballoo. What was the reason given? I'm no airline apologist, but I've experienced issues just like yours several times over the years. I am able to see the big picture and don't expect much from an entity as big as an airline, even at SFO. I'm taking your (scheduled) flight on August 16, so I hope your awful experience is not repeated.
 
Jan 5, 2015
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#4
I think you should post about your wife being denied a wheelchair on social media because that can get some attention. Airlines have a lot of egg of their face these days; I'm not above exploiting that in situations like this.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,926
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#5
I think you should post about your wife being denied a wheelchair on social media because that can get some attention. Airlines have a lot of egg of their face these days; I'm not above exploiting that in situations like this.[/QUOTE
I would check first to ascertain whether UA or the airport is responsible for the chair. I remember waiting 45 minutes for a pre-ordered chair at CDG in Paris at 6am. It was freezing cold and the driver had already unloaded the luggage, so I was left outside in shirt-sleeves to 'guard' it while our companion was inside raising a fuss with AirFrance. Right there where my husband could yell at me every 5 minutes because he couldn't get out of the car. I think that the disregard for serving people with disabilities is one of the worst things about travelling.
 
Jan 25, 2016
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#6
I'm sorry you had to endure such an ordeal and I hope your wife recovers soon. Was the flight by chance a codeshare with a European carrier or was it United metal? If it was Lufthansa, for instance, you might be able to seek some compensation via EU 261.
No, it's UA metal. There are no codeshares that fly non-stop SFO/LHR and UA codeshare flight #s are generally 8xxx IME. If it was LH the flight would've been to either FRA or MUC.
 
Aug 4, 2017
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#8
Thanks for the responses.
No, we don't have travel insurance.
I've written as suggested to the United Executives (by the way, you need to correct laura.mandile.com – period missing on site).
Any other suggestions for what we should do? What are the chances of getting more than United's offer (10,000 miles or $200 e-credit)?
Tony
 
Jan 5, 2015
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#9
Thanks for the responses.
No, we don't have travel insurance.
I've written as suggested to the United Executives (by the way, you need to correct laura.mandile.com – period missing on site).
Any other suggestions for what we should do? What are the chances of getting more than United's offer (10,000 miles or $200 e-credit)?
Tony
Make it go viral on FB or Twitter...hit up some local news stations by tagging them on those sites. Airlines being naughty is juicy news right now, and denial of a wheelchair is a great example of how terrible they can be.
 
Likes: jsn55
Aug 4, 2017
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#10
On Sunday I sent my complaint and a cover memo to Ms. Laura Mandile at United. Also, my wife submitted her complaint to United Customer Care, emphasizing how she was unable to get a wheelchair (she has a fractured knee) during a chaotic moment at the San Francisco airport. The next day, August 7th, I received a personal email from Ms. Tatricia Orija, Complaint Resolution Official, Disability Specialist. She acknowledges, inter alia, that United failed to "meet the appropriate federal disability standards" and offers us each a $600 Electronic Travel Certificate (three times more than original offer).
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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7,814
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San Francisco
#11
I thought your case would hinge on the wheelchair, Tony. The rest of the awful trip is mostly lack of luck coupled with incompetence issues. Glad you got some compensation and thanks for letting us know.
 
Aug 4, 2017
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#13
Thanks for your advice, forum is very useful.

Here is my last response to United:
"Thank you for your prompt and thorough response to our complaint.
Thank you for the apology and offer of compensation.
We accept this offer to settle the matter.
We want to to make clear that none of the problems we experienced should be attributed to the cabin crew or ground staff. They did everything they could to alleviate the situation and respond to our concerns.
The main problems to be addressed, we think, are organizational and managerial. In particular, once the second plane was recalled, there was a need for a crisis team to be on hand to fully inform passengers about our options, respond to passengers' questions, provide wheelchairs and services to passengers in need, and process the re-ticketing and requests for lodging in a timely way, etc."
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#14
That's a nice letter back.

But getting them to change their organizational problems are a whole different story. I try to stay away fro United not only for myself but our customers but I had to use them because I had a credit expiring to fly to Puerto Rico next month. I am hoping for the best.
 
Mar 10, 2015
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#15
Thanks for your advice, forum is very useful.

Here is my last response to United:
"Thank you for your prompt and thorough response to our complaint.
Thank you for the apology and offer of compensation.
We accept this offer to settle the matter.
We want to to make clear that none of the problems we experienced should be attributed to the cabin crew or ground staff. They did everything they could to alleviate the situation and respond to our concerns.
The main problems to be addressed, we think, are organizational and managerial. In particular, once the second plane was recalled, there was a need for a crisis team to be on hand to fully inform passengers about our options, respond to passengers' questions, provide wheelchairs and services to passengers in need, and process the re-ticketing and requests for lodging in a timely way, etc."
Regarding the issue with your wife and not having a wheelchair. May I suggest filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) as United has been in the media quite a bit regarding how they've handled or refused to handle people in wheelchairs. For example:

"Airline Fined $2.75M for Mistreatment of Wheelchair Users"


"The airline, United Continental Holdings Inc., is being fined more than $2.7 million for their mistreatment of wheelchair users and multiple instances of stranding aircraft on the tarmac. This came about after customers submitted a ‘significant increase’ in disability-related complaints about the company to the Department of Transportation.

These complaints were more specifically related to how United was treating their customers who used wheelchairs or required further assistance. It was found that the company was failing to appropriately and promptly assist passengers on and off planes, and was slow in the return of wheelchairs and other mobility aids."


Read more: http://www.spinalcord.com/blog/news-airline-fined-for-mistreatment-of-wheelchair-users
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Other reasons to file a complaint with the DOT. All complaints are entered in DOT's computerized aviation industry monitoring system, and are charged to the company in question in the monthly Air Travel Consumer Report. This report is distributed to the industry and made available to the news media and the general public so that consumers and air travel companies can compare the complaint records of individual airlines and tour operators. These complaints are reviewed to determine the extent to which carriers are in compliance with federal aviation consumer protection regulations. This system also serves as a basis for rulemaking, legislation and research. Where appropriate, letters and web form submissions will be forwarded to an official at the airline for further consideration.

Complaints are broken down into 3 categories: Safety and Security Complaints / Airline Service Complaints and Comments / Disability and Discrimination Complaints and you can reach all 3 at this link:

http://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint

You have 3 options when it comes to submitting a complaint: you can call, write or use their web form.
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Regarding the issues you outlined in your initial post on this page that was described here:

"(6) Back at the United desk, it was a chaotic scene. Initially there was only one desk agent to help hundreds of people..."

If you ever run into a situation like this again may I suggest while waiting in lines or waiting for help that you also try reaching out to the reservation agents manning United's Twitter page - @united - to see if you can get help faster that way versus waiting in lines or waiting on the phone.
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And regarding your complaint that you missed out on 2 days and nights in London. This is the advice I offer to people having problems with United Airlines on a Facebook page I created and a post for those stranded or delayed (in case you ever run into problems again which I hope you never do):
STRANDED OR DELAYED

Here's 1 suggestion... look for flights on other airlines that will get you to your destination sooner. If you find a better flight then ask a United agent if they will "endorse" your ticket to that airline. But please know there is no rule or regulation that says United has to endorse any ticket. "Hopefully" they would do it as a goodwill-gesture.

And Google Flights is good for finding different flights: https://www.google.com/flights/
And having different flights already lined up will help the United agents get their job done faster.
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You might find some important information on a United web page titled: "Flight delays and cancellations":
https://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/travel/policy/Pages/FlightDelaysandCancellations.aspx
including:
• Getting rebooked
• Refunds
• Staying overnight
• Your checked bags
• Flight diversions
• Verification letters
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Here's a Guide to Air-Passenger Rights: United (this explains your rights and what you're entitled to for such things as;
• Notifications of Delays, Cancellations, Diversions
• Cancellations Within Airline Control
• Cancellations Beyond Airline Control
• Delays
• Onboard Ground Delays)
http://www.airfarewatchdog.com/pages/18939391/
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