Friday, September 20, 2019

United Airlines Communications Policy: What?

Dear United Airlines,

We had a trip that went horribly awry yesterday due to bad weather.  My wife got separated from her suitcase.  She had a first class cross country ticket.

Let me digress for a second and say that over the last few days, I have been receiving updates from Amazon (and others) about some items that we ordered. These are items cost mostly between $10 and $50. They give us text and email updates as they ship, progress, and get delivered. It's a pretty simple IT operation which provides customers with great service so they know what's going on.

So here's what happened.  She had a flight from Ft Lauderdale to Houston (UA 2148 on 9-19). And then a connection to Albuquerque. Houston was having a huge tropical storm but United took off from Ft Lauderdale anyway. Sure, they could have rerouted her before she left but United didn't.

The plane circled Houston for an hour or so and then went to San Antonio where they kept the passengers in the plane with no food or meaningful updates for over three hours. Finally, they let the passengers deplane but gave them no instructions about what to do next.

No text updates about what to do, no email updates, no phone calls. Doesn't United have a system? They must have disruptions and weather problems of significance weekly but they seem to react to them as if they are surprised.

The United counters were mobbed, hours of waiting if they went that way. United wasn't taking phone calls, ie there were 90 minute waits.  So my wife got herself to her destination by taking a 5 hour Uber ride to Dallas and booking a flight on American to her destination.

Meanwhile, what happened to her bag?  We've called in many times and each person has been agreeable and helpful. No complaints really about the staff.  And, the United staff have been able to login and tell us where the bag is. So last night at midnight, the lady at the United baggage claim said the bag was still in San Antonio and tried to tell us to file a claim with the other airline that she finished her trip on.  Apparently, that's policy. We disagreed saying that United should get us the bag. It was a first class ticket, they provided no way for her to continue her journey, they provided no info on how she could get her back etc. In any case, we filled out paperwork on the bag and where we wanted it delivered.

We called again this morning and found out where the bag was.  We called just a few minute ago and found out where the bag is. We provided all the same information over the phone and they agreed to send the bag over.  Very nice people.

But really, should we be calling in to get information that should be sent to us?  Shouldn't the app and website have a "trace my bag" feature built in for their travelers? This sort of IT infrastructure for convenient communications seems so simple to build in this day and age. United knows their travelers, has their cell phones, and knows where the bag is and what the plan is.  Why do they believe in having people call in to get information instead of pushing it out?

What's really astounding is not just the lack of communication about the bag but what about helping the travelers? They ditched her halfway through the trip, on a first class ticket, and never followed up in any way to see if she was taken care of or needed help.  Really?

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