United Airlines Ranks Last Among Major US Carriers

In survey results published in 2016, J.D. Power ranked United Airlines dead last among the major North American Airlines. Alaska Airlines ranked first with a score of 751 out of a possible 1,000 points followed by Delta with 725 points, making Delta the best choice among American carriers for intercontinental flights. United Airlines was the worst-ranked major North American carrier with 675 points. Anyone who has been following the bizarre treatment that some passengers have received from United employees will not find that surprising.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found similar results in 2017. It ranked JetBlue and Southwest as having the best customer satisfaction with scores of 82 and 80 out of 100 possible points. Alaska followed with 78 points. Among the majors, United again ranked last with 70 points, a slight improvement over its 68 points in 2016. Ranking below United were two smaller airlines, Frontier with 63 points and Spirit with 61.

For domestic flights, JetBlue, Southwest, and Alaska look like the best airlines to fly. For international flights, Delta and American appear to be the best choices in that order, although American ranked below average in the J.D. Power 2016 survey. There seems to be universal agreement that United, Frontier, and Spirit are airlines that are best avoided.

Trump, Ignore the Uncouth Idiot

The press was outraged yesterday by Donald Trump’s insulting tweets about the hosts of the TV show Morning Joe. Why the outrage? This is typical Donald Trump behavior, and it is time we accepted it as normal behavior from a low-IQ, uncouth bully. Outrage ceases to have an effect when the behavior that provokes it occurs almost daily.

Donald Trump has repeatedly made his disdain for both women and intelligent people of ether gender evident. As long as an idiot continues to occupy the highest office in the United States, Donald Trump’s coarse remarks and tweets will occur almost daily. It is time to stop paying attention to this uncultured imbecile.

If you follow Donald Trump on twitter, it’s time to stop doing so, and that also goes for the members of the press. Bad behavior that occurs routinely is no longer news and deserves to be ignored.

United Airlines’ Bizarre Customer Service

If you contact one of the customer service departments at United Airlines, you may expect a personalized response to your communication. You will not receive one. Even while United Airlines acknowledges that its reputation for customer service is in the toilet, the changes it has been making are cosmetic in a fake attempt to convince the flying public that United cares about them. United does not care.

United Airlines customer service representatives are not the creme de la creme. The average salary is $17 an hour and some are customer service representatives are paid as little as $10 an hour. People who are in many cases making less than employees in the kitchens of fast-food restaurants are not expected to have the skills needed to investigate a complaint and write a literate email. They only need to select a pre-written response and send it off, and often the response they select is a bizarre mismatch with the customer’s complaint.

If you complain to United, there is an excellent chance that no one will read your entire email. It may just get a quick scan in order to select a proper canned response that may or may not address the compliant. In many cases, there is no adequate canned response, in which case a response is selected at random, even if it is entirely inappropriate.

Yesterday, I posted an exchange of emails I had with United’s MileagePlus customer service. The responses had little relationship to my original email. The United employees did a poor job of selecting pre-written paragraphs to paste into the two emails they sent me. I don’t blame them. You can’t really get angry at someone making $10 an hour. I am angry at United for showing me such contempt.

Click here or scroll down to read the email exchange.

In scouring the web, I have come up with several of the canned responses that United sends out in response to complaints. Here are two. The first one was sent out to a customer by a United employee who neglected to replace the word “Human” with the customer’s name.

Dear Mr. Human,

Thank you for contacting us at United Airlines, Customer Care Department.

Mr. Human, you email clearly expresses your disappointment and I would like to extend a sincere apology for any negative impression that may have been created.

While my reply is brief and not as detailed as I would like, please be assured that we do understand your concerns, and they have been documented for review and appropriate internal action.

Mr. Human, you have made a significant contribution to our airline, and we greatly appreciate your business. In appreciation for your feedback and patience, please enjoy the electronic travel certificate that will be emailed to your within 3-5 business days.

We certainly look forward to service you again soon. I am confident we will work hard to provide a level of service you  have come to expect from United Airlines.

Regards,

[Agent’s name]
Customer Care

I wonder if any customer who received this canned email actually received a travel certificate. I have not received the two United Club passes that I paid for in March with the renewal of my United MileagePlus credit card despite several promises that they would be mailed to me. However, I must say that the email is ingenious. I can picture many customers’ mistakenly believing that someone actually wrote back to them.

Here’s another United Airlines canned customer service response:

Dear Mrs. [CUSTOMER NAME]

Thank you for letting us know about your recent experience with United Airlines. I apologize if your service did not meet your expectations, and appreciate you taking time to share your concerns.

Our goal is to provide a consistently reliable product and an exemplary level of customer service. Based on the events you describe, we did not meet this goal. Your comments regarding [SPECIFIC EVENT] will be used for coaching and training our employees.

To encourage you to fly with us again and as a tangible means of acknowledging your disappointment, enclosed is [SPECIFIC ITEM].

[CUSTOMER NAME], I ask that you allow us another opportunity to serve you, as we consider it our privilege to have you aboard.

Sincerely,
[CUSTOMER REP NAME]
Customer Care Manager

Again, I can imagine that some of the less discerning United customers could receive that email and believe that it was personally written by a customer care manager and directed at them.

I don’t know how others will respond to United Airlines’ obvious disdain for its customers, but I do know what I will do. I have been a loyal United customer and frequently flier for years. I have been flying United on international trips at least twice a year. No more! As soon as I use up the remaining miles in my United frequent flier account, I am switching to another airline. In fact, my next paid trip to Europe is already booked on a competing airline. United obviously does not care whether I fly United or not, so I am taking my business elsewhere.

In the meantime, I am taking a risk. When United discovers this post (it will), it may do to me what it has done to other complainers, threaten to take away my frequent flier miles. For an example of this United Airlines tactic, click here.

Worse yet, I could be physically assaulted. If you don’t believe that United employees physically assault the company’s critics, do some searches on Google, and you’ll come up with multiple examples.

PS/ Unbelievable! A few minutes after I posted the above, I received the following canned response from @United.

Dear Mr. Quinn:   

I appreciate you taking the time to share your comments with us.  We work hard to consistently provide superior service.

Your constructive comments give us an opportunity to correct problems that may not have otherwise come to our attention.  Because we value your concerns, they have been forwarded to our management team to assist them as we continue to make positive changes within our company.

We always welcome your feedback.  Please visit the United Hub using the following link and select “We’re listening” from the menu: https://hub.united.com/

Regards,

Nadine Gonsales
MileagePlus® Lead Representative

We appreciate your participation in the MileagePlus program and your support of United and our partners. We look forward to serving your travel needs again in the near future. For MileagePlus program information, please visit www.mileageplus.com .

If you’d like to read about the experience that a professional travel writer had with United customer service, click here. United customer service people even give rotten treatment to those who write about airlines for a living. Does United have no idea of the damage it is doing to itself by mistreating its passengers?

United Airlines Customer Service Blues

Given the much more serious problems others have had with United Airlines, my problem was trivial: the United Airlines website didn’t recognize that I own the United Mileage Plus credit card, for which I pay an annual fee, and therefore didn’t give me the privileges for which I had paid. So, I emailed United customer service hoping that someone could fix the problem. Instead I got suggested solutions to problems I didn’t have. Was I communicating with human beings or with a poorly-programmed chat bot?  Here are our email exchanges.

Message:   

Something seems wrong with my MileagePlus Explorer information on United. I don’t know if the problem lies with Chase or United.   

  1. I did not receive by club passes this year (Chase says it will send out 2 cards to make up for the error).   

2. When I log onto United, I see a message stating that I qualify for 70,000 miles if I sign up for the MileagePlus Explorer card. Your website doesn’t seem to recognize that I already have the card.   

3. When I search for award travel, I am only offered X super saver fares. I do not have access to XN class to which I believe my Explorer card entitles me.   

[Holders of United’s credit card can book reward travel on more flights than can frequent flier members who do not hold the card. These additional flights are XN class.]

However, the miles earned from my Explorer card do post to my frequent flyer account each month.   

[At least something worked as it should.]

 Regards,
Jack Quinn   

United’s first response:

Dear Mr. Quinn:   

Thanks for taking the time to write to us.   

 Please be advised that the 70,000 bonus miles promotion is available for targeted members that [sic] previously doesn’t [sic] have a MileagePlus Explorer card. Please contact Chase customer service at 800-537-7783 for further clarification of the promtion. [sic]

[It apparently did not strike Mr. Mungcal as odd that the United website was targeting me to sign up for a card that I already owned.]

Meanwhile, please allow up to four weeks for your United Club passes to arrive after your credit card anniversary date.  Club passes are not replaced if lost or stolen.   

[The anniversary date had passed months earlier.]

These passes allow one person, one-time access to any United Club location (subject to space availability) but don’t include access to affiliated lounges.  All persons age two and older require a pass.  In addition, all persons under 18 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.   

On the other hand, please contact United reservations at 800-864-8331 for assistance with award travel reservations.   

We appreciate you taking the time to contact us.

Regards,
Michael Mungcal
MileagePlus® Service Center

We appreciate your participation in the MileagePlus program and your support of United and our partners. We look forward to serving your travel needs again in the near future. For MileagePlus program information, please visit www.mileageplus.com .

I wrote back.

You avoided the problem. Why does you system not recognize me ad a United Mileage Plus member? Should I just cancel the question, because you refuse to look into the problem?  

Why am I not getting the benefits the card entitles me to?  

 Jack Quinn  

And United answered.

Dear Mr. Quinn:

Thanks for your reply.

I apologize for the confusion, but we’re unable to assist with the questions regarding your bonus miles earned from your MileagePlus credit application. For assistance, please call the phone number on the back of your credit card or 800-537-7783.

[What? Where did she get the idea that I was asking about bonus miles I had earned? I had mentioned nothing of the sort.]

In regards to receiving United Club passes, please allow up to four weeks for your United Club passes to arrive after your credit card anniversary date. Club passes are not replaced if lost or stolen.

If you haven’t received the passes by then, we’d be happy to process a replacement request to be sent to your profile address.

[Why was she telling me to wait for a date that was already months in the past?]

Please sign into your account and make changes as needed. Keep in mind, if the address on file is not a residence, you must add the name of the business, organization or institution on the first line of the address. Moreover, we’re unable to send the passes if the address is outside the U.S. or PO Box.

Once completed, please reply to this e-mail and we’ll request a replacement in your behalf.

Meanwhile, please be advised that since fares and availability are subject to change at any time and require direct input from the customer, reservations can’t be booked via e-mail.  Please know, the MileagePlus Service Center doesn’t handle revenue or award reservations.  All reservation inquiries should be directed to United Reservations. You may call United Reservations at 800-864-8331.

[Where did she get the idea that I was trying to book a reservation by email?]

We appreciate you taking the time to contact us.

Regards,
Lady Danelle Calot
MileagePlus® Service Center

We appreciate your participation in the MileagePlus program and your support of United and our partners. We look forward to serving your travel needs again in the near future. For MileagePlus program information, please visit www.mileageplus.com .

 

Trump Keeps Ford Focus Jobs from Going to Mexico (They’ll go to China Instead)

Ford had planned to move production of its Focus to Mexico until Donald Trump stepped in to save the day during his presidential campaign. Candidate Trump criticized the decision to move production to Mexico, and Ford backed off. It cancelled plans to build a new plant in Mexico to produce the Focus, but it slyly did not promise to keep production in the United States.

Instead, Ford has announced that it will move Ford Focus production to China. The Chinese plant will then export part of its production to the United States. If the plant had moved to Mexico, the United States would have benefited, because Mexico buys most of its imports from us. The Chinese buy very little from the United States compared to what they sell to us.

Only two other western cars are manufactured in China and exported to the United States: the Buick Envision and the Volvo S60. Those cars were never manufactured anywhere other than in China. Ford’s decision, taken at Donald Trump’s prodding, will be the first one to move the production of an American automobile from a plant in the United States to China.

Perhaps Americans should think twice about buying Ford products. Perhaps they should also think twice about voting for anyone who supports Donald Trump.

Donald Trump was Right! I am to Blame

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump warned voters that if we voted for Hillary Clinton, the White House would be involved in endless criminal investigations. Did I pay attention? No! I stupidly voted for Hillary Clinton, and now the country is paying the consequence. The White House is indeed involved in endless criminal investigations. I wish I could undo the harm that I brought upon the country, but it is too late.

Trump Digs Himself into a Hole

it is commonly believed that when a person discovers that he is digging himself into a hole, that person should stop digging. Despite the attempts of Trump advisers to take the president’s shovel away, he continues to dig.

A few weeks ago, former FBI director James Comey confirmed that President Trump was not under investigation. Now he is. Who triggered the investigation? A man named Donald Trump did. By firing director Comey, he raised suspicion that he was obstructing justice by trying to stop the investigation into ties between the Russian government and members of Donald Trump’s campaign team.

President Trump increased that suspicion by admitting that he fired Comey to impede the Russia investigation. The results? A special counsel has been appointed, and Donald Trump is now under criminal investigation. Donald Trump drew attention to himself by making it look as if he had something to hide. Donald Trump himself triggered the investigation into his possible criminal activity.

Now, the Trump legal team is floating the trial balloon that Donald Trump wants to fire special Counsel Robert Mueller. So far, that trial balloon has failed to gain altitude despite support for the idea by Fox News. By launching the trial balloon, Donald Trump and his team increase the suspicion that Donald Trump is trying to hide some criminal act.

The latest argument for dumping Mueller is that that Robert Mueller is unqualified to conduct the investigation, because he a friend and former colleague of fired FBI director James Comey. It is true that the two have a history of working together. However, even senior Republicans such has Senate Majority Leader McConnell have expressed confidence in Mueller’s ability to conduct an impartial investigation. I do not think that most influential Republicans would take kindly to further Trumpian attempts to interfere with a criminal investigation.

It does no good to remind President Trump that he is his own worst enemy. His staff has repeatedly tried to convince him to stop sending out bizarre tweets, but to no avail. Donald Trump continues to shower the world with tweets that damage no one but Donald Trump himself.

Will Donald Trump fire Robert Mueller as well as Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein? That would be an incredibly stupid thing to do, which makes me believe that Trump will indeed fire them. Donald Trump is infamous for his inability to act logically. If he does fire them, it could  be the step that finally convinces Republican members of Congress that Donald Trump is a liability for the Republican Party and cause them to move toward impeachment..

Do you want to better understand the Trumpian mentality? I wrote a novel about a Trump-like character who ran for president and got elected. At the time I wrote the book, I firmly believed I was writing fiction and that Donald Trump would not succeed in his campaign. For more information, click on the Running for President book-cover image in the left sidebar of this blog.

Cancel Brexit?

Almost a year has passed since the residents of the United Kingdom voted by the slimmest of margins to exit the European Union. At the time of the referendum, few people understood the consequences of the vote. In the intervening year, inflation has increased, the value of the pound has fallen, and international companies are looking for a new country in which to locate their European operations. It has also become apparent that the British government has no coherent plan for negotiation Brexit with the other 27 members of the European Union.

Now that the British people have learned about the difficulty and negative consequences of leaving the European Union, I suspect that many regret having voted to do it. I believe that if the British were given another chance to express their opinion in a public referendum, the majority would see the wisdom of staying in the European Union and the negative consequences of leaving. There is only one way to find out if that is true: hold another referendum.

Inside the European Union, the United Kingdom has a strong voice in setting the policy of one of the world’s strongest political and economic blocks. Outside the Union, the UK will be a small, unimportant island nation.

Now that the British people have become more educated about the negative consequences of leaving the European Union, it is appropriate to give them another chance to express their opinion. The British government should schedule a second referendum on Brexit as soon as possible. It is not too late to undo the damage that the prospect of Brexit has caused. The other 27 euro countries would welcome the UK back into the fold.

Is it Time for McCain to Go?

John McCain has been a senator from Arizona for many years, but it became apparent in yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing when he was obviously befuddled during his questioning of former FBI director James Comey. He referred to President Trump as Mr. Comey several times, and he obviously did not understand the difference between the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for government business and the investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to the Russian government.

Senator McCain has never been an intellectual giant. During his 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama it became painfully obvious that Senator McCain had no grasp whatsoever of economics. His choice of Sarah Palin, as his running mate was not an intelligent decision.

Senator McCain’s cognitive abilities seem to have declined even further in the intervening years. It’s time for him to step down. However, how can we make Senator McCain aware that he is in cognitive decline? Almost anyone in that situation denies it, just as I convinced myself that I wasn’t becoming hard of hearing.

Senator McCain won his sixth term in 2016. Because senators serve for six years, he will not be up for reelection until 2022. That is too long to have a senior senator from my state of Arizona in office while no longer having the mental capacity to do the job. We can only hope that Senator McCain himself becomes aware that he is no longer mentally fit to do the job and retires.

 

 

Europe Trip Wrap-up — June 2, 2107

There is not much to tell about my journey from Paris to Phoenix yesterday. The two flights — Paris to San Francisco and San Francisco to Phoenix — went smoothly. This entry is about my last full day in Paris, the day before yesterday. I was far too tired to write anything yesterday evening after my long trip home.

I walked from the hostel to Montmartre and back. Montmartre is the highest hill in Paris and is topped by the stunning Basilica of the Sacred Heart. There is a funicular which one can ride to the top of Montmartre, but I chose to walk the steep steps and staircases. There are also streets that lead to the top, so if you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can take a taxi or drive a rental car up the hill. By the way, Monmartre is also the location of the Molin Rouge, the once-scandalous theater where young women danced on stage to the music of the Can-Can and kicked their heels so high that their knee-length bloomers were plainly visible under the layers of skirts and petticoats. It is said to have created quite a scandal in its day.

I’m told the show still goes on as a tourist attraction. Montmatre is reputed to have once been the scene of sex shops, prostitution, and drugs. I’m also told that those activities also still go on but have moved to one of the streets at the bottom of the hill. I guess I took the wrong routes up and down the hill, because I saw no evidence of any of that. I did see the Molin Rouge itself on a previous trip to Paris, but this time I gave it a pass.

I snapped the photo below as I was just beginning my ascent, because I was impressed by the apartment building at the end of the street.

Soon, the more gradual slope of the streets gave way to a series of steeper staircases. The young woman seated on the steps was engrossed in her cell phone. I also got the first glimpse of the Basilica, which you can see in the photo at the top of the stairs.

I took the following picture of the Basilica when I reached the summit. The church is really immense. I felt that I had visited enough churches, so I didn’t go inside this one. By not doing so, I probably missed something spectacular.

In case you’re wondering why I would take a photo of a white van, this one belonged to Apple and was taking panoramic photographs of the streets. I’m a bit addicted to Google Maps, but those of you who are Apple fans may soon see Apple’s new photos of Monmartre. You may even see a picture of me! I imagine the van photographed me when it passed, just as it photographed everything else in the streets.

From the top of Montmartre, I had to take a picture of the view of a section of the City of Paris, of course. From my vantage point, Paris looked a bit smokey. However, I suppose the fact that I live in smoggy Phoenix gives me no right to complain about pollution in other cities.

I descended Montmartre by the steps shown below. Plenty of tourists were coming up the same route, which parallels the funicular. About half of the tourists seem to be speaking either Chinese or Japanese. I suppose that if you fly all the way from Asia to Paris, there are certain sights in the city that you must see, and Monmartre seems to be one of them.

I think the picture below is only the second selfie that I have inflicted upon my blog readers during this trip. I couldn’t resist posing with the Basilica and the green grass in the background. I was about halfway back down the hill when I took this. I admit that the picture would look better if I weren’t in it, but 20 years from now when I am too decrepit to do things like this, I will be able to look at the picture and remember the good old days.

At the bottom of the hill I came across this six-story (including the basement) retail outlet called the Marché Saint-Pierre that sells nothing but cloth. There were bolts of cloth outside along the sidewalk, and in the upper stories I could see nothing but cloth and more cloth. It calls itself the royaume des tissues or the kingdom of cloth. According to the store’s website, http://www.marchesaintpierre.com/ in French, the store has been around for 60 years and serves clothing specialists, stylists, and internationally-recognized decorators. I had no idea that there was enough demand for retail fabrics to support such a large establishment.

Am I glad to be back in Phoenix? Quite frankly, I wish the trip had lasted longer. I like living in Phoenix, but I also love to travel. My next trip will be August 1 to September 1 in Portugal and Spain, and I will almost certainly be blogging the trip daily on this site. In the meantime, I’m already contemplating a winter trip.