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?