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Why United Airlines is still in the stone ages

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My inlaws are flying to Baltimore on United Airlines in a few weeks.  It’s their first flight there and their first flight in a while.  I have a couple of e-upgrades that are expiring soon.  I went online and tried to redeem them.  It wouldn’t let me.  Since there wasn’t an itenary for me in the system, it didn’t know what to do.  So I called United Airlines.

First I went through an electronic menu that appeared to be taking me where I wanted to go.  In the end, it said there were restrictions on the flights and wouldn’t let me continue.  I said “Agent” and was connected with a person.  The agent told me that I could not upgrade my inlaws over the phone since their last name was different from mine.  Instead I would need to physically go to the airport and sign a piece of paper. When the agent turned out to be just as persistent as I was, I asked to speak with a supervisor.  The supervisor told me the same thing.  He was not empowered to help me.  He did not offer an alternative.  He did not try to be helpful.  He just said that he was sorry for the inconvenience.  He told me I might be able to do it online though and offered to transfer me to the online desk.  With nothing to lose, I said ok.  The woman I spoke with at the online desk atempted to walk me through the same thing I had already tried.  When she got stuck, she went and asked someone.  Then she told me that I could not upgrade without being on the flight myself.  Of course this is different from what the other two folks had said.  I’m assuming she just doesn’t know what she’s talking about and that the other agent and supervisor are correct.

I’m struggling to understand how I can do my banking online, purchase items online (even buy a car on ebay if I chose to), but I can’t use a couple of upgrade certificates online at  I’m amazed at the incompetence of the company.  They should be able to figure out something as simple as this.  Their staff should have been able to resolve the situation.  If it really is that difficult, they could mail me the form to sign, right?  Wrong.  INstead of saying they’re sorry, they should have done something to help me.

Let me give you an example of really amazing customer service.

A few years ago, I bought a laptop from Dell.  A few days later I went to use my credit card and it was denied.  I called and they said I was over my limit.  A bit more digging and it turned out that Dell had charged my credit card for many laptops and was trying to charge for more.  Eventually the card went over the limit.  The folks at American Express fixed the credit card issue immediately.  Dell was tougher.  I called there and spoke with 13 people (really).  No one could help me.  In exasperation, I wrote to Dell’s CEO, Michael Dell.  I was able to figure out his email address and send him a note with my phone number.  The very next day I got a call from someone at Dell.  They immediately resolved my issue.  My laptop was delivered promptly and I was a happy customer.

Imagine a CEO who looks at his email and insures that customers issues are resolved.

Now how much effort would it take for someone at United Airlines to decide to help me.  They could easily find a way to help me upgrade my inlaws.  They could also correct their stone age computer systems and help future travelers as well.  Instead of helping me resolve my issue, they did what was easy.  They did nothing.

Written by bill

May 20th, 2007 at 12:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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