Friday, January 11, 2013

United Airlines - Responds to Its Food Poisoning My Wife with Poisoning My Premier Gold Relationship With It. Bad Idea!


My family was on United Airlines Flight 784 from San Francisco, California to Newark, New Jersey on January 1, 2013.  My wife, without question, received food poisoning from her paid for Cheese and Fruit Plate resulting in a rather poor welcome home after a lovely vacation.

It should have been bad enough that the aircraft was so old (obviously an old United Airlines plane as Continental never would have kept that rust bucket in service) that there were big old vacuum tube televisions mounted in the ceiling that were so worn out that the one movie shown had horrible color and picture distortion.  Listening to the movie was just as difficult as the earphone jack was broken.

But if food poisoning, a amenity-challenged plane and broken equipment was not enough, what should have been a simple addressing of the food poisoning has become a textbook in how to abuse a customer and make a relatively simple issue a big problem...which is a Bad idea.

On January 2, 2013 I contacted United Airlines through its Premier Gold Customer Service Desk.  I was told I could either call another number the next business day or I could submit a form online and wait for response.  Obviously I went with the phone call.  Bad idea. 

When I called and sat on hold forever I was told that I would still be required to submit the form online before anyone could speak with me.  OK.  Not so happily, I submitted the form and made the call again.  This time, after waiting on hold I am told that I need to call another number for Corporate Insurance because Customer Service doesn't handle food poisoning claims.  Bad idea.

So I contact Corporate Insurance and leave voicemail. It goes unanswered.  So I call a second time and it goes unanswered.  Then I receive a message that someone will be in touch with me within 7-10 days.  So I wait.  Bad idea.

Today I received a rather form email...not from Corporate Insurance, but from Customer Service, stating in part, "On behalf of United, I’m disappointed to learn you were not satisfied with the quality of the meal amenity we provided during your travel, and feel that the meal was responsible for your wife's illness. Our goal is to provide a healthy, tasteful meal, and I truly regret we did not meet this expectation. Your feedback will be forwarded to our Food Services division, as we continue to look for ways to improve the service we provide to our customers."  (Seriously, Food Services needs to find a way not to serve spoiled and/or contaminated food???) Bad idea.

Receiving an email that I was "not satisfied with the quality of the meal" makes it sound like a am complaining about wilted lettuce or a bruised apple.  Forwarding the complaint on to Food Services:  Really?  Is there a darker, more horrific place in the airline industry than Food Services?  But adding insult to injury, the letter goes on to tell me that I should contact...you guessed it...Corporate Insurance if I wanted to pursue a claim.  Bad idea.

So, being a gluten for punishment, I contact United Airlines Customer Service today to complain not only about the handling of the food poisoning complaint, but now also about how Customer Service is not providing me any customer service (even though I am Premier Gold and have flown over 825,000 revenue miles with United/Continental).  Bad idea.

After over 20 minutes I am told the person I need to reach only has voicemail and there are no supervisors who are authorized to handle this matter.  (You know they were going to send me back over to Corporate Insurance, right?!)  So I ask if any United customer - no less such an important one - should be so mistreated and their time so wasted.  The response was effectively, "Of course not...but we are not empowered to do anything about it."  Bad idea.

My only option I am told is to file a "Formal Complaint".  Poof!  I have now filed a Formal Complaint.  So what does that mean?  It means I am to - yes, that's right - wait for someone to be in touch with me.  When?  Nobody can tell me.  Bad idea.

United Airlines obviously has not learned, or refuses to understand, that customer service is essential to retaining clients and therefore repeat business.  I figure it is now time to book the very same flights I would have booked on United Airlines using its code-share partners (diverting revenue from United) while keeping my Premier status (costing United money)...if I even use United Airlines at all.

Imagine a small gesture after United Airlines food poisoned my wife would have been enough.  Now what is going to cost them...and not only to retain my business.  (You are reading this.  Are you going to think twice before booking a flight on United Airlines?  I bet you are!)

Goldring Travel's motto and business plan is simple, "Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard!"  I got into this business because I was sick and tired of being treated by travel agents as..well as United Airlines is treating me.  My business focus is on providing some of the best customer service in the business.  You can be sure you using Goldring Travel is not a...bad idea.

Oh yes, and if you send an email or leave voicemail, your call will be returned, truly responded to...and promptly!