Compensation is going the Continental way at United…

I’ve always found United to be the airline that does the best job taking care of their top tier elites, often at the expense of other customers. I see this all the time, and as a top tier, it certainly makes flying United quite pleasant. While I’m not a Continental flyer, based on everything I’ve heard, they have long had the opposite approach, treating all passengers somewhat equally. Up until a couple of years ago they didn’t even prioritize the standby list by status. At Continental a Silver elite on a full fare ticket clears an upgrade ahead of a Platinum elite on a cheaper ticket. Anyway, they’re just two radically different approaches, not that one is wrong and the other is right — it all comes down to preference.

One of the areas that United has always gone above and beyond is when it comes to compensating passengers when problems do arise, perhaps too much so. Anyway, not too long ago they did decrease the value of “apology cards,” which are handed out when there are issued aboard.

What’s most interesting to me, though, is an email that a reader got from United’s 1K customer service. He emailed customer service to complain about an awful flight. He shared with me the problems, and this really did seem to be a bad experience. The response he received from customer service was less than satisfactory, not just in terms of compensation, but the fact that the agent did nothing to even address his concerns. Actually, the extent of the response was: “We appreciate your feedback regarding the positive and negative of our service.”

Unsatisfied with the response, he emailed customer service back. The response he received from United included this very interesting paragraph:

United is working to create a financially stable company by improving its airline and focusing on the future. We expect the full integration of United and Continental to take between 12 and 18 months. However, during that time, you will see changes, and we are committed to making the new United your carrier of choice. While some of these changes may not be as generous as you have become accustomed to, we hope that you will determine that you remain our priority as a 1K customer.

I’d say that’s pretty telling…

Ultimately he was issued an electronic certificate as a “one time exception.”

Comments

  1. Interesting… Wonder when this change was implemented. UA sent me a e-cert for a broken seatback and broken light just last month.

  2. Getting the cards doesn’t mean anything, it is registering them that counts. I have 10 that still need to be registered.

  3. This is no surprise. It is my understanding that A legacy CO person has ‘customer concerns’ at the ‘new’ United under his pervue. The training of those dealing with customer concerns at CO seems to have consisted of the following: “Rule 1: Continental can do no wrong. Rule 2: when in doubt, refer to rule 1”

  4. FS-Dad got the same response when he emailed back.. MCO-DEN on the 752 had no heat, so the cabin was freezing throughout the flight. The new Crap CO blankets did nothing to keep pax warm, and they did not hand out skykits.. He emailed, was sent no e-cert, emailed back, and received the same statement :rolleyes:

  5. Silly UA, compensation helps to convince customers *not* to do other things, like file multiple DOT complaints per flight!

    If you did not like what you got, let ’em know via your friends at the DOT.

  6. Wow. Not good news at all! I’ve yet to see one “change I’m going to like” that I actually do. AA and DL just keep looking better and better.

  7. Looks like someone finally did an analysis of just how much those apology cards and the ecerts were costing UA. Giving $100-350 ecerts for broken lights, seatbacks, and mechanicals is generous to the point of silly.

  8. I’m still stunned – and in denial – that United (one of the worst, most ghetto airlines in the history of mankind) is taking over Continental (one of the best, classiest, well-run airlines to ever fly the skies).

    Just sad.

    And, sure, I guess “treating everyone as an equal” would be seen as a negative as a United flyer. Not shocking at all.

  9. “And, sure, I guess “treating everyone as an equal” would be seen as a negative as a United flyer. Not shocking at all.”

    Yeah, well, I work really damn hard to earn my United elite status and the bene’s that go along with that. One of those major bene’s is being first in line to get taken care of when things go wrong. I spend a lot of energy and money to ensure that I retain these benefits, and in return, United gets my money and my loyalty. So, yeah, I *do* think I deserve, as a United elite, to be treated better than a customer who travels once, twice, or twenty times a year. I have the hard work to show for it. If I’m not earning rewards for it, I’m happy to put in my hard work somewhere else.

    Welcome to the American Dream.

  10. “I’m still stunned – and in denial – that United (one of the worst, most ghetto airlines in the history of mankind) is taking over Continental (one of the best, classiest, well-run airlines to ever fly the skies).”

    Admittedly I have little recent CO experience but I think UA has been pretty good to me….so far.

    Actually even though billed as a “merger of equals”, so far the majority of changes seem to be making things into the “CO way of business” rather than UA. Seems more like a CO takeover of UA to me – at least from the customer interface perspective. And I don’t “like” the changes – messing with the elite tiers, degraded customer service, etc.

    Granted, maybe UA went too far at times in compensation, but seems things are swinging too far in the opposite direction. I mean come on, no heat on the plane and NOTHING for compensation?

  11. Having no heat on the plane is obnoxious and providing no compensation is even more insulting. I would recommend that the person experiencing this problem call the 1K number and ask to be transfered to 1K customer relations and explain what went wrong.

  12. It’s difficult to change the status quo. United has itself to blame for creating this sense of entitlement by setting the expectations quite high for 1K’s. Swinging completely in the other direction, however, is not the way to go. It will only lead to reactionary retaliatory measures (fly competitors) by their most loyal customers. CO-UA would be wise to remember the old adage – all things good in moderation.

  13. UA compensation was totally out of whack.
    Percentage discounts on future purchases would be the direction most of us would probably go for most in-flight issues that do not impact arrival at destination if we ruled an airline. Cash/certs only when the passenger does not arrive at destination.

  14. “United has itself to blame for creating this sense of entitlement by setting the expectations quite high for 1K’s. ”

    When people are paying thousands upon thousands of dollars to get to 1K, they deserve to have better service and more perks than the rest of the people flying United.

    One of the things I love that they pointed out was that they were trying to make a more financially stable carrier, I find that laughable, considering United was far stronger financially than CO going into the merger. This merger makes for an epic route network, but from the customer service issues to the livery and most of the stuff in between, this merger has been a disaster. I, for one, voted against the merger with my few shares of UAUA.

  15. “When people are paying thousands upon thousands of dollars to get to 1K, they deserve to have better service and more perks than the rest of the people flying United.”

    Sure they do. But that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean automatic free money just because a minor glitch happens. A loose footrest on a flight should not automatically entitle you to $200 bucks. That’s not a “perk” in my book.

    The other thing is that it seems like UA hands out more in compensation than other airlines because they have more stuff wrong with their planes. Fix your aircraft and then people won’t need to complain.

  16. While I’m sad to see UA change compensation, because I’ll be honest, those e-certs helped me for MRs and basically hit status every year, with as little money out of pocket as possible, since I fly UA on my own dime.

    Frugal Travel Guy is not reporting that compensation has stayed the same. He merely pointed out that for his mechanical issue, he got a $350 e-cert. There’s a difference between UA forking over a $250 e-cert for no soup spoon with meals (as someone on FT complained about) and $350 for a mechanical cancellation.

    FT has a thread or two going where the consensus is that compensation amounts have dropped by status, and compensation overall is harder to come by.

  17. Got a Skykit last night for a p.s. equipment substitution to regular 757. The UA website offered the usual $200 e-cert, 9K MP miles, or 10% off future flight.

    Calling 1K customer service may work better than e-mailing if you don’t get a Skykit.

  18. I complained about a cancellation of a Colgan Air UX flight resulting in my only option to drive 1.5 hrs to another airport to be able to get home that night. I had to pay for a one way car rental but saved UA hotel and meals for the night. I sent in my receipt. They are actually cutting me a check for the car and gave me and my wife each a 10% off e-cert. I would have preferred the compensation we get from the appreciation cards though…

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