In the customer service world, a first-class, roundtrip ticket anywhere the airline flies is the ultimate mea culpa — an airline’s way of saying, “We’re really sorry.”
And United Airlines promised Charles Rosenthal and his girlfriend two of them after canceling their flight from Palm Springs, Calif., to Los Angeles recently. But the tickets never arrived, and my inquiries to United have had disappointing results. Do I need to push harder, or let this one go?
Here are a few details. The couple was scheduled to fly back to Portland from Palm Springs on April 23. The first leg of their flight, from Palm Springs to Los Angeles, was United flight 6477, which was operated by United Express and SkyWest.
“When we arrived at the airport, we were informed by the SkyWest representative behind the counter that our flight to Los Angeles did not exist,” he says. “When we asked for clarification, she was unable to give us any. We then asked why we had received no prior notification of such a schedule change. Instead of reconciling the situation, the arrogant service representative blamed us for ‘not checking the flight status prior to departing for the airport.'”
Rosenthal says he politely asked for a supervisor, but none was available.
“Totally baffled, we explained to the representative that we are a working couple and cannot afford to miss another day of work, let alone another night in an expensive Palm Springs hotel,” he says.
The SkyWest representative said she could reroute them through Denver, but with a 20-minute stopover. They’d probably miss their connection to Portland and spend the night in Denver. Rosenthal and his girlfriend chose to remain in Palm Springs for the evening and fly to Portland the next day.
“Upon asking the representative if she could offer us any vouchers for a hotel and food, she informed us that she did not have the authority to issue vouchers, and that we should contact United Airlines directly,” he says. “Not only were we stranded, left to jump through hoops, but were also forced to foot the bill for our food and lodging for an extra 24 hours in Palm Springs. This was not cheap, to say the least.”
So he phoned United and explained what happened. A sympathetic representative named Rochelle helped him.
Rochelle explained that she could not comp our considerable food and lodging costs, but that she could give us “two, transferable, first-class international or domestic ticket vouchers to anywhere United flies.”
She then clarified that the vouchers are “good for a round-trip flight.” After several minutes of clarification, she had me convinced that the vouchers were legitimate. While she could not send me an email confirmation, she gave me the PIN numbers (982AF78 and 698K194) for each of the vouchers and assured me that they would be mailed to my home address.
Content that United Airlines Customer Service had handled the situation with grace and dignity, I said goodbye to Rochelle.