I have a big problem with United Airlines. Oh, wait … never mind!

By | December 20th, 2016

Kurt Schmidt’s wife is bumped from a flight and then left to fend for herself. Will United Airlines do the right thing?

Question: Traveling from Frankfurt, Germany, on United Airlines, my wife had a stopover at Washington Dulles International Airport before completing her travel to Savannah, Ga. At the boarding gate she was informed she would not be allowed to board her flight, even though she had her boarding pass and they were still boarding passengers. She learned that the plane was full and that her seat had been given to a standby passenger.

As no other flights were available, she requested a hotel voucher and a $600 voluntary bump voucher, the latter of which she had observed being offered to other passengers. United’s staff provided neither. She went to Customer Service, she asked to speak to a supervisor, I called Dulles Airport Operations to ask for help — all to no avail. Finally, she got a hotel room and flew to Savannah the next day.

I later followed up with United’s customer service and was told that the best they would do is provide a $750 voucher. I don’t think this is enough, given all they put my wife through and their lack of help and empathy during this event. A better solution for us is to refund $750 against the original ticket price or a seating upgrade on our return to Frankfurt. — Kurt Schmidt, Savannah, Ga.

Answer: Your story really touched on a number of travel aggravations: a difficult problem met with indifference, circumstances that limited your options, and ultimately a solution that did not satisfy you.

Related story:   My wife died two years ago - why isn't United refunding our airfare?

There’s a lot we can learn from your experience. First, you were persistent with the company, and clearly that paid off. You were also clear on your expectations for a satisfactory solution, providing clear guidance to United on how they might resolve the issue.

One thing you didn’t do is maintain an electronic or paper trail; understandable given the circumstances. But whenever possible, keep records of all your efforts to resolve complaints.

You can also access our company contacts for another source of helpful information to resolve customer issues; you’ll find United listed there under “Airline.”

Finally, it’s also a good idea to check your carrier’s contract of carriage, which explains the terms and conditions of your ticket. In this case, and assuming your wife arrived at the loading gate at least 15 minutes prior to departure, she was eligible for 400 percent of the fare from Dulles to Savannah, up to a maximum of $1,350 (see Rule 25.4.a in the contract).

In your case, you reported several days later that United not only provided the $750 voucher, but also a $150 gift card to reimburse your wife for hotel costs. You were satisfied with this solution.

We’re glad you reached a fairly quick resolution with United Airlines, and that they worked to resolve the issue to your satisfaction.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.