Wanderings: United Airlines’ impressive customer service

An American airline + customer service? It’s almost an oxymoron these days. However, United Airlines managed to impress me enough to keep me subdued through our recent 3+hour delay due to maintenance issues last Wednesday at Dulles Airport.

Wednesday evening, around 5:30pm. We were already on the runway preparing to take off and then – of course, some maintenance light flashes on in the cockpit, and then we all sat around on the tarmac for another hour while we hear the crews banging around with tools below. Then, we were sent back to the gate to wait a little more – except we’re allowed to stand up and mill about the plane. Meanwhile, the flight attendants kept us regularly updated, which was nice, although we still weren’t getting to Los Angeles any faster, which was annoying.

Finally, we got sent off the plane back into the airport so I could spend another $25 buying magazines, a book, muffin, candy and a silly Obama Christmas ornament (left) while we waited for another Boeing 777 to be shipped from Chicago. Meanwhile, United kept updating us – and provided us with free soft drinks to keep us hydrated – before we re-boarded and took off around 9:00pm. Customer reps in Los Angeles were on hand to give those who missed connections with hotel vouchers. The next day, we received emails of apologies and offers for 10,000 bonus miles, or a$250 e-certificate off a future flight, or 20% off an international economy ticket. I opted for the $250 certificate. I forgave United Airlines.


(Of course, once we arrived in LA, our car rental place was closed and we had to book another car through Thrifty. After waiting 30 minutes for the shuttle to arrive and take us there, our reservation wasn’t on the system because Thrifty experienced a computer outage and we had to wait another 30 minutes to have our reservation pulled up or else pay $85 a day instead of $22 as reserved. Here, your honored writer of My Travel Hats did not stay very subdued, even though they gave us free additional driver, but tried to get us to buy additional rental insurance even though we said NO three times and I had written a comprehensive guide to car rentals only last week. Lesson learned: rent only from places that stay open late if there’s any chance you’ll be late)


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