Thursday, 8 January 2015

United We Fail

Jan 5

Nicola Ramsey   
Slave Lake, Alberta Canada    
   
My family of 5 experienced delays at the hands of United Airlines. Mechanical problems led to flight cancellations resulting in personal losses and financial hardship when United 1033 Panama City-Houston was cancelled December 30 2014. Due to the delays/rerouting arranged by United staff, it took us three full days to arrive at our destination. I believe United Airlines is liable for our costs and ask to be compensated for expenses which total $550 USD. A further baggage claim will be made if our luggage does not arrive.  
   
United 1033 was to depart 3:30 pm Dec 30. It was delayed and eventually cancelled for maintenance.  United staff told passengers that if they made their own arrangements they would not be reimbursed. No contact information or alternatives were provided.  
   
We were sent to a hotel and told the plane would depart the next day at which time onward travel would be arranged. The hotel front desk was to be our communications point. About 10 pm we arrived at the hotel where 100 people were in line. We could not receive meal vouchers until we checked in. We had not eaten since 2 pm so we bought food before we checked in.  
   
All morning I checked with the desk personnel who knew nothing. My husband finally phoned United and booked a flight at 8 pm to arrive in Edmonton at 6 pm Jan 1. Front desk said the bus to the airport would likely leave at 5 pm. My husband called United and a confirmation email was received. We went to the desk at 4:20. The bus was gone. We paid for a taxi to the airport for $65. At 5:30 pm the flight was cancelled again and we were routed via San Jose Costa Rica to arrive in Edmonton at 1 am January 2.   
   
We flew to Costa Rica. At 4:30 am we were taken to the San Jose Airport where we paid a departure tax of $150 USD although we had been there for just 8 hours.   
We arrived in Newark to find the US Airways flight was via Phoenix-a 6 hour flight took 12 hours. We had no meal vouchers and purchased meals. We cleared customs in Edmonton at 1:30 am, too late for us to drive home. We stayed in Edmonton arriving home noon January 2. Two pieces of luggage are lost.  
   
I ask that we be compensated for our expenses including the taxi to the airport, the hotel we booked in Phoenix, the departure tax from Costa Rica, and meals while in transit.  I have attached receipts. A further claim for luggage will be made if it does not arrive. Further compensation might encourage us to use your airline again. 

customercare@united.com to me                                                                          
Jan 6

Mrs. Ramsey:

Thank you for communicating the challenges of returning to Edmonton due to the cancellation of Flight 1033, December 30.  I sincerely apologize to you and to your traveling family members for the negative impressions created; the accompanying frustration is certainly understandable.

I will review your request for reimbursement of expenses after I carefully examine the attached receipts...within the next 24 hours, for sure, you will hear from me.  The telephone number listed in your reservation is XXXX.

Meanwhile, a special team within our corporate office has set up a website where you can go to choose from compensation choices offered to all passengers booked on Flight 1033, December 30....united.com/appreciation...as a goodwill gesture.

United, like other major air carriers, does not cover pre-paid expenses and offers goodwill compensation in travel vouchers for future travel or miles for members of our MileagePlus loyalty program such as you.

Your business with United Airlines, Mrs. Ramsey, is most appreciated. We look forward to serving you in a more satisfactory manner onboard future flights.  

Regards,

David Risinger
Corporate Customer Care
Case 8545522   

me to customercare@united.com                                                                            
Jan 6

I am sorry, but the link you sent to the compensation package does not work. If you could send it again I would greatly appreciate it.

Nicola Ramsey

Case 8545522 

customercare@united.com to me                                                                            
Jan 6

I regret reading that you are having problems accessing our appreciation website...http://united.com/appreciation.
Once there, you will enter the date and flight number and then go from there.  

Regards,

David Risinger
Corporate Customer Care

me to customercare@united.com                                                                            
Jan 8
In your email dated January 6 you stated I would receive a reply from you regarding my request for the reimbursement of expenses incurred due to United Airline's cancellation of flight UA1033 on December 20 2014. You stated I would definitely receive a reply in 24 hours.

I would appreciate the courtesy of a reply at your earliest convenience. I can be reached via email, cell XXX or landland XXXX
Thank you.

Phone call from David Risinger to me                                                                    
Jan 8

Mr Risinger apologized for the lateness of his reply as he was swamped at work. He then went on to say the airline would provide me with a $300 travel voucher. I explained that was not acceptable, I expected to be reimbursed in cash for my out of pocket expenses. He went on to say United did not cover prepaid expenses such as the hotel in Houston which I had paid for but was unable to use. He went on to say they did not cover the cost of taxis. I stated that it was not our choice to be in Panama for two extra days and that we were there because the flight had been cancelled, not by our choice. I then asked about the departure tax. "Mrs. Ramsey, I am not going to re-imburse you for  the departure tax. It was your choice to go to Costa Rica." I stated it was not in any way my choice to go to Costa Rica. I had originally booked Houston-Edmonton and when that flight was cancelled, re-booked via Newark as that was the only option given. When the second flight was cancelled, United Airlines staff told us our only option was to go via Costa Rica. At this point Mr Risinger said "No one forced you to go to Costa Rica. Did someone physically carry you onto the plane and tell you that you had to go to Costa Rica?"  At this point I said I would never choose to go to Costa Rica for seven hours. All we wanted to do was get home and this was the only option provided by United Airlines.  I reminded him that we had been told that if we did not take that flight, the next available flight to Houston was on January 6. At this point he told me the scan of the departure tax was unreadable and I agreed to send him a higher resolution version. He said he would analyze it and get back to me.


me to customercare@united.com                                                                     
Jan 8
I have attached a higher resolution version of the airport departure tax receipts.
As I explained to you on the phone, our family did not "choose" to go to Costa Rica.
Thank you

customercare@united.com to me                                                                    
Jan 8 

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me this morning.  As I explained several days ago, you can go to
http://united.com/appreciation to claim compensation for the cancellation of your Flight 1033 to Houston on December 30.  I once again apologize for the delay in returning home.

I look forward to receiving readable departure tax receipts to review for reimbursement.

Regards,

David Risinger
Corporate Customer Care
Case 8545522

Jan 8

Thank you for taking the time to call me this morning.

·         We booked a flight from Panama City to Houston to Edmonton that was scheduled to depart on Dec 30.
·         After the cancellation of UA 1033 on December 30, we re-booked a flight to Panama City to Newark to Edmonton on Dec 31. 
·         At that time we were told by United Airlines that if we did not take that flight, the next available flight to Houston was January 6.
·         On Dec 31 we were told by United Airlines that the only way we could get back to Edmonton was to fly to Costa Rica, stay there 8 hours, and from there fly to Newark and then Edmonton. 
At no point did we have any interest in visiting Costa Rica.
 I expect to be reimbursed AT MINIMUM by cheque or money order-not travel voucher- for my taxi and the airport departure tax. Both of these expenses were directly caused by United Airline's failure to get my family home in a reasonable time frame. 

Furthermore, I feel I have been very polite in my dealings with United Airlines to this point. I believe I am legally entitled under the Montreal Convention to be re-reimbursed in cash for actual expenses incurred by my family directly caused by the two cancellations of flights from Panama City.


customercare@united.com to me
Jan 9

Mrs. Ramsey:

I will put through the departure taxes for repayment as requested.  It should take about 7-10 business days to process and mail a draft to your home address.

Regards,

David Risinger

Corporate Customer Care

me to customercare@united .com       
Feb 2

Hi David

Just a note that I have not yet received the repayment for departure taxes as promised.

Thanks

Nicola Ramsey

Phone conversation between David Risinger and me
Feb 2

Risinger: I have taken your claim to my supervisors and because the airport departure tax was not paid to United Airlines, United Airlines will not refund you the $29 dollars per person.
Me: But the only reason I had to pay the airport departure tax was because United Airlines cancelled my flight twice. I never at any point had any interest in visiting Costa Rica for 6 hours. I am already out of pocket for a number of other expenses that United Airlines will not re-imburse.Is there someone above you I can complain to?
Risinger: I can certainly take your complaints up at a higher level.
Me: Could you please give me an email address or phone number of someone above you? 
Risinger: I assure you that I will take this complaint up with our corporate office
Me: So are you refusing to give me the contact information of your superior?
Risinger: Well, it wouldn't do any good. As the customer care representative tasked with your case, there would be no point in taking this up with anyone else. It is United Airlines policy that we do not reimburse money that was not paid to us and you did not pay United Airlines the departure tax.
Me: Of course I didn't pay United Airlines, United Airlines does not collect departure tax. And I would like the contact information of your superior. That is just ridiculous
Risinger: Well, how about this, I am prepared to offer you a travel voucher of $100.
Me: On top of the $150 travel voucher that was already offered to me on your customer appreciation website?

Risinger: Oh. Right. Well, let me talk to somebody and I will see what I can do. I will get back to you within the hour.

Cell Phone conversation between David Risinger and me

Feb 11

Risinger: Mrs. Ramsey? It's David Risinger here from United Airlines, replying to your email of February 2 regarding the departure tax from Costa Rica. Once again, on behalf of United Airlines I apologize for the inconvenience your family experienced but United Airlines, like most other companies, does not refund money that wasn't paid to them in the first place to its customers. I can however, provide a travel voucher to each member of your family.
Me: I'm not interested in any kind of travel voucher. I will take this to small claims court. Don't bother phoning me again.
Click.