Earlier this week, my mother had to fly EUG-DEN
urgently to be at the side of her father, who was literally dying. She called UA
and asked for a bereavement fare.
First, she had to give every last detail of where her father was, who her doctor was, even the phone number of the facility administrator -- not exactly things at her fingertips as she's rushing to go. The representative on the phone was very rude toward her, even as she tried to get the information they needed. The UA
rep even had the nerve to ask her if she wanted to hear about their latest leisure promotions -- as she's crying and desperately waiting for help from him. Then, she gets put on hold forever and was told that all of the 'bereavement seats' had been sold out, after about 45 minutes on the phone.
Her next call was to Frontier. F9
doesn't have bereavement fares, and for a reason -- they don't need them. The F9
rep made arrangements for her, held a one-way ticket for her at the counter, didn't even take a credit card, and told her that if she makes the flight out of PDX
, they'll take her card there, and if she can't, there won't be a charge. She got to PDX
, got the ticket, flew out, and arrived at her father's bedside in time. He died an hour after she arrived.
Arranging the trip home was just as easy -- picked a flight and got on it, even though loads were fairly heavy.
What on earth is UA
doing? First, to promote leisure fares to a woman in tears. Second, to not be able to identify whether or not inventory exists. Third, to request all of this totally useless information. It is, simply, pathetic
It's no wonder that UA
is the basket case of the industry. They can't seem to get out of their own way. Instead of helping someone who was truly in urgent need (and scoring good PR
points out of it), they put their blinders on and got mired down in their own self-important policies and "customer service" scripts. They've lost my family permanently as a customer -- I won't tolerate giving a dime to a company that is so disinterested in helping those in need, period. I won't book travel for my employees on them, and I sure as hell will make a point to tell everyone in my social circle who does business with UA
about their absolutely dreadful performance this week.
This has also changed my mind dramatically on a point that I've argued many times, especially with DCA
-ROCguy. Airlines and airports are a public good
and should be forced to act that way. UA
uses public facilities, gets public subsidies, and therefore should be forced to operate in the public interest. Call it regulation, good manners, or socialist business -- what's important is that these carriers be forced to stop being monolithic tyrants when it comes to performing a public good.
and the rest of the legacy carriers are getting their rear ends kicked by the LCCs. It's no wonder. There is precisely ZERO reason that UA
had to behave this way... it is absolutely within their means -- and their responsiblity -- to do exactly what F9
did in this scenario. I know the arguments: "we have to verify", "we have to make money", "what if everyone did that", blah blah blah. Those arguments amount to a hill of beans: WN
is famous for helping people in extraordinary situations, and no one can say that they've lost their shirts because of it. F9
is turning out to be the same way. Simply put, it is profitable to do business in a way that is socially responsible
I can't say enough good things about Frontier. The way they do business makes sense, makes goodwill, and makes money
. When was the last time that UA
could say that?