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FLY777UAL
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Sun Aug 24, 2003 1:44 pm

How so? I'll give you the fact that they're both completely opposite circumstances, but in the end, you're both buying a service from a company who obviously doesn't have the product. The magnitude of needing a shirt isn't as great as that of a dying loved one, but the idea is just the same. Need and need, "ain't got it" and "ain't got it".

As for why none of the Legacy carriers want to bend over backwards, it's because they don't have to. They realize it. Bankruptcy is a good reason why they should scramble for every customer, but they know that there will never be a mass exodus or even signifigant loss of business by not offering that fare to one woman. F9 and WN don't have to offer it, either, but they just choose to. They're smaller carriers with a "small corporate" feel to them, and recognize the passenger as what they should be recognized as: a valued customer.

F L Y 7 7 7 U A L
 
AA777MIA
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Sun Aug 24, 2003 1:45 pm

The bottom line is that big corps are not trained to think outside the box... It is all black and white, and there is no grey area. It has to be one way or another, and no maybe.. It drives me crazy! I cannot believe that the big airlines actually train people to think like this, especially in this day and age.. But again, the sad thing is, that because people have found ways to beat the pricing system, airlines have retaliated in tightening rules and adding restrictions. Is it right? NO!
 
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flashmeister
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Sun Aug 24, 2003 1:48 pm

They're smaller carriers with a "small corporate" feel to them, and recognize the passenger as what they should be recognized as: a valued customer.

Exactly how is this supposed to defend UA's practices? Just seems to solidify what's becoming evident here: that smaller carriers tend to provide better service these days, and they're doing it while making a profit. Seems to me that UA and the rest of the legacy lot, as I said before, can't seem to get out of their own way.
 
FLY777UAL
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Sun Aug 24, 2003 2:11 pm

If you re-read my posts, I have never tried to defend their practices aside from what they must do, such as verify information for a berievment fare. Matter of fact, I actually agreed with you several times to your opinions regarding the treatment she received.

F L Y 7 7 7 U A L
 
gamps
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Sun Aug 24, 2003 3:42 pm

While we are at this subject, I wonder how many of you actually look for a specific carrier when flying from point A to point B. I mean isn't fare the deciding factor?

If I want to fly from SJC to EWR, what I want is the best price. So I will go around different websites and look for best fare.

What I am trying to say is, all this talk of boycott of an airline because of an incident doesn't make sense to me. It is not as if this lady was frequent flier and wanted to fly on UA or will fly on UA always.

Personally if I experienced such horrible treatment from UA, when next time I need to travel if UA comes up with the best fare (In Orbitz, Travelocity search etc) I won't mind flying with them again. Remember UA still has a pretty extensive network and offers best price on some routes. Its time we treat airliners as just another business. Anyone can have a bad day including us in our profession, whatever it might be.

Honestly next time you are travelling, if UA offers one fourth the price of next latest airliner will you still decline to fly them?

 
jhooper
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Sun Aug 24, 2003 4:01 pm

My condolences to you and your family as well. Nobody deserves to be treated like that, especially in a time of distress. If the airline needs verification (totally understandable), then this can be taken care of after the fact. There's no need to show attitude over the phone. Honestly, I've bitten my tongue after showing attitude when talking to an airline representative on more than one occasion after realizing that my comments were totally out of line, but these people are supposedly trained and paid to deal with customer relations. Let's look again at the Nordstrom shirt example. If you want to compare apples to apples, then look at it like this: I want to buy the shirt, and they do in fact have the size I need, but they simply won't sell it to me at the price I want to pay. UA had seats available which likely departed without bums in them, so the "we're out of these seats" excuse is not valid.

One thing I'm going to disagree with is the notion that airlines should be "forced to act in the public good". Airlines are businesses with the goal to make money. If a town or the federal government decides to provide subsidies to justify certain otherwise unprofitable routes, then so be it, perhaps the airline will provide the service after consideration of their opportunity costs. However, I agree that good customer relations is a key to making your business profitable, and thus should be a top priority for any service-intense business. One good will gesture on the part of the airline can pay huge dividends in the end; unfortunately, that principle is largely forgotten in this "us vs. them" climate. One thing is certain: if you're going to offer things like "bereavement" fares, you should manage it properly. In your case you'd probably have better goodwill towards UA if they hadn't offered these fares period and just told you so up front, and if that's the case, the whole purpose of the airline offering bereavement fares (P.R. benefit) is defeated due to poor management.

I totally agree that the front line customer service people make or break the image for the company and that the little things go along way. It's not one bad agent on one bad day that puts the company's image in the toilet; rather, it's a consistent pattern of treating customers like crap time and time again, day in an day out, by obviously disgruntled employees who take no pride in their company. (I'm not talking about everyone, but I'm talking about a significant percentage). I believe the fundamental difference is morale...the employees at Jetblue, Frontier, and Southwest are proud to work for great companies, and this attitude shines through to the customers. Morale at many of the majors is low, and for them, you're just the next whining customer that they couldn't care less about. The leadership needs to shift their paradigm about how they treat people (their employees and customers alike), and those who continue to only give a damn about themselves and their own careers should be gotten rid of. There are more than enough hard working, polite people out there who are looking for jobs.


FLY777UAL , just to respond to a few of your comments:

Not trying in the least bit to convince his mother or him to continue flying. They obviously found a good deal with Frontier and enjoyed their service, so that's fine.

Is that seriously how you feel about it? I mean, it appears perfectly okay with you that a potential customer uses your competitor rather than putting money in your pocket. Shouldn't you be bending over backwards to get every customer you can possibly get? I mean, I get better service from the local used car dealer because they want to keep me from buying from the competition, at almost any cost.


At the end of the day, I'll still give them my business, no matter what service I received.


Really? Substandard service is acceptable to you, you'll keep giving them repeat business? It's really all about dollars and cents to you, isn't it?


As for why none of the Legacy carriers want to bend over backwards, it's because they don't have to. They realize it. Bankruptcy is a good reason why they should scramble for every customer, but they know that there will never be a mass exodus or even signifigant loss of business by not offering that fare to one woman. F9 and WN don't have to offer it, either, but they just choose to.


Like I mentioned earlier, it's not one incident. It's a pattern of consistent incidents. One by one, you are losing your customers, as well as many of your potential customers through the almighty "word of mouth" form of advertising.


They're smaller carriers with a "small corporate" feel to them, and recognize the passenger as what they should be recognized as: a valued customer.


Now it seems like you're vindicating the LCC way of doing business. Thank you.


Milemaster ,


The reality is however (unless you're totally committed) that you will be flying them again if the fare they offer to a destination is the right one.


It's the principle of the thing. If I don't feel like a company deserves my business, I won't give them one cent no matter what the offer is.

Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
 
FLY777UAL
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Sun Aug 24, 2003 4:16 pm

Yes, JHooper, that is exactly the way I felt about it. As great as it would have been for United to bend over backwards to accomodate this customer, the bottom line is important, which is the fact that she would have paid cost for her ticket. Asses in seats, my friend. PAYING asses in seats.

Substandard service is never okay with me, however as I also stated in that post just two lines above, "I can weed through the rudeness that many of their employees have shown and focus on the good things. They're convenient and at times can be absolutely amazing with their service". It's nothing to do with dollars and cents, but the sheer convenience of travel that they offer between the cities I need, coupled with the fact that in the past (as stated), they can have absolutely amazing service. I'm not going to let a few bad experiences spoil the whole company. They have how many thousands of employees, a few at least who would love to have my business...

You're very welcome for that comment vindicating the LCC model. I'm a big fan of that type of service, no matter what the industry. Not quite sure of your point with that one (but you got me on it anyway!)...

F L Y 7 7 7 U A L
 
L-188
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Sun Aug 24, 2003 4:27 pm

You know hearing about how airlines must "verify" a bereavement fare, reminds me of "Ferris Buellers Day Off" when he is trying to get his girlfriend out of class so they call the school an claim her grandmother died. When they talk to the principle he tells them that they need to produce the body.

Actually when I worked out in the bush, there was a guy I knew that worked for the 135 carrier in town. Anyway he quit for the fishing season and went back to his home village, got drunk the first night and committed suicide. I had to meet his uncle's fishing boat that brought the body back over the day after so it could go to the mortician in Anchorage. I hand to help his dad and his uncle, hook up the aluminum shipping casket to the boom system on the boat and hoist it onto the back of a flatbed truck and drive him and the body back to the airport to catch the plane to town.

Question is: Would traveling with the H/R be enough proof for United to issue a bereavement fare?  Yeah sure
OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
 
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flashmeister
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Sun Aug 24, 2003 11:54 pm

Honestly next time you are travelling, if UA offers one fourth the price of next latest airliner will you still decline to fly them?

Absolutely. At this point, the only way I'll fly UA is if there is absolutely no other option that could possibly work, and I can't change my dates for some reason, and it's not feasible to Amtrak it or drive.

First, it's very rare that UA would be 1/4 the price of another carrier in a given market. I haven't seen that phenomenon play out.

Second, it is the principle of the thing. To me, it's worth extra money to fly on a carrier with good service. This gets to the point I made about forcing these airlines to behave themselves: we can accomplish a lot of the "forcing" by voting with our pocketbooks. We can do a lot to change the behavior of airlines without involving governmental regulation: we just need to reward the carriers who do things the right way. To an extent, we're already doing that with the 'Southwest phenomenon' when they expand into the market. We just need to keep the pressure on.
 
StevenUhl777
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 12:17 am

Flashmeister:

Bottom line:
- My condolences to you and your family, a terrible sitatuation compounded by miserable customer service.
- Chris Bowers is the VP of customer service and he reports up to John Tague, and Tague then reports up to CEO Tilton. Send a letter directly to Tague and Bowers, possibly via overnight mail to the office in Elk Grove Village, Illinois (the street address might be on ual.com) outlining the situation. I hope you documented the date, time, and the name of the rude agent you spoke with. If you have all that info., they can figure out who it was, and if the call was recorded, they can use that to fire the guy.
If you have all this info., I would almost guarantee a response from someone high up.
-In general, avoid the customer service agents at any airline altogether. Whenver humanly possible, use the websites for the airlines or Orbits/Travelocity/whatever. You're guaranteed to not get a bad attitude. The airlines have pretty good websites nowadays (including UA) to do everything online. For example, my recent trip to BOS was all booked online, I used the easy check in, and no need for contact with anyone. Worked very well. I believe the other major airlines have the same or similar products.
-I realize you probably won't fly UA anytime soon, and I think you have good reason. I do hope though that you will not judge an entire airline on 1 rotten apple, as others have mentioned.
And the winner for best actress is....REESE WITHERSPOON for 'Walk the Line'!!!!!!!!
 
Northwesta319
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 12:39 am

Flashmeister, as StevenUhl777 said, you probably want to contact UA. Here is the customer relations information.

Phone: 1-877-228-1327

Fax:1-877-406-1059

Write:

Customer Relations
WHQPW
P.O. Box 66100
Chicago, Illinois 60666

UA suggestes you have the following when you call.
Dates, flight numbers and itinerary
Copy of your ticket and boarding pass or e-ticket receipt
Your name, street or email address and telephone number

Hope it helps, sorry about your grandfather.
 
luv2fly
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 12:48 am

Flashmeister:

I would do what StevenUhl777 suggested and go right to the top of the food chain here. Why bother with customer relations when all they will do is give you a canned response, tell it to the mountain and maybe, just maybe they will actually here what you have to say.

Good luck.
You can cut the irony with a knife
 
Marara
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 1:13 am

We had something similar happen to my mother going back to see my dieing grandmother, the weird part about it was the big carrier outdid the smaller carrier.

My mother got a call from family in scotland late saturday night saying "come now". All travel agents were closed the next day and flight centre's 'emergency number' was a complete waste of time.

My mother expecting QF to be a pain in the Arse chose to start with Royal Brunei (who are usually really good) The agent didnt want to hear about it, it was almost time for her to close the office and she made it clear that she wasnt going to do anymore to help than to offer her a normally priced seat only to add that it would be useless as my mum would not be able to pick up the ticket as she wasnt about to take the ticket out to the airport.

Mum was getting frantic now because it was almost 4pm she tried Garuda who were even less helpful.

Then she tried QF. QF supprised the hell out my mum. The agent was soo nice. There were no bereavement fares available so the agent listed a heap of alternative routes (eg via sydney through BKK etc and through the US), the agent said she knew that mum would want to get to the UK ASAP and she would see what she could do and ring back soon. The agent called back in 10 minutes to say she had been to her superior and explained and that QF had opened up a J seat for her on the SIN-LON leg on a later flight and was waitlisted for the earlier flight. They organised the BA shuttle flights aswell. The agent went on to hope everything turned out okay. Tickets were left @ checkin, check in were lovely and asked how things were going and wished her the best.

mum was called to the desk in SIN and got the earlier flight.

Somtimes the airlines do get it right. Needless to say the agent got a big box of chocolates and a letter thanking her and the team for their help sent to QF.
BI also got a letter and were much better when my mother had to rush back when my grandmother died.
I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. Jerome K Jerome
 
kl911
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 1:24 am



One bad experience doesn't make it a bad airline !!! Why else do you think it's the worlds 2nd largest airline? Besides, what's a bereavement fare good for? It's not the airlines responsibility now, is it? Why should tourists pay higher fares? Luckily we haven't got those in Europe....
 
kl911
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 1:33 am



Sorry btw for the persons involved, must be hard for you, but in my opinion it's the same as going to the supermarket and ask them for a bereavement fare on coffee. I just don't think it's an airlines responsability. You know it when you go live far away from your family.....
 
txagkuwait
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 2:11 am

I tried to post a few thoughts on this last night, but for whatever reason my computer had rendered me temporarily unable to post. Alas.

Here is my take on this:

United's ASM cost is about a dime. The distance from EUG to DEN is 997 miles. Thus, it costs UA approximately $ 100 to produce a one way seat. Round trip that would be $ 200. Figure that an airline ought to set their prices to where they break even at a 60% LF......the fare should be set around $ 334 RT. Add tax, title, and license.....the round trip EUG-DEN-EUG should have been about $375.

But it wasn't $ 375, was it? The RT was more like $ 725 according to Travelocity.

The problem is the fare structure on the cartel carriers.

I am particularly offended by the "shirt at Nordstrom's" example.

Here is a better analogy using the pricing of merchandise at a store:

Nordstrom's has 100 shirts in stock. They paid the manufacturer $ 25 per shirt.

Nordstrom's puts the first 80 shirts on sale for $ 20 each, $ 5 less than they paid for them. Two weeks before they have to clear the shelves, they have 20 shirts left, so they jack the price on them up to $ 100 each, then act surprised when folks get angry at the price.

Coincidentally, WalMart buys the same shirts from the same manufacturer, but since (A) they buy 1000 of them and (B) they don't make the manufacturer sew a Nordstrom label on it, they get them for $ 18 apiece.

WalMart sells as many shirts as they can for $ 23 apiece. They are almost out of the shirts 2 weeks before the next truckload is due in, so they tweak the price up to $35.

The only real difference between shirts and airplane seats is shirts have a sort of lasting value.....they are a good, not a service. Once the airplane seat parks at the destination, there is no significant lasting intrinsic value difference between one or the other.

Sorry to hear about your family's loss, FM, but if it were me, I would not waste my time and effort writing or contacting anybody in the United food chain. If they are too dumb to see what they are doing wrong, some "stupid irate passenger who is peeved about not getting a bereavement fare" is not going to cause them to look harshly and realistically at their pricing folly.

Best regards,

TxAg
 
txagkuwait
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 2:18 am

Oh and one last thing.

The "last minute walkup fares" are so high not because it is a smart way to do business, but it is the easiest and best way to extort money from passengers who have no other choice.

You need to get there for a business meeting tomorrow morning? Show me the money!

You have a sick relative and you need to get to their bedside before the pass on to the Great perhaps? Show me the money!

Airline executives who have fine-tuned this method of revenue maximization aren't stupid. They do this for a very simple reason. They want the money.

It all goes back to what Lamar Muse said about airline pricing 30 yrs ago, but nobody was listening:

"Feed the rich and grow poor. Feed the poor and grow rich."

If you need to get someplace badly enough, you will pay the price, regardless.

That doesn't mean that setting the price sky-high is smart, as you have eluded to....eventually passengers will say "ENOUGH!" and the migration to the LCC continues.
 
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flashmeister
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Mon Aug 25, 2003 2:50 am

One bad experience doesn't make it a bad airline !!! Why else do you think it's the worlds 2nd largest airline?

To make the argument that UA is the worlds 2nd largest airline because of their superior service would evoke quite a response on these forums, I'd think. UA's size is not related to their service, clearly.

As commented on earlier, bigger doesn't mean better (and in most cases, bigger probably means worst). I seriously doubt that anyone thinks that Wal-Mart got to where it is (the world's largest retailer) because of their great service. Hardly.

The walk-up fare trick is, as stated earlier, nothing but extortion. The airlines get away with it because people (sometimes) pay it. We need to educate people that it's not necessary to do so, and again, use our power as consumers to force the issue with the legacy carriers that such practices cannot stand.
 
jhooper
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 2:53 am


the bottom line is important, which is the fact that she would have paid cost for her ticket. Asses in seats, my friend. PAYING asses in seats. ,


FLY777UAL ,

Even if someone pays "cost" for their seat, that's better than the seat leaving empty, in which case the airline takes a loss on that seat. Besides, I'm pretty sure, given two people I know who have called in inquiring about bereavement fares, that they are priced at more than cost. Anyway, they are priced far more expensively than what someone who bought their tickets 3 weeks before the flight would have paid. So I'm not convinced for a second that the airline isn't making money off those tickets.

I know airlines make a killing off their "last minute" tickets, but that's just a way to price discriminate liesure travelers from business travelers; the idea being that the business traveler is willing to pay more for his seat. I think there is a difference between this executive who needs to make an important business meeting (where he might possibly land a huge contract or something), and the rarely traveled family member who needs to be by the bedside of a dying relative. People generally don't give three weeks notice that they're going to die to allow everyone to prepare and buy their airline tickets, etc., so I don't think it's right to gouge these people 4X or more what tourists next to them paid.
Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
 
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flashmeister
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Mon Aug 25, 2003 3:12 am

I know airlines make a killing off their "last minute" tickets, but that's just a way to price discriminate liesure travelers from business travelers; the idea being that the business traveler is willing to pay more for his seat

This is no longer a safe assumption to make, and the legacy carriers, especially United, can't seem to get it through their thick heads that companies won't pay these awful fares anymore. Another case of sticking to the same old business model which clearly no longer works.
 
txagkuwait
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 3:19 am

Flash:

Not wanting to hihack this thread into a WalMart saga, but in truth, they did become the world's largets retailer thru superior service, of a sort.

They gave the public what they wanted, ie low prices, on merchandise of reasonably high quality.

The name brands they sell are the same name brands carried at a host of other retailers. You just generally pay less for them at WalMart.

I think there are many parallels between WN and WalMart. I often hear people say "WN wanted $198 for the round trip and I got it on AA for $192" or something of that nature.

That may be true. I might find Listerine on sale at a remote pharmacy in a distant part of town for $ 2.29 but I can always walk in to WalMart and buy it for $2.35. There is a lot to be said for low prices, but there is even more to be said for the knowledge that I am not getting bent over a table if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Ever bought something that didn't work? I have always been able to take it back to WalMart for an exchange, no 3rd degree questioning, no receipt required if I got it at the same store. I have taken Christmas gifts purchased in Fort Worth to a WalMart is El Paso, with nothing more that "I think my parents bought this at WalMart"...and if they have that item in stock, I can get a refund or exchange, no questions asked. WalMart's sign says "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and they really do mean it and live up to the slogan.

I see Walmart as the great equalizer....where I come from, everyone shops there...old and young, rich and poor. It is because they are giving the public what it wants, and in my way of thinking, there is no better service than that.

The bottom line is that airlines ought to sell their seats at a price where they can make some money and their passengers can afford to fly. That is how they have failed since deregulation - rather than address the cost side of the equation (they cannot afford to lower fares to LCC levels without some sort of pricing sleight of hand) they have decided upon a bizarre strategy of selling seats at below cost and (trying to) sell a few last minute seats at outrageous prices to make up for their losses.

The old story about McDonald's --- they lose 5 cents on each 25 cent burger they sell, but they make up for it in volume....is not too far off the mark, eh?

America West's fare strategy revision of a year or two ago is now paying dividends. The rest of the cartel carriers still just don't get it. High fares will kill the airlines. Nobody wants to believe that, though. Southwest and other LCCs are not real airlines, they are an aberration, businessmen won't fly them, only cheap trashy passengers fly those sorts of airlines...the list goes on. But it all boils down to this:

Feed the rich and grow poor. Feed the poor and grow rich.
 
Greg
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 9:09 am

Just out of curiosity, why were so 'price sensitive' in such a time of crisis?
Personally, if any member of my family were ill--I'd just to to the airport and get on a plane regardless of the cost.

You can make a reservation with any carrier in less than three minutes--I do it all the time. That fact that you needed special or specific fares is what delayed you. Once Frontier introduces bereavement fares, I'm sure it will complicate matters as well.

The passing of family is particularly tough. My condolences.
 
jhooper
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 9:25 am

The costs of burying your loved one is high enough as it is. Some people simply can't afford to buy an expensive plane ticket. I know my aunts and uncles couldn't afford it if I were ill. Some airlines are sensitive to this fact, and thus offer bereavement fares. Perhaps then the airline can earn a loyal customer in the future.
Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
 
Bicoastal
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 12:59 pm

I sympathize with the airlines. There are so many scam artists, dishonest blokes and cheapskates in our midsts. I'm sure airlines have been "had" by every line in the book. It's unfortunate that the truly needy are now affected by the jerks in the world, but that's life. Airlines have to do what they can to weed out fraud. If they don't they're probably losing money. And to be brutally honest, no one owes you anything just because a loved one died.
Airliners.net has many forums. It has spell check and search functions. Use them before posting!
 
Mike77
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 1:29 pm

I don't understand what all the fuss is about. If a family member of mine was dying, I would pay whatever the walk-up fare is and go. Is someone really so cheap that they would demand a discounted fare to visit a dying relative? It seems as if money wouldn't be an issue if one was in such a desperate situation.

And about the UA representative trying to push leisure and other promotions - well that is just shocking! I have never heard of such insensitivity! I would be contacting customer service ASAP if I were you! But don't hold it against UA. Hold it against a poorly trained agent who should not be doing that job!



Michael
 
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yyz717
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 1:44 pm

This is the sort of airline treatment that people will remember the rest of their lives. UA never deserves your mother's custom again.

My condolenses to you and your family.

I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
 
ZSSNC
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Mon Aug 25, 2003 2:48 pm

I absolutely agree with KL911. If bereavement fares would not exist with major US carriers there would not have been this problem. It must be pretty difficult for a reservation agent to verify all of the information mentioned above. And in my humble opinion it is necessary for the airlines to do that. There are so many people already that cheat airlines with stolen credit card numbers, etc. And you wouldn't believe what people come up with to get upgraded. Thus it is an utmost necessity to make sure that someone indeed qualifies for that type of fare. Of course, this will automatically lead to a persons feeling being hurt or even insult. Thus, I think the best way to solve that problem would be to not offer bereavement fares in the future (and as Flashmeister said, with a different fare structure that might not even be necessary. However, if UA was out on seats on that particular flight, just imagine closed booking classes across the board - and yes, I have seen this happen before, there would have been nothing the reservations agent could have done. But then again, as mentioned before, the reservations agent should have checked for vacant seats before enquiring all of this information. It is absolutely unprofessional to offer a fare for which I cannot get any seats - unless, of course, the passenger asks me for a cheaper option and is flexible concerning the departure date).

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DCA-ROCguy
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 2:54 pm

My condolences to, and prayers for, you and your family. May your grandfather rest in peace.

Economics helps explain UA's behavior. They have a high CASM and have to worry about things like being able to rake walk-up pax, in order to service that CASM.

--The bad-customer-service way to protect high walk-up fares is to hassle grieving people in crisis situations, in order to weed out scam artists.
--The good-customer-service way to do this is put a condition on the fare, explained by the agent, that if documentation isn't produced within a certain amount of time after the flight (say three weeks) then the airline charges the credit card number twice the walk-up fare. That weeds out scam artists quickly without the need for a) hassling the really bereaved, or b) filing expensive lawsuits.

Apparently such common sense eludes the folks at United. If they can't figure that out, it's not your mother's fault, it's their fault. So you're perfectly justified to blame United. Fly777UAL's Nordstrom shirt comparison is BS. TxAgKuwait's correction of the analogy shows why.

Frontier, Southwest, et. al., designed their cost structures to benefit consumers and shareholders, rather than unions. Therefore they have lower CASM, and don't need to "gatekeep" rapine walk-up fares like United does, in order to make money. So they just offer their reasonable walk-up fare, which is probably the same or less than UA's bereavement fare. Which is a much better way of doing business. One that both makes money and respects air travel's qualities as both business and public good.

I'd still write UA. I'm a big believer in letting businesses know when they jerk me around. It gives them a chance to better serve their remaining customers. If enough people write, and vote with their feet (which F9's presence allows you to do), at some point the business either changes or goes under.

Jim

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Petrouchka
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Mon Aug 25, 2003 3:07 pm

I'm diving in really late, but I just wanted to add in this tidbit: WN does not offer bereavement fares, contrary to what I've seen suggested above. My grandmother passed on in April of 2002, and I needed to arrange a sudden flight from SMF to SAN. WN was plenty willing to work out flight arrangements on short notice for me... but I paid full-price.
 
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 1:07 am

We weren't being price sensitive on this -- Frontier was the only one who offered to help in the end. I think that my Mom's emphasis on bereavement was first, the fact that she was uncontrollably emotional, and second, she wanted to make it clear that she had to leave right then. When my grandmother died in 1990, booking a bereavement fare on CO out of PDX was no hassle at all, so there was no reason for her to expect to have a problem this time around.

DCA-ROCguy: letters are indeed being written. We're first doing the congratulatory ones to Jeff Potter and F9 Customer Relations. We're then writing to Chris Bowers, John Tague, and Glenn Tilton at UA, describing our experience, and including a cc of the congratulatory letters to F9 to show them an example of what a satisfied customer looks like. I get the idea that those are getting fewer and farther between in the UA world.
 
Greg
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 1:12 am

If you weren't being price sensitive..then you must not be speaking English.
I made a made a reservation (and paid for it) to Boston from Houston via ORD yeserday. I think I was on the phone with United a total of four minutes--and most of that was her confirming my flight numbers.

I think the larger question is whether or not you were being rational...or having a rational attitude in the time of crisis. I would say not.

Also, letter writing is generally useless unless it's on corporate letterhead or your an attorney.
 
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flashmeister
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 1:22 am

Yeah, I guess it is irrational to expect United to NOT try to sell us leisure fares when we're trying to get to DEN, and to NOT put us through hell and back to confirm a bereavement seat that didn't even exist and to NOT make things easy and simple like their competitor.

Price was not an issue here. If the fare would have been $2000, it would have been paid. The agent made it clear that he could not help us, after wasting our time, so we went elsewhere. It was not an issue of us being price sensitive. It was an issue of finding someone to help us.

If it took this guy 45 minutes to come to the conclusion that there were no bereavement seats available, how long would it have taken to sell a full-fare ticket?

That, combined with his clear disregard for the situation as described earlier, is what forced us to take our business elsewhere. Sounds pretty irrational to me!
 
OH-LGA
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 1:42 am

Flashmeister: I too offer my condolences on the passing of your father. The way your mother was treated on the phone was indeed unacceptable, apparently said agent had no tact or empathy for the dituation. I am pleased that you did find something that met your needs given the situation.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, did your mother try to go directly to the United Express agents at EUG airport? The agents at the counter would have been able to ticket out the same exact fare and may have been a little bit more sympathetic.

All airlines that offer bereavement fares have certain rules to them to ensure that they are issued to those who are in need, rather than the scores of cheapskates and those that work the system. Usually (if a person is recently deceased) they require a name, phone number and a contact at the funeral home making the final arrangements. If someone is very sick and close to death, a doctor's name and phone number is usually required. I'm not super-trained in ticketing as I'm a gate agent, but I know a little bit.

A case in point, a friend of mine was in another city and became very ill, and needed to get back to Dallas to see his doctor immediately. I called AA (the only airline that served the town he was in) and inquired about bereavement fares. He didn't fall under the guidelines, so that was denied. Eventually, he paid full fare one way (surprisingly about $175), no strings attached. United has been offering similar fares in some smaller markets such as EUG. Not always will a bereavement fare best suit your needs.

Again, I'm sorry for what transpired, and while I wouldn't blame you for never giving United your business again, I echo the comments of those that say you probably got an agent in a bad mood. There are tons of us that are busting our butts everyday (even those of us who work for United indirectly), making sure that you have the best darn travelling experience possible. Then there are those that taint the perception of the rest of us with their sour attitude. I hate being lumped together with them, so please don't.

Kai
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philhyde
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 1:46 am

I'm confused - if price was not an issue, then why make a big fuss (or even suggest) to the agent that you need a bereavement (read: cheap) fare?

Nevertheless, the treatment your mother received is inexcusable.
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jhooper
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:00 am

And to be brutally honest, no one owes you anything just because a loved one died.

It's not about who owes who what, bereavement customers are just another market segment that the airlines would like to capture. If it had no money making potential or didn't benefit the airline in any way, the fare wouldn't be offered.
Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
 
richierich
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:05 am

Trust me, I am not defending UA but I do have a point to make.

I work for an LLC that I hope handles similar situations to this one in a manner much better than UA did. But I do know that airlines feel like they have to protect their butts too. Fraud is rampant in the airline industry, especially with the advent of e-tickets and third-party bookings.

Clearly that was not the case here. But I am sure (and I would hope) that my airline asks to have a doctors note or, in the case of a passing, a newspaper obituary sent in. This is not to intended to be rude or insensitive, but if we didn't, do you know how many people's grandmothers, mothers, etc., would suddenly "pass"??

Still, the UA rep had no reason to be rude or come off as insensitive. It is the culmination of these little things that are conspiring to do the big airlines in. America (and the rest of the world) are sick of being treated like criminals or second-rate citizens, and their voices are loud and clear. I just don't know that all the airlines are listening... if UA can't hear the message, they won't be around long to get it right.

Sorry to hear about the death in the family. These things are always very difficult and the last thing you need is an unhelpful or non-understanding airline rep.

None shall pass!!!!
 
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flashmeister
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:08 am

I'm confused - if price was not an issue, then why make a big fuss (or even suggest) to the agent that you need a bereavement (read: cheap) fare?

My mother is not a travel agent, nor is she as well-versed in any of this. As stated before, when her mother died, CO helped her by issuing a bereavement ticket. She just asked for what had worked before.

Also, if the agent had offered a full-fare seat, she would have probably bought it, but the agent -- who is supposed to be the expert in these things -- just said that there were no bereavement seats and that was that. They might very well have been packed to capacity (doubtful), but there was no offer of a full-fare ticket and then standby, no offer of any other option, not even an offer of a connecting itinerary rather than a nonstop. So, she moved on to the next carrier.
 
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:23 am

I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather. I have never had to make use of this type of fare fortunately. Actually, I thought that in order to get this type of fare the person must be already deceased. Is that not the case?

I do think that you should give United another chance. It was that one agent, not the entire airline. There are many good people who would have acted very differently who work for United. Rather than punish them all for how that one agent acted, you should send a letter explaining your situation. I'm sure the agent will be dealt with accordingly.

As for including the letter that you will be sending to Frontier, I think that is rude, so to speak. It makes you look stuck up. I really don't care to be bashed, but do as you must.

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ScottB
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:26 am

I think a more appropriate analogy than to Nordstrom's would be to medical care; i.e. if your doctor were to charge, say $50 for an office visit booked on a space-available basis over three weeks in advance, but $500 if you needed to see him/her right away due to illness. And emergency room care would be priced even higher (like first-class tickets) since it is a premium service.

There are certainly always people out there who are looking for some way to scam the system and to abuse things like bereavement fares. The thing is, though, that these days, even bereavement fares aren't particularly cheap. When my grandfather passed on at the beginning of 2001, I called Continental to see what was available. The bereavement fare was nearly twice the price of the three-day advance purchase fare, and since I had five days until the funeral, I booked the lower fare. The Continental agent had been extremely helpful, though, since she had told me that the advance purchase fare would be significantly less expensive. But it's also not THAT difficult to track abuse of bereavement fares should an airline choose to do so; after all, the airlines track abuse of hidden-city and throw-away ticketing as well. I would think that seeing several uses of a bereavement fare by a certain person within a short period of time would raise flags -- and the airline could then require documentation.

As others have said, offering reasonable bereavement fares is a way for airlines to generate customer goodwill at a relatively modest cost. If the airline sells the seats for cost plus a reasonable markup (say, two times cost) to deter abuse, most folks using those fares would remember how helpful that particular airline had been in offering assistance during a very difficult time. Using a person's desperation and emotional distress at losing a loved one to extort fares which are in the thousands of dollars generally doesn't leave a good impression in the eyes of the passenger. The low-fare airlines generally don't need to offer bereavement fares simply because their walk-up fares are reasonable to begin with.

In any case, I think that United's policy is an indication of one of their most serious problems -- the view that the customer is the enemy, and that the airline needs to do whatever it can to extract every single last cent from its passengers.
 
Lindy
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:33 am

I'm trying to locate on UAL.COM message boards with customer reviews. Where egzactly its located?

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philhyde
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:39 am

Scott, in your case since you had 5 days, obviously the bereavement fare didn't make sense. Would it have been less expensive than booking for the same or next day? I would expect it to make more of a difference in that case.

Flashmeister, irrespective of the cost issue and offers/availabilty of certain class fares, your mother was treated extremely poorly and that is really what is a shame here.
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Greg
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:40 am

I'm sorry, but with each reply Flash you do get more irrational sounding.
At any rate, if your Mother was not so adept at flying..why didn't you....her son who loves aviation enough to post here everyday....handle the arrangements for her? This would have obviated any further stress on her.

Again, I have never had an issue with any carrier in making a reservation. It's simple telling them which point A and which point B and what times you want to go.
It's likely that the person confused was on the other end of the line.

As I stated earlier...about four minutes to book a ticket on UAL yesterday.
 
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flashmeister
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:47 am

As for including the letter that you will be sending to Frontier, I think that is rude, so to speak.

Why? If anything, I would think that it might be further evidence to United that their competitors are outdoing them. I'd also think they'd appreciate seeing what others in the industry are doing to serve customers, to use as an example of how they can improve their own performance.
 
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flashmeister
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 2:51 am

At any rate, if your Mother was not so adept at flying..why didn't you....her son who loves aviation enough to post here everyday....handle the arrangements for her?

She made her call to United before I knew that anything was even going on. The first that I heard from her was right after she got off the phone with F9. If I had known in advance, I absolutely would have done it for her, but I didn't have that luxury.

Exactly how is this irrational? You never explained that, just stated it (twice).
 
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flashmeister
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 3:04 am

In any case, I think that United's policy is an indication of one of their most serious problems -- the view that the customer is the enemy, and that the airline needs to do whatever it can to extract every single last cent from its passengers.

This really is the crux of the issue. It seems like it's at the soul of United's culture, whether we're talking about relations between company and customer or labor and management. Back in the Dubinsky days, his infamous quote about squeezing the golden goose for every last egg sure rings true when it comes to UA's perspective on customers. Loyalty and evangelism, be damned: we want revenue instead.

That seems particularly ridiculous even these days, when a 100% load factor continues to mean UA losses. If they're going to take a loss, then they should at least try to drum up loyalty while they can... I know this is difficult in the real world, but at least perhaps UA can think outside the box for once.
 
ScottB
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 3:28 am

Phil-

If it had come down to it, I would have flown Southwest or AirTran and paid their more reasonable walk-up fare -- lower than CO's bereavement fare in both cases, but comparable to CO's 3-day advance purchase. I chose CO in part because I felt I was treated well -- and because they had offered me good customer service in the past. But I'm also not willing to pay twice the price simply because I'm between a rock and a hard place.

Even people who are grieving are going to be price-sensitive. A thousand dollars is quite a bit of money to most people -- especially when they face the prospect of funeral/burial costs as well.
 
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 4:30 am

I'm in shock...Greg and I actually AGREE on something!  Big grin

Flash, while the attitude you may have received from UA was less-than-stellar (to say the least), the problem was based on the fact that you were seeking a discounted fare based on the bereavement situation.

Had you just asked for the price from A to B (not mentioning that you wanted a bereavement discount), they would have quoted the fare, and you could have chosen simply to buy or not to buy.

Since air carriers routinely have customers attempting to defraud them through bogus "bereavement" scams, it's absolutely appropriate for them to ask for some sort of documentation, such as a copy of a death certificate or a letter from the funeral director.

Echoing what others have said, no airline is obligated to lower your fare just because you really, REALLY need to go somewhere.

It's appalling that people believe that the airlines need to give people a price break when someone dies. Try that argument elsewhere:

"Listen, Avis...I intend to rent the car to drive to a funeral. Don't I get a bereavement discount?"

"Hi, 1-800-FLOWERS? Yeah, I need to get a discount off that floral arrangement, since it's for a funeral."

And I'm sure the look on the clerk's face at Nordstrom would be priceless when you insist on a discount, since you're only buying the suit to wear to a funeral.
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potomac
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 4:45 am

however sternly he made his points, i have to agree with EA CO AS. the death in the family is indeed unfortunate, and having a bad customer servive experience at a time like that is especially difficult. that being said, one insensitive CS agent does not necessarily speak to the entire airline. (though i agree that as an 'agent' of UA, that person should do a better job about representing the airline.) however, it's worth remembering that flying is a priviledge, not a right, and bereavement fares are not an entitlement, but a way for airlines to accomodate special circumstances, when conditions allow for it. i certainly can understand the frustration at not being accomodated in a situation where such treatment would be most needed, but it's important to remember that this is something an airline will do when it can, and per specific criteria.
 
ScottB
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Servi

Tue Aug 26, 2003 5:09 am

Making an analogy to purchasing clothing, floral arrangements, or car rentals is a false analogy. Neither Avis nor 1-800-FLOWERS nor Nordstrom will give you an 80-90% discount on their products when you reserve them three weeks in advance, agree to use them on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday, or agree to spend your Saturday night away from home. While all will offer periodic sales, the discounts they offer during those sales bear little resemblance to the discounts network airlines offer on heavily restricted tickets as compared to full-price tickets. A better analogy would be a gas station operator charging $10.00 per gallon in the event of a severe shortage; hey, if you need to buy gasoline, it's your fault for not planning better. If you want a better price, wait a few weeks until more gasoline arrives.

I do agree, airlines are not "obligated" to provide bereavement fares; then again, many businesses were not "obligated" to serve non-whites before the 1960's, either. By the same token, why should your employer be required to let you have time off if a relative dies? Isn't it "appalling that people believe that" as well?

Again, if airlines are worried about fraud, it is no more difficult to track abuse of bereavement fares (and actually, probably easier) than it is to track throwaway ticketing or hidden-city ticketing. Moreover, the fact that the primary concern of the airline is fraud, rather than compassion for its customers, certainly speaks volumes about how the airline views its passengers -- as the enemy.
 
luv2fly
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RE: UA Lost Another Customer Due To Pathetic Service

Tue Aug 26, 2003 5:19 am

Scottb

Well said and to the point. I always thought that the best way to handle this situation would be to offer a refund after the flight and after the pax submitted the required proof that the said airline wanted. It would prevent a reservation agent from asking the wrong questions or offering new leisure fares to someone not interested in that at this time. Also someone looking to commit fraud would be put off in getting required documents to get refund.
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