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Jan 03

Customer service revolution: Why United doesn’t have to suck

Tech, Travel Add comments

Holiday travel is often a nightmare, and this season was a total mare for my family. Flights were cancelled left right and center, with poor communication. Communication is key. On one flight the estimated departure time kept moving and they didn’t ONCE say anything on the tanoy system.

Customers hate the unknown.

Another huge pain point was dealing with United on the phone. I purchased one ticket with green, and two others with miles. This creates two separate reservations for some reason which is always a royal pain. The result of this was:

  • I can’t login to the website and see the family trip
  • So, I can’t select seats and do other tasks for the family
  • Which meant that I couldn’t get seats next to each other!

On the flight out, we tried to ask the gentleman sitting next to my family if he would go up to the front of the plane where I had my seat. Even though his seat was the last on the plane, so he couldn’t put his seat back, he said no. He had to put up with Sam saying “Daddy? Where are you?”, and I had to be at the front in Economy Plus. Nice guy.

Now, United may think that this is all a good thing as it takes away the incentive to use miles like this. They are morons for not doing what customers want.

The phone system is so bad that I end up fighting over who is going to call with my wife. The problem is not unique to United, but to every one I have had to call:

  • The automated system is crap, so you hit 0 as fast as you can to get a human
  • But then that dood in India who is over worked, and doesn’t have the tools to help you, makes you more frustrated.

This happened several times on this trip. 80% of the time, after putting in my mileage number I got the automated: “I will make sure that the agent gets your information” and then it would hang up. It wouldn’t get me through to anyone. My sister-in-law who had a worse time than me would call and hear “we have a huge volume of requests right now, so instead of helping by calling you back later or something, I will just hang up on you now. We don’t care that your flight was cancelled.”

Abstract any technical issue from the customer.

It is time for a revolution in the customer service space that puts a customer first. Instead of trying to screw the customer, help them out. If I call you and the connection dies, CALL ME BACK. If I am on hold for 20 minutes, CALL ME BACK. Help me solve problems. Be creative. Please. So many people told me that they will not be flying for awhile. Under the same situations, if you had been helpful, they wouldn’t feel that way.

The only good experience of the trip was having the family use the Red Carpet Club. I suddenly realized why the airport lounge was good:

  • You didn’t have to listen to the announcements that go off every five minutes
  • The agents seemed to be a lot more helpful, and able to change things, than at check in.

Oh, and for fun I went to the customer service link on and got this:

United Customer Service

6 Responses to “Customer service revolution: Why United doesn’t have to suck”

  1. James Ward Says:

    The fact that United can’t combine miles tickets with paid-for tickets always drives me nuts. This past holiday I tried using the United Choices instead of miles to get our tickets. Although this isn’t always a better deal it is nice because you pay for all the tickets and with choices they refund you some or all of the price. The refund was quickly (about 3 days) added right back to my United Visa card. And best of all since the tickets were not rewards tickets I was able to use upgrades on them and even get mileage credit for them. Give the Choices thing a try next time and let me know how it works for you.


  2. dion Says:


    Thanks for the note. I will give choices a try. I will be amazed if it does work out for me… hopefully they can prove me wrong!



  3. Marc Says:

    Great article.

    Your readers might want to try a leading customer service review website where people share reviews with other users and with companies. Companies that are involved with and value customer service read Measuredup to keep up on what people are saying and to be able to improve customer service.

    It is free and easy to use.

  4. replicahandbags Says:

    thanks for your share.

  5. Carrie T Says:

    Airlines are getting so frustrating! They are trying to cut costs everywhere thus making the customers more and more unsatisfied. I saw an article called “The Customer Service Hall of Shame” on a website called Mindshare. It has some of the worst rated companies. You should check it out.

  6. David Antonio Wagner Toledano Says:


    Found your post online and we can not agree with you more. My friend, the customer service revolution is spreading rapidly and many -like you and us- are already members. For the past 3 years we’ve been putting seminars that focus on the enhancement of customer service systems. I leave you with this micro-site we just built towards achieving our vision: ‘to change the world by creating a customer service revolution.’ (
    Let’s keep in touch please.


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