Deconstructing United Airlines: Where Customers are Transactions

Deconstructing United Airlines: Where Customers are Transactions

Summary: United Airlines: Customers are Merely TransactionsIf you're a loyalty marketer and look at my United profile, you find something that would make you 4.5 on a scale of 5.

TOPICS: CXO, IT Employment

United Airlines: Customers are Merely Transactions

If you're a loyalty marketer and look at my United profile, you find something that would make you 4.5 on a scale of 5.0 when it comes to warm and fuzzy.   You'd see hundreds of thousands of United Airlines frequent flier (FF) miles; a pattern that suggests that I fly exclusively, including client bookings by their travel agencies on United for me; you'd see signing up for dozens of promotions; you'd see using hotel loyalty cards to get United FF miles in the place of hotel points; you'd see me flying United partners Star Alliance airlines whenever I can't fly United. You'd also see about 50-75,000 miles per year over the past few years.  I'd look like a very loyal United flyer.

I've been Premier Executive for a few years, which means that I flew 50,000 miles or more each year.  But in 2008, I had a horrible auto accident in August that limited my flying to virtually none for the rest of the year.   As a result I flew 36,000 miles which brought me down a notch to Premier.   But by November 2008, I was okay and I had booked and paid for 26,000 more miles of flying from January 4 though Feb 15, 2009.

That sets the stage.  Oh, one other thing. United's timeframe for determining FF status is from January 1 through December 31.  Status privileges run from March 1 through February 28.

In any case, as late November 2008 rolled around,  I received a letter in the mail from United Airlines. In effect, it said:

"Hey, we see that you only have 36,000 miles this year which will make you a Premier rather than a Premier Executive flyer.  Tell you what, you give us $2300.00 and we will give you the additional 14,000 miles that you need to be Premier Executive.  How about that?"

I swear. They wanted me to pay $2300.  I was....incensed...and I'm only saying "incensed" because of my PG-13 rated worldview.  I mean, can this approach be much more disgusting....and, for that matter, out of touch with the reality of a customer?

But, then the real question is what should have happened?

If I were United's Vice President of Customer Experience (I believe that they've had four of those in five years though don't hold me to that exact number), I would have an algorithm or two that would pretty much spit out the same info as they had. But then I would have had a plan to address the issue that wasn't "send us $2300."  It would go something like this:

"Hey, we see that you only have 36,000 miles this year which will make you a Premier rather than a Premier Executive flyer.  We're concerned. What happened that caused you to fly so much less?"

Let's assume I made the choice to respond to United and told them what happened. At the point I understood that Paul's Acura had stood in the way of his flying in 2008, if I were United, I would also check to see what Paul's history is and future bookings are.  Then, as United, I probably would notice that Paul Greenberg had paid for 26,000 more miles for January and February. In other words, traveling that much before his 2008 official Premier Executive privileges ran out.  Then I, United, would send another note in this spirit:

"Hey again. Since you've been a Premier Executive flyer for a few years and you couldn't help your circumstances and you've already paid for 26,000 more miles which would total 62,000 miles by the time your privileges run out, we'll take a chance on you not canceling those bookings (PG note: I didn't cancel) and extend your Premier Executive flyer privileges another year. We're very sorry about your accident."

They didn't do that but instead insulted me with their "offer" to let me pay.  Rather than me moving a bit closer to being an advocate, the result I truly dislike United.  Though my loyalty numbers don't show that, do they?

Lesson #1 For United: What Should Have Transpired

The key to this isn't the offer to keep me Premier Executive for another year. That isn't that significantly different than Premier when it comes to rewards. It's the note to me asking "what happened?"  Rather than the:

"Hey, we don't really care that something might have happened to  you to break your recent historic patterns, we are only interested in getting something from you in return for letting you 'keep' the privilege of your status."

Contemporary customers demand some sort of human or at least seemingly human interaction with the companies that they frequent for more than a utility purchase. United still sees customers as transactions.  Thus, I look entirely loyal because of my "transaction numbers" e.g. amount of miles etc.  But my behavior is driven by inertia - the cost of my investment and the cost of change outweighs the effort I can afford to give it now. My emotions are driven by disgust for the very company I look loyal to.  AND, because I have a wide number of venues to write for and speak at etc. every year, I get to use United as a lesson in what not to do when it comes to engaging customers in front of what amounts to hundreds of thousands of people. Not exactly good but you wouldn't know from the numbers.

Yet Another United "Customers are Transactions" Story......

A dear friend of mine is a Senior VP at a major government contractor here in Washington D.C.  She passed on this United story - in fact the trigger for writing this piece.

"Hi Paul....If you recall...last year there was a problem with one of the so called "customer vouchers" for my son. It was issued to my son when they had delayed his flight (their errors) for about 10 hours.   When I called about the voucher being basically impossible to use (required to physically go to an airport and present it versus use it online), United gave me the run-around, I asked to speak to a supervisor....and UNITED transferred me to American Airlines. they have changed their frequently flyer program and cancelled his points.  Now cancelled in 18 months vs 2 years.  I spoke to a manager...and got the run-around again.  Bottom line zero points.  Oh yes....for $350 they will re-instate his 25,000 points.

The United Customer Service Supervisor said they changed the rules for frequent flyer points in January 2007...reducing from 2 years to 18 months. In January 2007, (The boy) was a Junior in high school. He was not keeping track of United's frequent flyer changes. I don't keep track, because unfortunately - I fly them. He lost a round-trip on United that he could have used to visit his Grandmother. Verbally they said we could buy the points back for .0125 per frequent mile PLUS an administrative fee - but we can only do this online. My head is spinning. Gee - maybe I could use the $150 voucher that I can only use at the airport toward this - ha ha ha.

United gets a grade of F for customer satisfaction.  They really don't care - I say....let's all go fly Southwest.  They care about their customers."

United Lesson #2: What Should Have Transpired

There's so much wrong with what United did here.

First, transferring the customer, out of pique one can only presume, to American Airlines, is problem #1.  Second making the use of a voucher difficult rather than easy is problem #2. Then cancelling a kid's points and then saying, "oh, we'll reinstate for $350," is problem #3.


Its easy to make the case - at least easy for United - of "well, them's the rules, boys and girls. You gotsta follow the rules. The timeframe for use of FF points was over." And, if customers are transactions they may be right. But sometimes, the human circumstances and reality (a reality that of course United banks on), merit an interaction rather than a transaction - meaning, you find out that most people aren't that aware of rules changes and there had been a lot of grief and angst associated with the chain of activity on this particular situation, calls for a bending of the rules.

What the problem is here is not necessarily just a bad set of circumstances with a customer.  There was a bit of this that was just outright stupid - the transfer to American Airlines instead of a supervisor.  But most of this is due to a rigid set of broken procedures.

First things first - there needs to be a way to use the voucher online. United makes a point of encouraging the use of online reservations as a cost savings measure for them and a benefit to the customer - and online Easy Check-in is one of the few good things about United.  However, making it impossible to use the voucher online goes against what they want to begin with and only makes it more difficult for the customer to use a benefit that they got in return for something that was a discomfort to the passenger to begin with.

Second - Given the particular circumstances, someone should have been made available to the customer who was empowered to restore the points.  No one is saying do it uniformly, but, United, you need to remember that customers are looking for personalized treatment and when a circumstance that allows it arises, be smart enough to be flexible - rather than looking like an organization that, once again, sees the customer as a transaction.  The answer here should have been, "okay, this once, we can restore the points, given everything else that happened, but it is an 18 month limit now and please be aware of that for the future." Rather than "it'll cost you $350.00" - apparently a familiar theme.

And Yet Again: United's Broken Guitar - The One We All Watched

I think we're all familiar now with "gone-viral-on-YouTube" video "United Breaks Guitars" which has gotten over (there is no past tense on YouTube only past perfect) 4.8 million hits since it went up.   Here it is if you haven't seen it. I don't like country, but I did like this. It was amazing enough that it took  United more than a year after the guitars had been broken and numerous complaints and a refusal to pain as their final answer originally to finally agree to pay for the broken instruments.  Which Dave Carroll of the Sons of Maxwell (the Nova Scotia based country group that had the guitars broken) didn't want and had donated to charity.  But that wasn't enough.  Listen to this incredibly lame response from United:

"'While we mutually agree this should have been fixed much sooner, Dave's excellent video provides us with something we can use for training purposes to ensure that all customers receive better service for us,' spokeswoman Robin Urbanski told the (Chicago Sun Times)."

Not the response you wanted to hear.

United Lesson #3

The only thing I could call this "official" response is cowboy bootlicking contrition - it sounds insincere and actually doesn't address the problem. While its great they are going to use the video to train, what about the processes and the hiring policies that led to this happening in the first place. A humorous video that gained a lot of attention isn't the training I want to be giving. It may be funny to watch and a nice little public relations ploy, but as a customer, I'd rather hear about how they were overhauling their customer service policies given the number of complaints they get on a daily basis. And the massive mistrust that they continually engender. But then, that's just me.

What United should have done here is pretty obvious. Pay for the f---ing guitar when it broke, not when it became the subject of a clever viral video. The damage was done by that time. Additionally, they should announce significant changes to their customer service training and policy and be transparent about them.

What United seems to be overlooking in their training mea culpa is that not only was it broken due to gross mishandling by some employees apparently, but they refused to pay for it - a management decision. This video being used in training doesn't change their policy.  Which simply should be if they break it they should pay for it.

And Another.....

This one is short and sweet. Last fall, their Chief Customer Officer, Graham Atkinson, left United and Dennis Cary became the Chief Customer Officer.

United Lesson #4

Unfortunately, for United, Dennis Cary is already their Chief Marketing Officer. The fact that they are combining the two positions is another egregious example of their incredible lack of understanding of customers.  CCO and CMO are NOT positions that live in a single human body. They have vastly different purposes and can even be at odds.  This is nothing disparaging to Mr. Cary. I don't know him so I'm not speaking to his qualifications for either job. But he shouldn't have both. A Chief Customer Officer is, when appropriately tasked, to engage customers in the kinds of interactions that make them advocates of the company at a programmatic and policy level. Those policy decisions and "rule bending" that we're talking about are a CCO's responsibility - and should be as far away from marketing as possible.  The irony is that the message that the combined positions sends is that to United customers are nothing more than objects of marketing. Transactions again.   You'd think marketing would figure that out.....

Finally....One of the Worst

What makes this final United story totally ironic in addition to being a serious problem is that it happened to my wife and mother in law yesterday as they were heading to St. John's Newfoundland via Montreal beginning at Dulles.  In other words, while I was writing this.

To put it simply.  My mother-in-law is 86 and needs a wheelchair to travel.  United is required to have a wheelchair, if requested, available to her at the gate when she leaves the plane.  We requested the wheelchair at Dulles airport, they called it ahead.  According to Air Canada, United should have finished the request so that she was covered when she got to Montreal and then St. Johns.

Well, there were delays due to mechanical issues on the flight to Montreal and they got in but were unable to make their connection (they had a 15 minute window after they landed). One of the reasons, aside from the incredibly short time was that there was no wheelchair waiting for my mother-in-law and ultimately they didn't really have one for her. My mother in law of course was discomfited by this whole fiasco. My wife managed to commandeer a wheelchair later without United's help. An Air Canada representative was good enough to help them and told them that the flight attendants on United are aware of special needs passengers as are the ground personnel and since it was going to be delayed obviously, the United ground personnel should have made sure that a wheelchair was waiting despite the delay. There wasn't one and not much interest in helping them either.

United Lesson #5

Aside from don't mess with my family, United should have done what they should always do.  Accommodate change. If there is a special needs passenger known to them and a problem that they cause one way or the other, then they need to make sure that there is a smooth and seamless transition so that the customers aren't discomfited.  Not that big a game plan for that. It would have taken a phone call to say, "hey, there is this special needs passenger on the flight to Montreal. The fight is 2.5 hours delayed. Can you makes sure that we still have a wheelchair waiting?" Not that tough to figure out.

In Sum

The heading of this final section is ironic. Because "a sum" is exactly how United views its customers. Its why United is continually one of the lowest in customer satisfaction surveys and is beaten up continually in the cybersphere.   They are going to need a fundamental culture shift to recognize that the customer - the social customer - is looking to have them provide the kind of experience that excites them to be associated with United rather than repulses them.  So Dennis Cary, stop looking at the numbers that your loyalty people throw at you and instead talk to your customers in a serious concerted way and then, listen to them.

I'd love to lay out a few of them here, but why should I? Hmmm, maybe for $2300 I'll do it so I can afford to be Premier Executive again.....

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

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  • Nothing new!

    I've had similar experiences with United.

    We tried to go from Baltimore to Florida...

    Then we tried again the next day...

    Never had issues like this with any other airlines.
  • A Contrary View

    Wow, United really pulled your chain, as indicated by your investment in your extensive post. You cite some sad cases of customer service and raise some valid suggestions.

    In my job as IT Governance Evangelist for CA, I fly to 2 or 3 cities almost every week throughout the year. In doing so, I fly almost every airline under the sun - once caring only for a non-stop that got me to my destination in time for dinner. That changed when I attained Global Services status with United.

    I don't think this is going to make you feel any better, but Global Services is their highest status for us "transactions." How do you attain that status? United doesn't say. That's right. The criteria are only known to United.

    But WOW! I can only describe the level of customer service as being UNREAL! I have a number I can call that is always answered by a person. I get first priority in every possible situation. I am greeted by United employees by name and actually visited during my flight by flight attendants who want to see if I need anything. During one particularly bad travel experience I was greeted at the gate by two United employees with a list of alternatives to improve my situation. The service is stellar!

    And their evil plan has worked. I fly United every chance I get with the hope of maintaining my Global Services status - having no specific insight in how to do so. If I am able to maintain that status, I expect, EXPECT, to be afforded attention and conveniences casual travelers can only dream of.

    Why can't everyone be afforded this level of service? Just look at the airline industry. If 9/11 wasn't enough to crush this business sector, they then got spanked by our second official fuel crisis, and THEN the global economic downturn. The industry is in shambles and I honestly can't tell you how they continue to survive. United has 2/3 of the fleet they did 10 years ago and their margins for profit are miniscule.

    So all of the horror stories you recount are simply explained, they can't afford to provide a higher level of service to each and every "transaction." They would be out of business in no time because all these "transactions" care about is cost. Everyone wants cheap tickets so the algorithms United uses serve one purpose, to make a profit and stay in business when cost is the primary if not only factor the vast majority of people use to choose their air carrier.

    In the meantime, rest assured, those of us "transactions" that fly with true frequency are being treated very well. To add to my contrary view, I smile through cancelations, delays, extended stays on the tarmac, and lost luggage. Why do I smile? Because it comes with the territory and it is the reality of air travel today.

    And for people who believe that air travel has become ridiculous if not horrendous, try flying 4 - 8 flight segments per week.

    Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist
    Steve Romero
  • Here's another view.

    I was a Flight Attendant for 25 years, from 1971 to 1996, for an airline no longer in existence. I grew up in the airline business, as my father worked in management for the same company for thirty plus years, starting in 1940, so I have just a little airline experience behind me.

    Problem number 1: Deregulation.

    Problem number 2: Most airline ticket prices are far too cheap for the service you are provided...and that service is the luxury of being flown in a multi-million dollar aircraft, with hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure behind it, to where you want to go...when you want to go. Most people can fly to their destination for far less money than it would cost to drive a car that same distance. That's just plain nuts.

    Look at it this way. I am a car nut, and would love nothing more than to have a nice shiny new Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, or two, sitting in my garage. But I can't afford the USD300k one costs. So why can't I pay Ferrari USD10k for one and be done with it? Because it costs a LOT of money to produce that commodity...just like it costs an airline a LOT of money to provide air service. People just aren't paying what they should for the cost of the service being provided. And people wonder why airlines lose money.

    And Mr. Greenberg, how about you selling your book for USD2.00, instead of the MSRP of USD29.99? Seems reasonable to me. Your work surely can?t be worth that much, can it?

    Problem number 3: Few, if any airlines, are paying their employees a decent living wage anymore. And benefits? Well those have shrunk to next to nothing also. If you don't pay people a decent living wage for a job, you are going to attract employees how don't really give a rat's a$$ about Customer Service. I saw it happen to my former airline. As wages spiraled downwards, the quality of CARING employees hired went down the same sewer. It was tragic.

    Everyone wants to make as much money as they can "selling" their chosen line of work, yet the same people complain about the cost of things they purchase. Few people want to pay for things, at what it costs to manufacture/provide that item, so the company behind it can make a profit.

    After all...making a profit is what being in business is supposed to be all about...isn't it?

    So, until the cost of an airline ticket is raised to cover the cost of what it ACTUALLY COSTS to get that airplane in the air and back safely on the ground...people will simply have to suck it up, and deal with the crappy service.

    You and your family included.
    • But remember...

      When you land every attendant over the loudspeaker says - "We know you have a choice when flying..." and that is why United has to create some sort of experience for the customer.

      Unless United et al actually spend a little to make creating strong customer experiences a consistently positive experience (and not a continued cost drain) - then they won't have anyone on their planes (myself and my family included) nor any profits to speak of.

      There are costs involved in every business - we all know that. But companies that fail to measure the costs involved with retaining customers versus profits etc. are the ones that usually wind up "no longer in existence" to use your on terms.
      • Sorry...but you just don't get it.

        Better paid employees translates directly to happier employees, who WANT to come to work and do the best job possible for their company. And I am not just talking about Flight Attendants. It's all of them. Except the CEOs & other senior management. They will ALWAYS take care of themselves.

        The average Flight Attendant starting salary is around USD15k...the US HHS poverty guidelines for a single person is at USD10,830.00 (

        YOU figure out how happy they are.

        Without increased revenues coming in, via increased ticket prices, the airlines will NEVER be able to make the money needed to pay their employees a decent living wage, let alone cover their costs. Period.

        But very few people are willing to pay for what it actually costs for their transportation.

        Right now you can fly one way from NY to LA for USD400.00. That should probably be two or three times that amount. How about Chicago to Miami at USD199.00? Again, far too cheap.

        • A Point...

          You have stated the airlines need increased revenues... I think they need to stop telling the public untruths when they tell you the price of the ticket. They low ball you to get you to buy and then hit you with *charges* for everything except the air in the plane (don't think they are ready for that as the air is considered unhealthy---but when they fix that watch out). As an example, don't tell me you need to charge for luggage due to the high fuel price----then fail to reduce the *fuel charge* when fuel goes down. All airlines should charge what is the real cost of tickets with no *fuel add-ons for luggage, poor food on the plane, seat on the aisle even though you have a medical condition that requires you to keep your feet out, seat in the front of the plane even though it arrived in the airport a few seconds sooner then the remaining seats, etc.
        • Taking care of the wrong people

          Greed is the biggest problem with society today. This story and response highlight that. Everyone wants more... Here's a solution, every company take the C Level people CEO, CFO, COO, etc. Cut those salaries on average about 65 - 75%. Have a guidline, those C level employees, can't make more than 2 time the average worker. That would fix a lot of problems.
          • taking care of the wrong people

            I fully agree with your post HMoorhead.
            Make the idiots in management normal people, not people who think they need to earn exhorbant amounts of money for sitting in an executive chair.
            Few years ago, Vodafone in Germany was bought by another company. The CEO got 90 million
            USD compensation for losing his job, the "normal" employees, that made things happen, were given the "sorry you lost your job, here's 5k" and be done with it routine. The shareholders were pretty upset, as you can imagine, but who cares, the guy has a pretty good pension, that is unless he buys a few of thos 300k Ferraris.
        • I certainly don't get it.

          If wages are so pathetic (and I agree, they are)
          then why to people keep working? Seems like
          insanity to me.

          And I also agree that it's tough to make much
          money at the fares that are frequently charged.
          But then again, as long as the government,
          banks, and investors are willing to subsidize
          the industry, that's not going to change.

          And I'd also suggest that it wasn't entirely
          "deregulation" that caused all of the current
          problems. It was the industry refusing to
          adjust to the post-deregulation environmental
          reality that did it. (certain flame-bait there)

          Yeah, we'd all be happier if we were paid twice
          as much as we currently are. But if people
          aren't willing to pay $200 to fly across the
          continent, what makes you think that they'd be
          willing to pay pre-deregulation fares to do the
  • RE: Deconstructing United Airlines: Where Customers are Transactions

    United Airlines has always been #1 in screwing its customers. Now that business is so bad and cash so scarce, it's even worse. But as far as its wage scale is concerned, I was not aware of decreased salaries. As a matter of fact, with its aggressive unions, salaries should be quite high, even with the chapter 11 cramdowns which reduced them somewhat.
    el vego
    • Really?

      You weren't aware that airline employees have had significant reductions in their salaries/benifits? Next time you fly, ask your flight attendant how much less they are making since 9/11/01...or better yet, ask them when the last time they had a significant wage/benefit INCREASE other than a meager COLA.

      Other than Southwest Airlines, I am unaware of any significant gains for any airline workgroup except the upper management and UAL's CEO Tilton's salary/benefits package with the next highest paid airline will be shocked!
  • RE: Deconstructing United Airlines: Where Customers are Transactions

    In 1998, Delta tried to have me arrested for refusing to let them put my carry-on bag in their "Sizewise Container" on the jetbridge. I was flying more over 100,000 miles a year with them at the time. And I haven't got on a Delta plane since then even though Delta is the dominant carrier at my airport. So... Why on earth do you continue to fly on United? Your only way to make a (small) difference is with your feet. Ranchers have a name for critters like you ? sheep.
  • RE: Deconstructing United Airlines: Where Customers are Transactions

    I fly 50-100K or more miles a year, and have flown on all the major airlines in the past couple of years, and many European airlines as well. While bad situations can and do happen at times on all of them, I found that virtually without exception, United seems to collect the most dour and "who cares?" employees of the lot. I don't know why this is, and frankly, don't care much beyond avoiding United if at all possible. It's incredibly rare that I would see any United employee with a smile.....for that matter, I didn't see many on their customers either.....cause and effect??
  • Not an airline, but excellent customer service

    When you talked about your car accident I was reminded of something that happened to me this year.

    I was hospitalized suddenly in April for 12 days. My husband put an automatic out-of-office response on my e-mail that said I was ill.

    After I recovered and checked my e-mail, I discovered this message from, a site where you trade books and CDs with other members:

    We are sorry to hear that [name] is in the hospital! We've put her account on hold, and she can let us know when she would like to resume membership.

    When I e-mailed the company and asked if they could please reinstate my membership, I received this reply:

    Dear [name],

    We're so glad to hear you're doing better! The message we received from your husband sounded quite alarming.

    We've reopened your account and you can login and use it any time.

    Welcome back and have a great day!

    The PaperBackSwap Team

    I don't know how many members the site has or how busy they are with member requests, but I was astounded at this kind of customer service. Wow. Just wow.
  • RE: Deconstructing United Airlines: Where Customers are Transactions

    My situation was similar, except instead of being injured my job situation changed.
    United is very polite to the over-charged loyal business passenger. Once you
    drop off that radar, things change. Imagine, being crammed into a sardine can (the
    back 30% of the plane), unless you pay an additional $50.00. Then you can move
    to their Economy plus seating. The same seats that lower priced airlines have as
    $c#ew them. When I now travel and have to use United, I grab an isle seat in the
    back of the plane. If my trip exceeds 1.5 hrs, I look for alternative airlines.
  • RE: Deconstructing United Airlines: Where Customers are Transactions

    I was aware of the broken guitar video about United. I
    now will avoid flying with them whenever I can.
    • Amazing

      You are obviously easily influenced...this video on the guitar only tells the owners side of the story and there are a whole lot of holes in it, besides in his guitar.

      Every airline has these kind of horrow stories, you just hear about them all the time. How about the animals that American Airlines killed by negligence several years ago where they only offered it's owner a refund on their airfare and nothing more?

      Or the Continental Airlines story about refusing to allow a minor (14 years of age) on his flight because he didn't have a driver's license (he was travelling domestically) and he ended up being standed on his own at the airport for 2 days while his parents frantically tried to get him home?

      If these kind of stories would keep you from flying on an airline, I suggest Greyhound for you...I certainly don't hear any such kind of stories about them!
  • Are other airlines any better?

    Last weekend I flew out to Detroit to visit a friend.

    Quick quiz:
    Which of the following cities can be reasonably considered to be located "between" Seattle and Detroit? (Check all that apply.)
    A. Salt Lake City, UT
    B. Houston, TX
    C. Denver, CO
    D. Chicago, IL
    E. Newark, NJ

    If you picked A, C and D, you're smarter than Continental Airlines' computers. Guess where they routed me through on the flights out and back?

    Also, out of a total of four flights, two of them were overbooked. They said that this is standard practice among all airlines. In any other industry, knowingly selling inventory you don't have is called "fraud."

    I work at a company that writes software for broadcast media that manages advertising, among other things. We have very specific checks built in to prevent our clients from overselling their inventory, because it could expose them to loss of revenue and even possible legal liability.

    It's not just United. The entire industry needs to shape up their acts.
    • Uhhh, Spoke & Hub?

      Just curious, are you aware that Houston and Newark (along with Cleveland) are Continental's hubs? Sorry, I'm trying not to be a smarta$$, but the "Spoke & Hub" systems of the Big 5 airlines means you go out of your way (you have to use their hubs, or often you have to do extra work got get their alliance partner's hubs), but occasionally get some great trips instead of a Map-Logical route.
  • I was once a loyal United Airlines frequent flyer

    I used to fly United exclusively when I traveled for business both domestic and overseas (Star Alliance is your friend). My Uncle used to be a pilot for them until he retired in 1986 and my mother was even a flight attendant for them in the 60's (so I had some reason behind my loyalty).

    After being treated the same way as apparently others have already here several times on my last trips across the US for business (including severe damage to my brand new luggage and their refusal to compensate me), I now fly Southwest as much as I can. I don't mind the multiple hops or the non-existent meals. Southwest's customer service has always treated me excellently and they are now my primary carrier of choice.