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Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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Okay, I am just absolutely stunned by this.

Disabled LJer evilpuppy is mistreated by United Airlines, which consistently drags its feet on supplying a requested wheelchair (I'm guessing she only has to use one in physically strenuous situations, like traveling, and therefore doesn't have one of her own on hand?) and is generally assy about helping her get around, because she's not elderly and doesn't "look" disabled? I don't even know. But okay. That's pretty bad. Then she gets on the plane and is told by a flight attendant that they can't help her getting her carry-on to the overhead compartment. I'm being told on Twitter that there's an issue of attendants not getting worker's comp if they injure themselves assisting passengers with luggage, which is ludicrous, but believably ludicrous. But if that's the case, SAY SO. "I'm really sorry, but we're not allowed to help with that." Instead, one of the most bizarre customer service policies I have ever heard is laid down:

I asked her how I was supposed to get my luggage stowed and her answer was: "You'll just have to wait for someone from your row to come back here and ask them to give you a hand." When I asked what would happen if no one would, her response to me was: "Well, normally a passenger is around to overhear something like this and they'll offer to help with it on their own. You'll just have to ask someone when they get back here." Then she turned back around and went up to the front seats where she waited to "assist" other passengers.

By contrast, here's what a stranger who isn't even PAID OR EMPLOYED to "attend" anyone does:

Finally, it was too much and I dropped my suitcase down into the aisle to stop the flow and ask one of the men passing me for help before he went looking for his seat. As he was lifting it, he asked me if I was all right and I told him about my injury. He apologized profusely for my condition and tried to make me feel better by assuring me [her disability/injury] would be okay eventually. I doubt either of us believed it, but at that point, it was nice to hear that, even from a total stranger. [...] When we landed, the gentleman who'd helped me before actually called up to me from two rows back that he'd pull my carry-on down when he reached my row. I thanked him again for being so much help and he again tried to make me feel better by hoping I'd recover from my injury soon.

That's... wow. So she's treated so rudely and in so much pain that she goes to the United Airlines counter to complain. And then... there's Dina.

"I won't apologize for her actions and I'm not sorry for what happened to you. It's not in our contract to assist passengers with their luggage and we reserve the right to refuse assistance to anyone. If that's what you need, then perhaps in the future, you should make other travel arrangements."

Let's go over that one more time: "I won't apologize for her actions and I'm not sorry for what happened to you."

Things went downhill from there because I pointed out that being disabled, I required assistance and Dina said that I obviously should have asked the person pushing the wheelchair for me to come on and load my luggage. She even turned to the woman pushing me now and asked her if she'd every followed a passenger on board to assist them with luggage. The woman pushing me flat out said: "No, that's the stewardess' job." That seemed to take the wind out of Dina for a moment, but she recovered quickly and repeated again that she wasn't sorry for what happened to me.

This time, however, she added: "It's not actionable. She won't even get a slap on the wrist, so there's no recourse for you in this situation." I was getting more and more upset with every word she said and I asked her if that meant it really was company policy to depend on their other passengers to provide assistance to the disabled. Dina's answer was: "Normally another passenger will step in and help, yes. If you have troubles, you really should ask them." I was unaware that it was company policy to depend on complete strangers who are in no way affiliated with United to provide my disability assistance while I'm on your airline.

You know, just in case you thought that maybe that one flight attendant was just rude or lazy and making shit up. No, this appears to be an actual policy of United Airlines, as informally enacted by their employees, at least, and one they are not the least bit ashamed to own.

It's worth reading the whole entry for the multi-paragraph rundown of the breathtakingly callous and hostile bullshit that comes out of this employee's mouth, but here's the cherry on the sundae, just in case you were wondering how this could possibly get stupider:

Dina quite literally turned up her nose at me at that point and said: "You, of course, have the option to choose who you want to fly with, but again, it's not in our contract. Besides, there's a note that says your bag was heavy." I cut her off before she could say more and asked her who it was that said that. She told me it would have had to be someone at the ticket counter in Seattle, and I flat out told her that was amazing considering that there wasn't a single, solitary person involved with United at either airport who'd laid a hand on my bag. Not one. So not only was I dealing with the immensely upsetting experience of being told it was my own fault I was in pain for not making arrangements to fly without luggage since I knew I was disabled and needed assistance, I was also dealing with having someone lie about the weight of my luggage in some sort of bizarre effort to explain their lack of help.

So the unwillingness to help evilpuppy with a wheelchair multiple times is pretty bad. The policy that it's a stranger's job to help you with your luggage is bizarre, and the flight attendant was, additionally, incredibly rude in explaining this. But then DINA HAPPENS. Keep in mind, also, that evilpuppy is mistreated on both ends of her journey, at two different airports, in two different states. Forget the bizarro non-attending flight attendants thing--apparently massive, company-wide hostility is a policy. "I'm not sorry for what happened to you." WHAT is THAT.  

Hey! You know who has a website? United Airlines. You know what United Airlines' website says? It has a Customer Commitment page and everything. I'll wait here until you stop laughing. Okay, you ready?

In the air and on the ground, online and on the telephone, our customers have the right to expect — to demand — respect, courtesy, fairness and honesty from the airline they have selected for travel.

At United, the only acceptable customer experience is one in which you arrive at your intended destination safely, comfortably and on time.

WAIT WAIT NO IT GETS BETTER. United Airlines pledges to "readily, capably and respectfully accommodate travelers with special needs." Are you on the floor yet? Because I've been here for a while. I don't know what's going to happen with this, but I hope it gets good.

Hey! You know who's on Twitter? @UnitedAirlines. I just feel like sharing that bit of information with you.

ETA: Something else interesting: the number of similar stories in the comments here and over there.

Oh! Just in: @UnitedAirlines responds on Twitter: "This is concerning. We're looking into this matter."

Aaaaaand it was a reply to woofiegrrl, who got their attention by invoking the dread name of Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith), he of the Southwest Airlines debacle.

ETA: United wants to contact evilpuppy and apologize.

ETA: They've left a comment on her journal, it looks like, with contact information.

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After I hit post, I had this brief moment of, "Is there any way she could be making this up? ANY way? Because this is just astounding." I mean, I believe her. I just cannot even begin to wrap my mind around the Kindness of Strangers policy or this Dina person. I do not grok this.

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This is so insane that I almost wonder if there's some kind of deliberate sabotage effort going on with United's employees. I haven't heard anything about the talks between United and US and whether they are merging, but this is, quite literally, the most appalling "customer service" I have ever heard of. I mean, it's quite seriously insane. I don't care what the airline's policy is, Dina will lose her job over this. And I mean that very sincerely: when enough people complain about it, they're going to sacrifice a lamb, and that lamb is named Dina.

I can't fathom why, even if that is their customer service policy, she would've behaved like that unless it was a deliberate effort to sabotage United by driving riders away. The second rule of customer service is "Even if you have no intention whatsoever of giving any ground to the customer, sound polite."

ETA: PLEASE NOTE: If you complain to United via their website, you will hit "submit" on your form, and you will be directed to an FAQ page. YOUR EMAIL IS NOT YET SENT. You need to select "Continue submitting email" (I think it says; it's something similar anyway) before your email is actually sent to them.

Edited at 2010-04-12 02:50 pm (UTC)

Dina will lose her job over this

Really, in a severe recession, United can still afford... Dina? No one's union is that good.

As soon as I read this I thought to myself, "I wonder if that is the same airport that breaks professional musicians' guitars by throwing them around and then refuses to admit fault?" Turns out it is.

This is a horrible story and I hope that everyone who reads it does all they can to publically humiliate United. Since it seems that's the only way they'll listen.

Okay, when I've done customer service, the general idea has been to fall all over yourself apologizing if a customer has a bad experience. Either UA's training sucks, or Dina is a cold-hearted bitch who should never, ever have contact with the public. Or, possibly, both.

I wouldn't be surprised if they were running afoul of some federal laws with this apparent policy. I smell a lawsuit.

It's pretty much crapping all over the Americans with Disabilities Act, yes.

What's sad is that so many companies are like this. My wife (who is disabled) and I were looking for an apartment. We asked about accomodations for disabled residents and were told, "We really don't do that. There are other complexes that do that."

If a company tells me they don't want my money, I'll gladly comply and tell everyone I know that this company probably doesn't want their money either.

Remember the days when the customer was always right?


not going to post long rant about the fallacies of "the customer was always right"

United doesn't have a good rep with customer service, do they? I don't know why anybody flies with them. Perhaps this customer should make a music video like this one, which was the only way the guy got action on his broken guitar:


I am so so glad you're spreading this around. What happened to evilpuppy was just sickeningly awful, and the more people know about it and can rightly complain about it the better. It makes me horrified to think of anyone treated this way, let alone many people having to go through it because of this misapprehension the airline has that it's policy to be inconsiderate arseholes.

This is totally off-topic, and so I feel a bit guilty even bothering to bring it up when there are way bigger issues to discuss, but -- I am having a SPECTACULARLY wretched day, and your icon made me laugh out loud. So, thanks for that. :)

... let us now resumed being absolutely appalled at United Airlines for their suckitude.

Thanks for passing on. I messaged them on twitter -- hopefully so many will that they have to answer someone... and hopefully it will be Ms. Puppy!

Man. That's awful. I hope she gets a better response than that to her letter.

This is completely ridiculous. My mother was disabled (as much as she refused to admit it) and one of my good friends is disabled. Why would they do if someone was paralyzed and on the plane? Bah! This is completely unacceptable and just...its just...Asshaberdashery! *grabs pitchfork*

edit: This seriously needs to be addressed by some sort of media outlet other than the internetz. She should not only get a formal apology but also free trips to anywhere she wants :)

Edited at 2010-04-12 02:48 pm (UTC)

Well, I'm pretty sure she's not going to want those free trips if they're with United Airlines.

Oh, that's horrible. And I just found out today that my tickets for a trip to the US has been booked... flying United Airlines. Boo.

Ditto, I booked tickets last week with them. I'm considering printing out this & putting it in the seat backs when I fly. I like to spread the love (or, uh, hate?).

the "i'm not sorry" part seriously makes me vomit. HOW DO THESE PEOPLE HAVE JOBS.

That's what really got to me. I thought employees dealing with the public, no matter what the industry, were trained to at least be sympathetic and/or apologetic when faced with a situation like this. I would have even expected an insincere "sorry", but not "I'm not sorry".

I'm flying United Airlines this Tuesday, out of Seattle, and am also disabled. This should be interesting.

Oh dear. Maybe they'll have the fear of corporate into them by tomorrow, but... I don't know what precautions to tell you to take.

I have nothing to respond with beyond a facepalm.


See? It even caused me to miss a typo.

Thank you for bringing our attention to this story. This story is so dreadful. I hope that all of us in internets land can shine a light on this story and make United give a real answer.