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My friend from Sydney is currently not happy with United!

My friend from Sydney is currently not happy with United!

Old Sep 17th, 2004, 04:46 PM
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My friend from Sydney is currently not happy with United!

I was supposed to pick up my friend from Sydney at the airport today (LAX). Yesterday he called to say United cancelled their flight due to mechanical difficulties. They were all rescheduled on an "extra" flight on United today. That flight was also cancelled (we're not sure why).

Now he is scheduled on Qantas tomorrow...but I won't be able to see him because he continues on to Europe directly after landing here on Sunday (a previously set flight). Poor guy is frustrated (as I imagine, are a few hundred other passengers!). We're not quite sure if United owes these passengers anything more at this point. Because he flew United, he just doesn't have very many options with other flights.

Hm. I would be inclined now to fly Qantas between here and Australia now. My friend is very easy going, but he seems a bit upset at how United is handling this. A 48 hour delay is pretty inconvenient.
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Old Sep 17th, 2004, 06:17 PM
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Hi Mina,

Well, I'm up here in Northern CA, which is "United Country", so I have tons of clients who have mileage on them and fly UA alot, so I'm pretty familiar with them, and their lack of customer service as well.

Back when I was doing domestic air (now I only do international); I would routinely be writing "customer complaint" letters on behalf of clients - sometimes it seemed WEEKLY.

In fact, UA uses the term "mechanical difficulties" so often, I distinctly remember putting in one of my letters "you know, if you keep using this excuse people are going to think twice about flying an airline that has so many mechanical difficulties!"

This is routine with them because they feel that if they use that term no one will complain because it's a safety issue. Frankly, usually it's just a big fat lie. Many times they will cancel the flight because it isn't full, and therefore not profitable for them to run it.

Before the Internet, they would also use "weather"...i.e. "bad storms in Chicago" - of course now you can check and find out the weather status (they tried this one on me, calling me 2.5 hours before my flight from SFO was to depart, telling me it had been cancelled. What I ultimately found out was...READY? They didn't have a complete CREW, so they cancelled the flight.

I routinely would put a sheet in my clients' documents outlining "Rule 240" which is a complicated bit of legalese but can come in handy in certain circumstances. Basically the rule requires the airline to book you on its next available flight, regardless of seat limitations in a particular fare category. It also states "applies when the cancellation is due to factors within the airline's control: mechanical problems; lack of airplane or crew or a schedule change. It does not apply to a "force majure" (which is weather, a strike, closing the airport).

Unfortunately, this probably won't help your friend now, and really, how can they compensate for the fact that you won't even get to see him, which is a shame.

He can write a letter to Customer Service (an oxymoron if there ever was one , and they will, no doubt, give him a voucher for "X" amount of dollars for a FUTURE flight (provided he ever wants to fly them again).

Please advise him to save everything! Any hotel receipts for his out of pocket expenses, meals, etc, and get the name of every person he's spoken to. Detailed record keeping is essential in these matters.

And yes, your comment about flying Qantas to Australia is a good one; having dealt with both airlines I can tell you that Qantas wins hands down when there's any sort of a problem.

Hope this is helpful, and let us know what the outcome is!

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist
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Old Sep 17th, 2004, 11:19 PM
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Hey Melodie, thanks for that detailed response. It is very informative.

Yes, it is a bummer. Nothing can make up for the fact that I was supposed to hang out with him this weekend, and that I have not seen him for over 9 months and do not know when I will see him again. But c'est la vie.

Rule 240 doesn't help him, I suppose when so many hundreds of other people share his plight. Most flights from Sydney to LA are pretty full, so they can't put all of them on the next flight out. I will tell him to at least write and see where that gets him.

So they really can cancel a flight if it's not full? Someone told me once that was a myth because the plane ultimately needs to get to its next destination to service the next flight. United is getting more and more shady to me. I'm thinking of switching over to american (not much better, I know, but at least they are not in bankruptcy....yet.) United personnel seems so unhappy lately...and with good reason, I guess.

Thanks again for the input. I am just so bummed I won't be able to see my friend for very long. I met him the same night I met my current Aussie beau in Europe last year, so we all share a special bond.
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Old Sep 18th, 2004, 06:16 AM
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Hi Mina,

When I said that Rule 240 wouldn't help him it wasn't because he shares the same problem with everyone else on the flight -- more like he needed the information when standing at the gate, face to face with the UA personnel! It doesn't do any good "after the fact" as it were.

Yes, UA WILL cancel a flight if it's not full (unlike Qantas -- I once took a flight from LAX-SYD on Thanksgiving just because I knew the flight would be pretty empty; I counted THIRTY FIVE people! It was heaven -- it was like being in First Class - everyone had an entire row to stretch out. And, I remember thinking that if it was UA they'd cancel the flight!)

If you switch to AA at least they're partners with Qantas, so you can be earning miles on your next Aussie flight, they pretty much have the Caribbean locked up, and you can get to Europe with them as well!

Let us know how he makes out with UA! (which won't be for months)

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist
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Old Sep 18th, 2004, 03:23 PM
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We flew business class on United in April and May to and from Oz.

We were on free frequent flyers tickets so only paid tax. Great value.
Santa Fe, Denver, SFO, Sydney all on time and pretty full. We were upstairs SFO- Sydney and slept like babies
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Old Sep 19th, 2004, 07:58 PM
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United has had to work vefry hard to get any passeengers on flights out of Oz - and usually manage it by offering the lowest prices.

Some of us still remember that it was a United flight that lost it's door mid-air Sydney-Hawaii, and an eminent Sydney professor was sucked out, and his body was never found.

I must admit - it's certainly below my comfort level. And that's before I've even thought about the customer service.
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Old Sep 20th, 2004, 09:33 AM
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I don't think in his case they cancelled it because it wasn't full. The plane was full, they had boarded and sat there for 2 hours before it was announced it could not be fixed. So I do believe it was a mechanical difficulty. The following day's flight was cancelled because they could not get an extra plane there. My friend finally was seated on Qantas and arrived Sunday...full of raves for Qantas. I didn't get to see him for long, but 6 hours was better than nothing.

I have had decent luck with United on the LAX-SYD route before, when I flew business class. However, last year, we sat on the tarmac for three hours as they fixed one mechanical problem after another. (There were three separate problems). I've also had good luck with them before on a flight to Paris, where they did not cancel the flight even though everyone had their own row and there were plenty of rows left over.

Still, I think I will call American and see if they will match my standing at United (so I can fly Qantas as their partner). Having flown over a quarter of a million miles with United in a few short years, I'm pretty used to them. But I'm willing to change if it means doors will stay on during my flights (Margo, please tell me you are pulling my leg!!)
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Old Sep 20th, 2004, 11:10 AM
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Just got word from my friend...got to Germany fine. But now they've lost his bag!

Poor guy. He's keeping his sense of humor though!
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Old Sep 20th, 2004, 07:37 PM
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Mina

I'm not pulling your leg. United had a horrific image in Oz for years as a result - and almost pulled out, as they just couldn't get Australian passengers. They recovered v-e-r-y slowly from that little episode. A former work colleague was on that flight, and found it very difficult to fly again, and just couldn't consider flying UA again. When the company we both worked for selected UA as their preferred partner Oz-US, he just changed jobs - not worth the angst of arguing each time (and he travelled a fair bit!)

Of course your wandering, irritated friend has kept his sense of humour - he's Australian!
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Old Sep 20th, 2004, 07:54 PM
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Margo, I often complain that the 14 hour flight to Australia sucks, but in the hopes that it won't literally suck ever...I think I will truly stick with Qantas now.

Besides, that 747 is awful in coach. No entertainment except that screen in front. I'd only do it again in business class, where I thought it was fine. I daresay Qantas business class would be nicer though...
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Old Sep 21st, 2004, 02:32 PM
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Hi M & M! (Mina & Margo)

No, Margo wasn't pulling your leg -- I remember when that happened! Yikes! In fact, I thought about it just yesterday as they're showing the promos for the new show "Lost" which premieres tomorrow night (and one of the actress is blonde and I distinctly caught an Aussie accent!) It shows a man turning to his seatmate and saying "don't worry..that noise is normal" and the next thing part of the roof is sucked out!

Glad your friend made it safe and sound and I hope he gets his bag, or at least can replace whatever was in there!

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist
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Old Sep 21st, 2004, 03:28 PM
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this is from the Honolulu Airport web site, listing all four major disasters they had had there:

United Airlines, 1989
On February 24, 1989, United Airlines Flight 811, a Boeing 747 carrying 3 flight crew, 15 cabin crew and 337 passengers from Los Angeles, California to Sydney, Australia, stopping in Auckland, New Zealand and Honolulu suffered explosive decompression when a cargo door separated from the aircraft after takeoff from the Reef Runway. Nine passengers were swept from the aircraft and lost at sea. The plane returned to Honolulu.

how awful.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 12:47 AM
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Mina

We Aussies grizzle a lot about Qantas, but....
I had one of those trips from hell, flying Scandinavian from Copenhagen to Narita last year - and the cabin crew were useless (and the Scandinavian office in Sydney was plain offensive!)

You have no idea how happy I was to check in with Qantas for the next leg, tell them I'd had a horror flight, and asked for a good seat, and GET IT! The ground and cabin staff were fantastic.

Qantas may seem more expensive, but........

Scandinavian - another airline below my confort level!
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