" Rule 240 "

Jul 25th, 2004, 05:37 AM
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" Rule 240 "

Have any of you invoked this "rule" and what were your experiences?

My teen's United flight from Dulles to NC was ultimately canceled last night due to a mechanical problem with the plane. Three other later flights (one on United and two on different airlines) were available but the United gate agent claimed she couldn't transfer anyone's ticket until United formally declared the original flight canceled (which occured 3 hrs later). At this point, the passengers were informed that no hotel vouchers were available because "all the surrounding hotels are booked up." Additionally, the passengers were informed that they would have to wait until 7p the next evening to depart Dulles because "those are the only seats available."
By checking Orbitz, I discovered these were all lies. Seats were in fact available last night on the three later flights as well as on other airlines this morning and throughout the day. A hotel search on Orbitz revealed numerous hotels with vacancies within a 2-3 miles radius of Dulles.

A group of fellow passengers decided to rent a van ($200) and drive home last night. They verified my daughter's version of events.

Bottom line: do you need a laptop and internet connection while traveling to check on the accuracy of an airline's statements? Or is the moral of the story never to fly United again?

Because she's a young teen and this was her first trip to Europe, I purchased a pricey ($1400) United ticket to Vienna (United code share Austria Air) so that she'd only have one change. I should've booked her on a cheaper American Air flight with additional change in Paris or London. I doubt she would've been treated this way on American.
Comments please.
calville is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 06:21 AM
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P.S. Here is a website that describes Rule 240 with links to individual airlines policies:
United Airlines legalese was incomprehensible to me whereas AA's seemed pretty straightforward.
calville is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 07:35 AM
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I would pursuit this vigorously with or without a lawyer. But one thing needs to be clarified first - were those "other" flights last night available AFTER her original flight was cancelled 3 hours later?

But regardless, they have to put the passengers up in a hotel when it's a mechanical problem.

I think you're in for a big compensation from UA.
rkkwan is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 07:48 AM
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Thanks for the URL, Cal. I've added it to my favorites and will print out my airline's specifics to carry along the next time I travel. In case of a delay or cancellation, this information could be very important.
Betsy is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 07:57 AM
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So sorry this happened to her on her first trip..Please say she is getting off tonight ..what a disappointment for her.
jody is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 09:47 AM
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You don;t need a computer but you do need a cell phone. When anything like this happens do not wait for the gate agent to provide info. Call the the airline direct and work with an agent that doesn;t have a planeful of unhappy passengers in front of him/her. You will get solutions much faster.
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 09:53 AM
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What a nightmare. Is she home safe and sound I hope???

I agree I would pursue this with United.
mclaurie is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 10:45 AM
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U/A is financially and morally bankrupt, so what did you expect?
If you seek compensation, do hurry!
mikemo is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 11:03 AM
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Thanks everyone for your comments!

I agree a cell phone would've helped because I could've phoned her to let her know the results of my Orbitz research.
Thinking a cell phone might get lost in Europe and wouldn't be needed, I didn't let her take one. Instead, I had to wait for her to phone me back on a payphone.

The United reservations personnel I talked to by phone were very unhelpful and continued to lie about flight and hotel room availability. They don't know the "rule" and one "supervisor" told me Rule 240 only applied to cancellations caused by weather! Ridiculous!

Her flight was supposed to depart Dulles at 5:10p. Every hr they announced a further delay of one hr. Meanwhile, another nonstop United flight (Atlantic Coast code share) departed as scheduled at 7:05p with empty seats! Then there was the US Air flight at 7:50p that went out with empty seats. Her last chance out was on Air Tran at 8:20p. The gate agent told her no flights were available. When my daughter insisted that an Air Tran flight WAS available, the agent told her she was too busy issuing meal vouchers and to get in the back of the line. By the time my kid rushed across the airport to the Air Tran gate, the flight had departed.

One reservations person told me it was the "passenger's responsibility" to leave the secure gate area, go to the United ticket counter (before they closed at 9:15p) and ask to be placed on another flight!

My impression from all of this is that United is on the verge of bankruptcy and will do anything (including lying) to avoid reticketing people on another airline or placing them in a hotel.

On other airlines, if you tell the gate agent you must get out or have a connecting flight to make, they will try to reticket you on another flight including another airline if necessary.

If both the gate agent AND the phone reservations center were giving out inaccurate info, it's hard to see how a cell phone would've helped.

It was also shocking to me that passengers were told they would have to wait until 7pm the following night to get out of Dulles when there was plenty of seat availability on morning and afternoon flights on other airlines.

She did have a fantastic time in Vienna (German language program) and made it home safe and sound by rental car at 2 am.

As far as getting any compensation from United, I have my doubts. Her 5:10p flight wasn't "officially canceled" until 8p- that apparently will be their "out."
calville is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 11:36 AM
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PS to mikemo- you are right. We've had miserable experiences on United for the past 6 yrs and avoid them. It was really dumb of me to forgo the cheaper AA option because of one additional change.
calville is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 01:12 PM
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Actually, Rule 240 also applies if you are bumped from a flight because of overbooking. You are entitled to a free flight if that happens.

I have had the same experiences with United that you daughter had, and not just once. However, I always received a free hotel room and meal vouchers. Now that United has filed for bankruptcy, I don't know what their situation is.

I continue to fly United because I have about 60,000 FF miles with them and Lufthansa. But, they are BIG LIARS. They will LIE THROUGH THEIR TEETH. This is why you must persue action against them. I would write a letter to the airline and see what happens (this has always worked for me in the past, once getting a free flight). If this doesn't work, threaten leagal action and tell them you are writing a letter to the Travel Editor of the NEW YORK TIMES.

Sometimes ya gotta be a bitch.

Cheers, John G.
ThinGorjus is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 04:40 PM
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I'm sorry I don't know anything about the rule to be helpful. I do believe that printing out a copy of the rule to carry might be a good idea.

As for the cell phone, what I am about to tell you is not directly travel related, but as an above post mentioned it shows how having a cell phone can be VERY helpful. Ironic that my short tale involves the cell phone company.

I was under the impression that I was due a free upgrade from my old cell phone to a new cell phone. I called the company from home before going to the Cingular store to make sure. After the rep looked up my records they informed me I was. I have had bad experiences with other companies, being told one thing and then finding out the situation is entirely different so I called two other times and spoke to two other reps and was assured I had a free upgrade.

Sure enough when I got to the store the sales rep looked up my account and said I was NOT eligible. I was furious and more. I kept as calm as possible explaining what I had done as far as confirming. I even told the lady to check under a special icon on the computer because that is what the telephone rep told me to do if anything went wrong.

I finally pleaded with the sales rep to call the customer service center. The very rude store rep would not let me talk to the customer service person. I told the store rep I would call the customer service people myself. So I went outside and got them on my old cell phone. I explained what was going on and asked if they would talk to the store rep. They said sure.

I went back inside and handed my own cell phone to the store rep and to make a rather long story shorter let us just say I got everything I was told I would get. I now have a phone suitable for use in the entire world. (Or whereever cell phone service is available so I guess my tale IS travel related after all.)

I also find it amusing that on that Airline show I posted about earlier, there was a recent episode in which a customer was told by the gate agent that no more seats were available on later flights (after hers was overbooked or something,) and that the flight time had been changed. It seems the customer called the customer service headquarters or was it booking, not sure? but anyway was told YES there were seats available and some other business about the flight time that it seems was different from what the gate agent had told her.

Perhaps if the customer had called right then and there from her cell phone the outcome would have been different.

I know some Fodorites have said they are not into cell phones, but personally I can't imagine ever going back to not having one.

I hope everything works out for your daughter.
PLMN is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 04:41 PM
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PS. Thin, nevermind my repost to your answer to my post. I now have the WEBCAM
PLMN is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 04:58 PM
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United morally bankrupt? No corporation is actually morally bankrupt--morality is just not a part of the corporate equation.

Corporations are about trying to make a profit for the stockholders and fortunes for upper management.

Corporations must be forced into making morally sound decisions by governmental regulation or by threats to their profits or by the expectation that a sound moral decision will increase profits.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 05:19 PM
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Please read the posts!
You must be a U/A exec to make such a mindless statement.
mikemo is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 05:39 PM
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This is my personal experience with United: On a flight to Paris via O'Hare, United cancelled the flight to O'Hare because of mechanical problems.It was early afternoon. The passengers started lining towards the gate counter to arrange alternative flights either through United or other airlines. Agents said there were no other flights-everything is booked. Go to the ticket counter in the departure area. Another long line, about 1 to 1 1/2 hr. wait. Got to counter, no more flights to O'Hare and flight to Paris left already. Come back tomorrow morning. No offer of hotel or meal. Agents exact words to us" Just Go HOME and come backe Tomorrow". Lucky I live in STL but what about those passengers passing through? Came back to airport early am, went to United counter, full flight to O'Hare, told to go to Air Canada, Air Canada told to go to American as they can arrange our flight, went to American and American had no idea what I was talking about because United did not tell them or wrote about it on the ticket, went back to United, frustrated and finally yelled at the Agent to tell us what we are suppose to do, finally within 3 MINUTES was able to book us a flight with UNITED with a crooked smile as if his LIE was revealed suddently. NEVER AGAIN will I fly UNITED even though I still have 40,000 miles. I will just wait for it to expire!!
JoyC is online now  
Jul 25th, 2004, 05:46 PM
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I know this is monday-morning quarterbacking, but I were the traveller, I would not deal with the gate agent once I find him/her unhelpful. Sometimes they are simply overworked and underpaid, and I can understand that.

In situations like that, it's almost always much more easier and faster to call the airline's reservation system, and have them taken care of reschedulings and stuff like that. It happened to me once on Delta, so I know that's true advice. At the very least, you can get things resolved faster than having to wait in line at the gate, where there are only 2 people trying to take care of a whole plane of angry passengers.

The phone agent can't give you hotel and meal coupons, but they can rebook you on other flights. And since this happened at Dulles, a UA hub, there would be customer service counter elsewhere in the terminal where other UA agents could have helped. It would definitely beat trying to get help from the gate agents.
rkkwan is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 11:37 PM
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Sorry to hear about this calville..how terrible! Hopefully you can continue to pursue this with United and get a response. I have flown over a quarter million miles with them in the last 6 years, and have noticed a real decrease in service. I am thinking of switching to smaller airlines and forgetting about these harder and harder to use FF programs.

I know that hardly anyone uses them anymore because of the Internet, but I try to book through my travel agent when I can. I have worked with her for years, and we have a great rapport. I know at least during business hours I can get through to her immediately, and she can handle all rebookings for me, sometimes calling her airline agent if necessary. It's nice because I know she really has some concern for my comfort, and that I can call her back easily if my cell phone drops. If that were to happen with a reservations agent, I'd have to start from scratch.

She's gotten me out of several binds over the last few years (she once rebooked me on the very last seat of an AA flight when the UA flight was cancelled due to mechanical difficulties. Everyone else was still waiting in line at the UA gate to find out their options), and I still use her even though they have started charging a service fee (as most travel agents have done). She's worth every penny.
crazymina is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 03:10 AM
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Lesson learned (hopefully) BE FLEXIBLE and plan ahead..often hard for a newer traveler to do but it is never too early to learn.

You can print out "Rule 240" and wave it in a gateagent's face if that makes you feel better; you can BS all you want about the supposed "moral bankruptcy" of corporations; you can use the term "lies" and so forth but none of this GETS YOU ANOTHER FLIGHT now does it?

Use a cell phone
Call the airline directly
ACT like the "experienced traveler" you'd like everyone else here to think you are
Whine to someone else
TopMan is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 07:44 AM
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Thanks to most of you for your comments.

I just spoke to the United Customer Relations call center in Mexico City (!) and was offered $250 in travel vouchers for our sad saga. I refused the offer- telling them I needed a credit to my card.
I'm kind of phobic about UA now and the last thing I want to do is get on another UA flight. I plan to convert my UA FF miles to magazine subscriptions.

Writing letters to the media (such as NYT travel section) was a good suggestion.

Since deregulation, there are many airline travel horror tales but United (and TopMan) are truly in a class by themselves!
calville is offline  

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