My E-mail To United Airlines President Jeff Smisek & Why I Will Not Fly United Airlines Again

July 13, 2012

Mr. Smisek,

I hope this e-mail finds you in good health sir.

My wife and I recently returned from an otherwise relaxing vacation that was marred by our experience with the United staff at IAH.

Mr. Smisek, I want you to understand, I am not a complainer by nature. It takes a lot to get me really riled up, but the experience we had with some rude, ignorant and uneducated United employees has done just that. I am also an honest man who does not expect something for nothing.  I also expect to be dealt with in an honest and forthright manner by others.

On July 11, my wife and I were returning from a trip to Fort Lauderdale.  Our connecting flight to Little Rock (UA4594) was through Houston.

Upon arriving in Houston, we found our flight to Little Rock delayed.  Then delayed several more times before finally being cancelled.

The United person at the desk by the gate stated several times to the crowd waiting to board the fight to Little Rock that we had a co-pilot and a flight attendant, but the Captain was not answering his phone.

Please note what the person at the counter said about the Captain not answering his phone sir.

Our flight was then cancelled.  We were then told at the customer service area that the cancellation was due to weather.  Really?  I thought it was because of a staffing issue?

Sorry sir, I can’t believe that weather was to blame. There were flights going out all around us, so the weather in Houston must have been OK to fly at that point in time.  The weather in Little Rock was fine at that point in time.   So, I will continue to believe that it was a staffing issue and NOT a weather issue.

At best, it was classified as a weather cancellation because of human error.  At worst, it was a bald-face lie by the staff and/or management of United to save money on having to compensate some travelers just trying to get to their destination.

We then were put on stand by for the next (and last) flight of the evening.  We did not make the stand by list and honestly did not expect to make the list. Others that did not make it to the top of the list and should have had preference over everyone waiting  was a 16-year-old young lady traveling alone and an older woman with diabetes and other health related issues.

We asked to get compensation for renting a hotel for the night. We were told no because United does not comp rooms for weather related delays or cancellations. So we rented a room out of our own pockets.

My wife and I both had to be back in Arkansas for our jobs.  She is self-employed and does not make money if she does not work (she had to reschedule all her July 12 appointments) so it was vitally important the we be in Arkansas no later than the evening of July 12 so we could be working on July 13.

After checking the weather for the Houston area early on July 12,  and the fact that there was a severe storm happening at that time, we decided to go ahead and rent a car and drive to Arkansas.  It was simply too much of a gamble to risk having our flights delayed and cancelled (And if you check July 12 , it was filled with cancellations at IAH).

I am asking for compensation for the following expenses:

  • Hotel room
  • Rental car
  • 1/4 of our total ticket price

I have receipts for all these items and will gladly send the exact totals and copies of the receipts.  The total is rounded to around $XXX.

You also need to know that your staff was very uncooperative and rude with myself and others.  When we tried to explain that we did not believe it was a weather issue and would appreciate some compensation for lodging, we were either dismissed entirely, offered a snide comment, or just received a blank stare from the United employee.

Due to the treatment and overall attitude of your employees and company towards me, my wife and others, that I am actively relaying our story to anyone who will listen. This includes all our friends, family, co-workers and clients.

I am also posting this e-mail at my blog at http://butchrenfroe.com and links to that blog entry from many popular social network sites.

I expect compensation for the items listed above.  I don’t want anything more than what I have expended.

My wife and I will not fly United again sir.

Regards

Alfred W. Renfroe Jr.

 

United Responds – July 16, 2012

 Dear Mr. Renfroe:

 Your email to Jeff Smisek was received and I was asked to respond to you on his behalf.

 I was very sorry to read about the difficulties you and your wife encountered because of the cancellation of flight 4594 on July 11, 2012.  I understand your frustration and I sincerely apologize.  Please extend my apologies to your wife as well.

 I have researched the cancellation of flight 4594 on July 11, 2012, and found it was cancelled due to the extreme weather conditions Houston was experiencing that day.  For the past week, Houston has been experiencing heavy rain and flooding, causing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

 While I certainly understand that this situation was frustrating and inconvenient for you and your wife, it was beyond the control of United Airlines, and I must decline your request for reimbursement of your hotel and rental car expenses.  However, I have authorized a refund of the unused flight segment for your ticket and your wife’s ticket, back to the original form of payment.  The refund process takes seven to ten days, and can take up to two billing cycles to be reflected on your credit card statement.

Again, I apologize for the frustration and inconvenience and hope you and your wife will fly with United Airlines again, as you are valued customers and your business is appreciated.

Thank you for choosing United Airlines.

 

Sincerely,

Wendy Harwood
Customer Care Manager
EZCare ID 5518986 

My Reply- July 16, 2012

Dear Ms. Harwood,

Thank you for responding to my e-mail.

I must disagree with the reason given for the cancellation for flight 4594.  I am sure it is in your system as a weather related closing. That makes it easier to not pay out what you owe me. However, I still believe that it was not a weather related cancellation but a snafu in staffing and/or scheduling that caused the cancellation.

Here are my reasons for not believing it was a weather related cancellation:

  1. The United employee at the gate most certainly stated the cancellation was due to not being able to get the Captain scheduled for flight 4594 to answer his phone.
  2.  There were flights leaving all around us at that time.  So, this leads me to believe that the weather was suitable for departing IAH at that time. I know also, and can confirm with LIT, that there were no weather related delays or cancellation at my destination.

(Ed.  Documents showing departures that are literally minutes before and after our flight was cancelled. Weather? I don’t think so – Flights from gate84 on July 11)

So, while I appreciate the refund of the unused portion of our tickets, I still maintain that had the flight departed IAH as it should have, I would not have incurred the hotel charge of $xxx and the car rental of $xxx.

I will provide copies of my receipts upon request and await your confirmation that you will repay my expenses incurred due to United Airline’s blunder.

Best Regards,

A. W. Renfroe
501 269 xxxx
awrenfroe@gmail.com

United Responds – July 18, 2012

Dear Mr. Renfroe:

 I’m very sorry you are unhappy with my response; however I must again advise that your flight was cancelled due to the inclement weather conditions in Houston on July 11, 2012.  I can also assure you that gate agents do not have access to the cellular telephone numbers of the pilots.  Any contact with the pilot scheduled to operate a particular flight is done through the scheduling office, not by a gate agent.

 Again, I do apologize for the frustration and inconvenience you and your wife experienced, and hope you will fly with United Airlines again, as we would appreciate the opportunity to regain your trust.

 Sincerely,

Wendy Harwood
Customer Care Manager
EZCare ID 5527112

My Reply – July 18, 2012

Ms. Harwood,

Let me assure you, I heard what the man said about not being able to reach the Captain on his phone (I don’t recall saying it was a mobile phone).  I heard it and so did many others of us awaiting flight 4594 that afternoon.

Furthermore, you can “advise me” all day long,  but can you explain why there were flights leaving, out of the same terminal and gate area mind you, all around us.  mere minutes Before, during and after the time our flight was cancelled?

As I stated earlier, I am sure it is entered as a weather related cancellation.  I strongly suspect that that reason was incorrectly attributed for whatever reason.

Wendy, I understand weather related cancellations. I do.  I just think that flight 4594 was not a weather related cancellation.  If (not) , I would not be so very ademant about this.

As I stated earlier, I don’t want anything that I don’t feel I am owed.  And I honestly appreciate the unused portion of our tickets being refunded.

I will be completely honest with you, Mr. Smisek and all of United when I say that you have probably lost a customer.  The rudeness and  incompetence  we experienced at IAH from United staff.    I should be fair and say that the United staff at Little Rock and Fort Lauderdale were stellar in both attitude and helpfulness.   You need more of that.

I have these e-mails posted at my blog at http://butchrenfroe.com/my-e-mail-to-united-airlines-president-jeff-smisek/.  You should see the responses on Facebook from other United customers telling of very similar experiences.  You guys have a problem that needs to be fixed.

Ms. Harwood, Mr. Smisek, I am asking you once more to reconsider re-reimbursing me for what I feel am rightfully owed.

Regards

A. W. Renfroe
501-269-xxxx
awrenfroe@gmail.com

 

 

 July 26, 2012

Dear Mr. Renfroe:

 

Your email to Helen Chellin was received and I was asked to respond to you on her behalf.

While I must again decline your request for reimbursement of your hotel and rental car, as your flight cancellation was due to inclement weather, in an effort to resolve the issue, if you will send me your original receipts for both, I will be happy to issue you a $100 Electronic Travel Certificate for use on a future flight with United Airlines.

Please send the original receipts to my attention at:

 

United Airlines Customer Care

900 Grand Plaza Dr., Ste. 180, NHCCR

Houston, TX 77067

When you do, please reference case ID 5548408.

Thank you for choosing United Airlines.

Sincerely,

Wendy Harwood
Customer Care Manager
EZCare ID 5548408

 

_____________________________________________________

 

Ms. Harwood,

Are you referring to the original receipts for the hotel and the rental car?   I am not in the habit of sending my original receipts, would a photo copy of the receipts not be sufficient?

Also, the documentation I have on the flights that left mere minutes, before and after, from the same gate when ours was cancelled sufficiently shows that the “weather cancellation” was, at best, a mistake.  I have strongly suspect the airline either made a staffing mistake, or it was cancelled because of the labor issue Untied is having with their pilots and one just did not show up.  So, I am still considering litigation due to my evidence. (see attached pdf file)

I also have weather conditions available that show the weather was “Overcast” at that time at IAH.

Let me think about this for a while.  The bitter taste from this whole experience makes me seriously doubt that I would ever voluntarily fly with your airline again.

Regards,

A. W. Renfroe

______________________________________________

And finally, if you made it this far…the last email I sent:

Aug. 14, 2012

United Managers & Employees,

I have given this much thought and consideration and have decided to decline your offer of what amounts to a $100 coupon that I will never redeem.

I liken it to going to a restaurant where you receive terrible service and your meal is wholly unsatisfactory.  But, instead of refunding your money, the manager gives you a 15% off coupon for your next visit.

I never wanted a coupon, I want reimbursement.

On top of that, you want my original receipts?  Nice try.  I don’t make it a habit of sending my original documents.  It’s 2012 folks and we have these wonderful devices called “document scanners”.  They work great.  So, no you don’t get my original receipts.

I have shown you evidence (attached to this email) that the cancellation could not be weather related.  Repeat..could not be weather related.  The PDF files attached show flights leaving within mere minutes before and after our flight was cancelled.

At this point, I am still planning on my next course of action.  I could go to small claims court against United, but that would mean having to take a day off from my job. Or, I could simply make it my mission to tell everyone about how United treated my wife and I.  I will tell my story to anyone who wants to hear it.  And I will keep it online at my blog.

Yes folks, this could very well be the most expensive refund you never gave.  My voice is just one of many telling the same old story of what terrible customer service you can expect from United.  Sad really.

One more chance folks.  I will send you copies of my receipts and I want reimbursement for the amounts on those receipts.

And if you choose to respond, someone from higher up the food chain than Ms. Harwood needs to do it.  Nothing personal against Wendy, but I want to correspond with a decision maker that can do something.

Regards

A. W. Renfroe

Aug 15, 2012 – One final reply with my thoughts inserted

Dear Mr. Renfroe:

 Your email to Jeff Smisek and several United Executives has been received in their offices and I was asked to respond to you on their behalf.

(This poor woman must be so tired of being civil to me.)

 Again, I am sorry you are not happy with my previous responses; however please rest assured that I am in a position to make decisions that are in the best interest of our customers and the company.

(Didn’t like that I wanted to talk to a higher-up?  Tell Jeffy to give me a ring and we can sort this little matter right out!)

 In the case of your flight on July 11, 2012, it was cancelled due to inclement weather conditions.

(Must. Repeat. If we repeat it, that makes it so! )

 I do understand that the flight before and after it operated; however they were both delayed because of the weather, as were many other flights that same day, both delayed and cancelled.

(*sigh*  Broken record.  That makes no sense whatsoever. “Yeah, the other flights were able to leave but this one was cancelled”. During the time when the National Weather Service said it was “Cloudy”. Not raining. Not Storming. “Cloudy”.)

 When a flight is delayed or cancelled due to inclement weather, which is beyond the control of United Airlines, we do not provide hotel or meal vouchers, reimburse out of pocket expenses or compensate.  

(How convenient! For United, that is. Gosh, why did they label this as a “Weather Cancellation”?)

We will protect passengers on our next available flight.  I do understand your decision to rent a car and drive from Houston to Little Rock; however I must again decline your request for reimbursement of your rental car and hotel.

(And this attention to customer service is why United is going down the tubes.  This is the company that breaks guitars, loses little kids, and generally makes people unhappy.  Keep shooting for that last place prize in customer service, champs!)

 I have however, previously refunded the unused flight coupon from your ticket and your wife’s.

(And, as I noted in an earlier e-mail, I appreciate that.)

 At this time I must advise you that United Airlines now considers this matter closed.

(Oh you just wish! This matter will never be closed as long as I have this blog up and running sister! If I can cost United more money than United owes me, it’s a win for me!)

 I will be more than happy to assist you with any other issue you may have regarding United Airlines;…

(Yeah, sure you are!)  

…however we will not respond again regarding this same issue.

(Translated: “Please just go away!”)

 As a gesture of good will, I have gone ahead and issued the $100 Electronic Travel Certificate, which you will be receiving by email within 48 to 72 hours.

(It’s electronic? Aw, darn. I wanted to make it into a paper airplane. Or go out and buy a bird just so I could line the birdcage with it. Thanks for the coupon I will never use!)

 Thank you again for choosing United Airlines.  You and your wife are valued customers and your business is appreciated.

(You almost sound convincing.)

 Sincerely,     

Wendy Harwood
Customer Care Manager
EZCare ID 5597787

 

Note: United using the weather as their go-to excuse is not just limited to me. Check this out: http://www.untied.com/feature/lies.shtml#weather