Reader Stumbles In Quest For United’s Executive Customer Support

Using tips gleaned from our posts on reaching executive customer support, reader Ben tried to rectify a muggled United voucher. When they were issued, the gate rep said they were valid for Canada. Months later when he tried to use them to fly to Toronto, the ticket agent said there was no way the voucher was good for destinations outside the US.

After trying the perpetually busy customer support line, Ben used our customer support ninja tips and reached the voicemail of Sean Donohue, “Vice President of Consumer Experience.” And there he stopped, because he’s, “leaving town tomorrow, and won’t have time to talk to him or someone in his office.”

Ben! You’ll never be a customer service ninja with that kind of attitude.

Reaching executive customer support means going all the way to the emperor’s throne and plucking a hair from his head.

You were in. Just leave a message and ask for a callback.

After you return from your trip, call again so you have those vouchers straightened out for next time.

Ben’s letter, inside.

Ben writes:

“Back in March, I flew from Toronto to Columbus to take a look at grad schools. On my way back, there was a change over in Dulles. Everything was fine until a volunteer was requested to be bumped, so the flight would no longer be overweight (It seems that United didn’t notice that that particular day was the last day of spring break for Toronto schools, so everyone was flying back from vacation, loaded up with souvenirs and trinkets from warmer places). Since I had nothing important waiting for me, and they offered a free flight voucher, I left the plane. It turns out this was the right decision, as for the next 4 hours the plane sat on the tarmac, as they slowly bumped more people and tried to remove their luggage from the hold.

Me and the other bumpees pointed out to the gate agent that it doesn’t make much sense for people living in Canada to be given vouchers only good for the lower 48 states. After much yelling and name calling, the gate agent, Brian, told us that he would make it so that these vouchers would be good for Canada as well.

All well and good, no? Some months later, I’m back in the states, but looking to fly up to Toronto to see its mightly towers once again. When I call up the United reservation phone line, I’m told by the first agent that there’s no way that the voucher is good for Canada, no matter what I say or what protests I make. When I ask to speak to a manager, I’m promptly hung up on. The second agent that I talked to said that the only way that this can be resolved is through United’s Customer Support division.

This is where the fun starts. Calling up United’s CS line on August first, every option in the phone tree that I try gives me the message “Our call volume is too heavy to serve you right now”, and then it promptly hangs up on me. On August second, when I try calling, they don’t even bother with a recorded message, and just give me a busy signal when I try to enter any option in their phone tree.

Trying the tips that you gave to be a “Customer Support Ninja”, I do a google finance search on UAL and find out that one Sean Donohue is the “Vice President of Consumer Experience.” Calling him gives only a voice-mail, which is all well and good except that I’m leaving town tomorrow, and won’t have time to talk to him or someone in his employee before the voucher is worthless for this trip (you need to give 14 days advance notice before using the voucher).

So, to review, we have one of two things. Either a gate agent who lies to the faces of customers and a Consumer Support division that can’t be reached by consumers. One has to wonder how an airline managed this well could possibly lose so many billion dollars in a year.

Lesson learned: next time the gate agent tells you something, get it in writing.”

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