United Airlines Very Mean To Homeless Girl With Cat

United Airlines is a big meanypants, but we have to wonder, why didn’t she just pay the cat fee in advance?

That would’ve avoided the abusive and vituperative ticket agent, one who was determined to prevent the notorious “kittykat fee scam….”

This is the letter Dan wrote to United:

    “Hopefully, at least one of these e-mail addresses will receive this complaint; I’ll also enter it on your apparently only sometimes-functioning complain form at United.com.

    A friend of mine recently hit hard times here in New York City, and found herself staying on my couch for a week just before the holiday seasons. She was homeless, had no money, and was distraught with her New York experience. Her former employer in Seattle, WA offered to fly her home for the holidays, provide her with a job and a home, and basically allow her to regroup.

    He bought a ticket for her on United, to fly out at 8 am on Saturday December 16th, from New York’s LaGuardia airport. She was to be flying with her cat, and during the course of the week we spoke to Reservations repeatedly about getting the cat (in a carrier) onto the plane.

    We received many various statements from your call centers, and piecing it together we finally figured out that there was another pet booked to be in the cabin, so my friend’s cat would need to be checked. No problem, we said, and the Customer Relations person told us that there would be an additional fee for this. Again, this was no problem — my friend spoke with her former boss in Seattle and he provided her with his Credit Card number to make such arrangements.

    The morning of the flight, my friend attempts to check in at LaGuardia and is again told that she’d need to pay to have the cat checked onto the flight. The woman “assisting” her, Ms. Dani Coleman, was less than helpful. Not only would she not accept the credit card (which is understandable, being as the card was not present) Ms. Coleman told my friend, flat out, that she would not be boarding this plane. I was not present for much of the conversation, but apparently it left my friend quite distraught and Ms. Coleman was quite abusive and unhelpful.

    While this was going on, I was at home with my roommate. My roommate was on the phone trying to help my friend at the airport out, and I was on the phone with your Customer Relations. I offered to provide my credit card number to pay for the cat check-in, or my banking account information. Anything to allow my poor — and now, in tears — friend get onto the plane and home.

    The representative I spoke to was also less than helpful. He told me that the *only* way that payment could be made would be at the airport itself. When I asked to speak to his supervisor, I was told that his supervisor “does not speak on the phone” and that he, the person we received when we first called, was the highest level person I would be allowed to speak with.

    After the multiple calls we’d made that week, dealing with your CSRs, it was the last straw.

    At something around 6:30 in the morning, tired from being up all night, I hopped in a taxi and went to LaGuardia, spending a quite unexpected $40. I paid the $100 fee for the cat, in cash so that my friend could board her plane.

    Once assured that she was boarding, I asked the only helpful United employee I’ve ever dealt with — a Ms. Lei Leinda (not sure on the spelling there) to please provide me with the name of the woman that had been abusive to my friend, as well as her own name. Ms. Dani Coleman overheard this request, and initially refused saying “He don’t need my name, she already has it” and followed with “Whatever, she ‘claims’ her boss is buying the ticket but is in Seattle, and then all of a sudden you appear out of nowhere to pay us.”

    Fortunately, Ms. Leinda was helpful enough to write down Ms. Coleman’s name.

    I’ve worked in Customer Service, and I’ve been a consumer. I know how tough it can be to be helpful sometimes. But in a case like this, it was not one unfortunate CSR but a series of events that caused both emotional and financial duress on both my friend, her cat, her boss, and me.

    I simply wanted to know that the commitment to customer service you speak of, the plan for improving customer relations and dedicating yourself to your customers, appears to be failing. Never have I had such a miserable experience before with an airline — and I wasn’t even a passenger! You can rest assured that this will remain the case.

    Thank you for such a wonderful holiday experience.”

If the card was good enough for the ticket purchase, why wasn’t it good enough for the cat fee? Why did she have to pay the cat fee at the gate?

United should apologize, and refund the cat fee and cab fare.

Incidentally, Dan’s forward of this email to United President Glen Tilton and Head of Customer Service Pamela Coslet bounced. — BEN POPKEN