United To Unveil Miserly Compensation Policy For Delayed Passengers

United will soon unveil a miserly compensation policy in response to the harsh media coverage of extreme delays caused by snowstorms. Flights delayed for more than four hours on departure, or an hour and a half on arrival, will be declared “flights of note.” Passengers on “flights of note” will receive the following:

  • An apology note;
  • 20% off one (1) roundtrip economy ticket on a future United flight;
  • One (1) $10 airport meal voucher.

    That is all. Passengers delayed for less than four hours get nothing.

    Even with the bar set high, passengers on 534 United-operated flights would have qualified for compensation in 2006. The revised “Ground Hold and Diversion policy” is meant to prove that there is no need for a “legislated Passenger Bill of Rights.” Um, guys, the mere existence of a policy does not mean that it’s a good policy. If anything, United’s actions show that the airlines can’t be trusted to regulate themselves.

    United, however, thinks their policy is a slam dunk and is confident that their response is more than enough to turn affected passengers into “United Promoters.”

    The leaked memo announcing the change, inside…

    (Photo: Matt McGee)

    Stuck on a plane on the tarmac for hours on end before takeoff or after landing is something no one enjoys. Following several high profile incidents of extreme travel delays in the industry — which sparked interest in a legislated Passenger Bill of Rights — United has implemented a Ground Hold and Diversion policy to regulate the length of ground delays on our own flights to ensure the best possible experience for our customers.

    In all of 2006, just 182 United mainline flights and 142 United Express flights had taxi-out times greater than three hours; on the taxi-in side, only 68 United flights and 142 United Express flights had taxi times greater than 90 minutes.

    While the number of flights that experience extensive delays is small (less than 0.1 percent), just one of these events can result in a negative customer perception.

    United’s new policy aims to limit taxi-out delays to three hours or less and taxi-in delays to 90 minutes or less on all flights.

    For North American flights that exceed four hours on taxi-out, 90 minutes on taxi-in, or have on-ground diversion delays over four hours, United will consider them “flights of note” and proactively acknowledge and compensate customers accordingly.

    Customers on flights of note will receive

    * a note of apology,
    * a certificate redeemable online for 20 percent off of one United roundtrip ticket in economy class systemwide,
    * and a 10 dollar airport meal voucher.

    All passengers on flights of note, including employees, with the exception of working crew members, are eligible for this compensation package.

    Employees that may be directly involved in flights of note will receive additional details through division communications.

    How we handle our customers during operational challenges, such as extensive delays, can make or break our customers’ impression of their United experience — and affect whether they will continue to fly with us and become a United Promoter.