United Sells Family's Tickets To Someone Else, Ruins Once-In-A-Lifetime Vacation, Then Won't Admit It To Insurance Company

Even for evil airline stories, this one may shock you. How about:

  • Holding $5,000 in tickets from a family for six months, then telling them the day before that the flight has been canceled;
  • When confronted with the fact that the flight hasn’t been canceled, telling the family that the reservation has been lost;
  • Finally admitting that they’ve bumped the family from the flight and were lying about the cancelation and the lost reservation;
  • Offering replacement seats on multiple planes and days, splitting the family up on different flights and depositing them at different islands;
  • Offering to get them there 5 days into a 7 day vacation, part of which was scheduled to spend time with a family member who was dying in a hospice in Hawaii;
  • Refusing to write a letter on the family’s behalf so that they can collect their insurance payment on the house they rented but never used.

With one act of disregard, United destroyed the vacation, cost the family over $10,000 in house rental fees that they can’t get back, and forced them to cancel the trip. The dying family member they didn’t get to see passed away in early June.

How could United mess up a trip so badly? The mother who arranged all of it, Anita Cabral, suspects it has to do with the bottom line:

Cabral has a theory for this shabby treatment: fuel prices.

Between January and June, as the oil industry mounted its historic shakedown of consumers, the price of those tickets tripled. The folks who paid the most got to fly.

The columnist who wrote about the Cabrals’ problems said he called United directly for a response, and was never called back.

“Bad airline stories are nothing like this” [Sign On San Diego] (Thanks to Randy!)
(Photo: Cubbie_n_Vegas)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Nick1693 says:

    Thats horrible!!!

    And the reason Amtrak is good, unless it requires you go over an ocean…

  2. Nick1693 says:

    @Nick1693: Oops… “Unless you require going over an ocean.”

  3. scoobydoo says:

    This is what has become of US airlines.

    They used to not give a crap, but would reluctantly sort it out when the PR shit hit the fan. Now they just don’t give a crap PERIOD.

  4. OmniZero says:

    I would definitely file a suit in court towards united to have this brought back to them. Lots more money could be claimed for the whole emotional damages thing about the family member passing away before they got there. This is just ridiculous. I’ll try not to fly United merely based on principle. I do the same thing with Circuit City and how they fired people to hire new ones at lower wages and ADMITTED it.

  5. jamesdenver says:


    Or you need to get from the east to west coast in under five days. sheesh Amtrak is NOT the answer for every airline woe.

    Anyway this is one reason I check and recheck in the weeks leading up to my flight. I know you shouldn’t have to – but I do it anyway and am always anticipating a problem

  6. waffles says:

    I have to give United some credit for at least admitting that they lied.

    Everything else though gets a swift visit from a certain Mjolnir weilding god.

  7. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @AdvocatesDevil: If people are obnoxious about blaming the consumer, please email me (moderator@consumerist.com) and I’ll address it. The “cue to start ” comments are becoming tiresome.

  8. Ahoatam says:


    Well, it’s true. They shouldn’t have relatives that die so easily.

  9. BrianDaBrain says:

    Wow, even for an airline, that is just bad. At this point, there’s nothing they can do to make it up to the family…. pay back the money and admit they f-ed up BADLY. My sympathies to those folks.

  10. WolfDemon says:

    Wow. I hope they something terrible happens to United for this.

  11. Triborough says:

    I wonder if before flying a particular airline it would be a good idea to buy some stock in it. Not as an investment, per se, but as a bit of defence. A pissed off stockholder, I think, holds more weight than a pissed off customer.

  12. superlayne says:

    Dear Mods: May we ban the “cue the ______ comments in 3, 2, 1” comments?

    This is also, just plain horrible dispicable.

  13. drjayphd says:

    Can we just hand them the golden poo for 2009 right now and get it over with? Forget the EECB, a good old-fashioned CB might be in order.

  14. waffles says:

    @superlayne: Not just that, why not bring the banhammer down hard on the people who use it?

  15. Mr. Guy says:

    I really hope this story winds up on the evening news, the front page of google news, drudge, yahoo, msn, in USA Today, and as many other local news outlets as possible. posting it on consumerist is a good start. truly reprehensible behavior on the part of United.

    What i want to know is, who told those CSRs to lie? seems unlikely that they’d just do it on their own volition to help the company. what seems more likely is that they were told to lie. if so, by whom? is this a company policy- to lie and claim a flight cancellation or ‘computer error’ in situations like this? and is that illegal?

  16. Wow, not sure what United can do at this point to save face. We all know the US airlines aren’t in the best shape financially but $10k is a drop in the bucket, something they wouldn’t have even had to cough up if they just helped the customer with the claim!

    I suspect no one at United who has had contact with the requests even knows how to deal with it and as it is passed along it’s been sucked into some black hole of red tape.

  17. narayan1121 says:

    If you’re going to do anything with an airline stock, short-sell it. And I second the CB suggestion, this is just awful.

  18. Skiffer says:

    @OmniZero: I tried paying attention and refusing to fly on airlines that had stories like this…but it seems like EVERY airline has stories like this.

    Are there any airlines that are actually worth flying anymore, quality-wise?

  19. kepler11 says:

    this story needs more detail. What kind of tickets were they, how were they paid, when purchased, etc. I.e. were they completely normal tickets, or something else?

  20. Quilt says:

    That’s all just horrible. I can only imagine the amount of frustration, stress and heartbreak involved in a situation like that.

  21. ArntorFTL says:

    That is absolutely the most disgusting thing I’ve ever read on the Consumerist (and I’ve been reading a long time). It seems that most of the time when a company drops the ball this bad and the newspapers/networks come calling, a resolution is brought about quickly. The fact that they ignored the author of that article shows how arrogant and undeserving of any kind of business United is. What an absolute shame.

  22. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    Losing the tickets doesn’t even sound like a huge deal. It’s the lying to them and not admitting fault that’s the slap in the face, especially since they (presumably) were told about the dying family member

  23. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    But then again, why should they care? I’m convinced, if you’re a sadist, and nothing thrills you more than causing frustration and making everyone’s travel a living hell, work for or start an airline. I bet the Joker was based on airline executives. Tell the flight attendants and gate agents and ticket counter employees to be surly, make mistakes, cancel flights, screw with people. Videotape it all and get your kicks

  24. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    @TomCruisesTesticles: What I mean to say is-working for or owning an airline is a sociopath’s dream

  25. RodAox says:

    @AdvocatesDevil: Can we please stop with this counting BS, it is not really a comment. IF anyone can find a solid moral ground to blame the OP then feel free however I highly doubt anyone is going to take that stance.

    Feel so bad for them… money is one thing but being able to see someone that was dying for the last time is horrible.

    Shame on you United…

  26. RodAox says:

    not see… ^

  27. zonk7ate9 says:

    @Ahoatam: LOL! That’s an awesome smartass response…

  28. R3PUBLIC0N says:


  29. WisconsinDadof2 says:

    Reading the source article, it sounds like the insurance or airline did refund the cost of the plane tickets, but the $10k for the property rental is the remaining issue. Truly a sad and disturbing turn of events for this family.

  30. zimzombie says:

    This is disgusting and unfortunate for everyone involved. Whether it was a glitch or something malicious, not cool dude.

    But at least the father got to spend his last days in Hawaii. If I ever need hospice, remind me that there is one in Hawaii. I might not get to see my family, but hey… some tradeoffs are worth it.

  31. sean77 says:

    Next up, United murders a kitten and eats a baby as part of their new “Be Evil” company motto.

  32. evslin says:

    That’s disgusting.

  33. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    This is beyond horrible. Don’t read the link or you will join me in wanting to kill (very slowly and painfully) every single f*ckwad at United who had anything to do with this.

    A last chance for her grown children to see their father before he died is gone. There is no just compensation for this. People need to lose their jobs IMMEDIATELY AND PUBLICLY.

  34. Pylon83 says:

    I imagine United has a problem writing a letter detailing what happened to the insurance company out of fear of subrogation. They don’t want to lay out their screw-up on a silver platter for the insurance company to come back and sue them (which for $10k they would). Further, unfortunately for the OP, their acceptance of a full refund from United likely acted as a settlement of any problems arising from the cancellation. Beyond that, having a plane ticket is not an absolute guarantee of a spot on the flight. The OP was clearly aware of this, as she purchased insurance. It’s a sticky situation and I feel bad for the OP. Despite her efforts to protect herself, the insurance company is refusing to pay. For $10k, maybe getting a lawyer involved against the insurance company for denying the claim isn’t a bad idea. But in my opinion, the fault over the $10k falls on the insurance company for denying the claim in the first place. It would appear that they are simply trying to get the OP to do the legwork of their subrogation claim.

  35. EricaKane says:

    Horrible story. Protect yourself – get CONFIRMED SEAT ASSIGNMENTS ASAP. Absolutely ridiculous if this is true.

  36. JohnMc says:

    I would generally cut the airline some slack for quick turn tickets. But these folks did everything right right up to leting united have use of their money for what? 4 months.

    Yes this is a case where United should get the full brunt of the nastiest lawyer this family can find. I hope that United loses their shirt(s) on this one.

  37. mythago says:

    @jamesdenver: checking and rechecking would not necessarily have helped this family. United bumped them for some unknown reason and lied about it; do you think that checking ahead of time would have solved the problem?

  38. lightaugust says:

    @kepler11: Can’t help but agree… PLEASE don’t confuse this with blaming the OP, but some of those accusations seem fairly vague, even in the linked article… If any of this is true, then my heart goes to the family and United should probably get it’s own 60 Minutes special for this one. However, my hope for the family is that they were able to document the daylights out of every step of the misadventure, cause you can bet United’s been covering their ass since oh, about when that story got posted.

  39. DallasPath says:


    If you link to the article, there are some comments there as well. The daughter of the woman posted several comments to clarify…they were full fare tickets purchased 6 months in advance for a group of 8. They actually chose United (and paid more) because it was a larger plane and one of the people going was a little claustrophobic. They were completely normal full-fare should not get bumped in any way shape or form paid-for tickets.

  40. NightSteel says:

    @Triborough: I think that’d only matter if you held enough of the company’s stock to have a stake in the company that measured in whole percentage points rather than fractions of a percentage point.

  41. amysisson says:

    I imagine attorney’s fees are out of the question, since the family is already out $10K.

    But surely, SURELY there is an eager young attorney out there willing to take this on contingency. Because it would be impossible to seat a jury that isn’t 90% ticked off at the airlines. Any jury selected will want to send a little message to the industry….

    In answer to someone’s question above, yes, I do still find Continental to be a decent airline. They’re struggling like the rest of them, but they really do try to make it less painless. They still serve food at mealtimes. In coach. And not just pretzels. It ain’t great food, but it’s edible and the gesture is much appreciated.

  42. Julia789 says:

    @EricaKane: So if on American Airlines, I used the seat selector online to chose our seats, does that count? I have a printed itinerary, and they just emailed me a reminder that says “see you soon” and encourages me to join their frequent flier club? Now I’m getting concerned after reading all this. Do I need to do anything else? I booked my tickets 3 months ago, and my flight is Monday.

  43. RStewie says:

    Confirmed seat assignments won’t help if the airline gives away your seat.

    Since when does handing over money not reserve your seat on the airline, provided the scheduled flight leaves? Isn’t that illegal? Isn’t that something along the lines of theft?

  44. Pylon83 says:

    It’s not really theft when you get your money back. Beyond that, it’s fairly well known (or should be) that a ticket isn’t a 100% guarantee you’ll actually end up on the flight.

  45. mannyv says:

    Wow, they got hosed and they paid full-fare. Geez, if paying full-fare doesn’t guarantee you service, what does?

    I mean, do you have to pay a gratuity to everyone in the airline industry just to get on the plane or what?

    “Here’s a $20 big guy, and be sure to have a soft landing – my hemmroids are acting up.”

  46. Landru says:

    @Pylon83: Then a ticket is, what, just a suggestion that you might get on a flight?

  47. badhatharry says:

    I propose a consumerist-wide protest. We all poop in a box and ship it to United Airlines, 77 W Wacker Dr, Chicago, Il. 60601. Or e-mail your poo to r.mccarthy@unitedairlines.com. Everyone use a separate box, please. Using the same box is not sanitary.

  48. Pylon83 says:

    I suppose what I was getting at is that while a ticket offers a 99% chance that you’ll get on the flight (assuming you do your part and the flight doesn’t get canceled), there are provisions in the contract of carriage that allow for them to bump you. It’s noted that flights are typically oversold, etc. and that you might not get a seat.

  49. ironchef says:

    they can take them to small claims court (once for each ticket). That will avoid dealing with lawyers. It’s not much but a judge will be far more sympathetic than CEO.

  50. JustThatGuy3 says:


    Basically, there’s always some risk you’ll be bumped. Airlines overbook – it’s legal, it’s in the contract, and it’s not going to change. This is not to defend at all the way United handled this – there’s no excuse for lying to people.

    I’m surprised, though, that they bumped them the day before – usually, it’s a day-of thing, and particularly surprised that they bumped someone with confirmed seat assignments. Also, I’m really surprised there were so few other flights.

    My guess is, _their_ flight wasn’t cancelled, but another one was, and United found itself needing to combine two flights worth of people onto one plane.

    Still, no defense at all for how this was handled.

  51. tom2133 says:

    This sounds like more stuff to post in the “Fire Tilton” website.

  52. Shrike70 says:

    Recently was screwed both coming and going on a family vacation flying on United. Missed a critical function by five hours on my departure, was held overnight in Denver by “weather delays” (read: lazy gate staff who wouldn’t allow my family of FIVE to board five minutes before departure time, after running sixty gates with small children to get there).

    I have only been screwed, in nearly a hundred trips, by one airline: United. Three overnights in Denver alone. Each time, a product of apathy and operational incompetence.

    I am BOYCOTTING United until they are absorbed by a more competent airline or go out of business. Join me. Their policies combined with declining standards for gate staff are leading them to circle the drain. It’s not about oil prices, it’s about offering SERVICE. If they want to stay in business, they need to RAISE their prices so they can afford to DELIVER on their PROMISE.

  53. Orv says:

    @EricaKane: Confirmed seat assignments won’t help. My dad had confirmed seats on a Northwest flight, but a month before he was scheduled to leave they canceled the flight and bumped him to another that didn’t have confirmed seats.

    I think buying tickets six months out is kind of risky in the current business climate. Six months is more than long enough for an airline to go under, making your tickets worthless. I try not to buy tickets more than a month in advance.

  54. We are reading one side of an event.

    I for one would sure like to read an unbiased accounting of the event.

  55. kepler11 says:

    @DallasPath: If you link to the article, there are some comments there as well. The daughter of the woman posted several comments to clarify…they were full fare tickets purchased 6 months in advance for a group of 8. They actually chose United (and paid more) because it was a larger plane and one of the people going was a little claustrophobic. They were completely normal full-fare should not get bumped in any way shape or form paid-for tickets.

    I think that there are more details that the columnist/reporter is not aware of/is not telling us in the article, or definitely we are not getting the entire story. I would be interested to know all the details.

    If the tickets were full fare/not discounted, then their argument that United kicked them off to sell more expensive tickets does not make sense. Full fare tickets are the most expensive that you can buy.

    Also, while I sympathize with their situation if true (which is yet to be fully detailed), all the side information about family members being near death, cancer treatments, etc. is a little bit pulling at the heartstrings. Regardless of what UA did or didn’t do, that stuff is clouding the issue.

    Is it possible the family is not telling us something? I have never heard of an airline outright canceling someone’s reservations unless someone did something malicious/incompetent — definitely not just to sell more tickets. If it were true, and they are trying to hose low fare customers, you would be hearing about this all the time — most people fly on discounted fares.

    What is the rest of the story?

  56. jamesdenver says:


    60 gates? Did you pass it the first time and make a big circle?

  57. AdvocatesDevil says:

    C ppl t blm th cnsmr n 3…2…1…

  58. IssaGoodDay says:

    I have never before sworn to never use a company’s services. I have previously flown United on a regular basis, and I will never again do so. This is absolutely DEPLORABLE. The lie I could have dealt with – but the refusal to accommodate them in a reasonable time frame? Which airline was it that flew an entirely empty plane to accommodate 30 customers that had gotten bumped? This is disgusting and needs to go national.

  59. Pylon83 says:

    @kepler11: @Corporate-Shill:
    I agree. I think there is certainly another side to the story, or at least more details that would reveal what really happened. While it’s sad that the family member was sick, it’s not really germane to the issue of what happened. I think kepler11 is right on in his assertion that it simply clouds the issue.

  60. Sarcastikate says:

    I also have confirmed, paid, assigned seats on a flight in Dec. Since I got a good deal on them, I am also very concerned they will cancel on me now that fares have gone up. Doesn’t having the use of my money for 8 months count for anything? Looks like all bets are off with the airlines nowadays. Very worrisome…

  61. TVGenius says:

    Until I hit the Hawaii part, my response was going to advocate the use of Amtrak. Guess they don’t have much choice there though.

    Just booked a trip for my wife on Amtrak and it’s less than half the cost of the cheapest flight.

  62. IssaGoodDay says:


    Full Fare tickets sold six months ago when gas was $2.50 a gallon instead of over $4 were a lot cheaper than full-fare tickets sold in the preceding 3 weeks. I’m usually a huge skeptic, but after everything else I’ve read recently, this doesn’t need to surprise me.

  63. Etoiles says:

    @scoobydoo: It’s actually not all airlines (yet), though, just some.

    My BF and I have flights (JetBlue) scheduled in December, and every time the flight time has changed by more than 10 minutes (it’s moved a few times, from 4:35 to 4:55 and back) we get either phone calls (me) or e-mails (him) to notify us. I have written to them three times in the last year (once with a complaint horror story (almost entirely not their fault) and twice with praise for employees) and every time they have written back within a few days, with a personalized e-mail that shows they actually read what I sent. They can keep having my money.

    Delta went on my personal shit list ten years ago, though, and the more stories like this I read about United, USAir, and American, the less likely I am ever again to fly any of them, either.

  64. kepler11 says:

    additional points:
    1. Did the family buy the tickets through a travel agent? That could answer a lot of questions.

    2. regarding people’s comments about overbooking —

    First, this story doesn’t have to do with overbooking. They are claiming that their tickets were canceled before the day of flight (while overbooking refers to the process where a flight has too many passengers on the day of flight and someone needs to be denied boarding).

    Second, if an airline does not give you seat assignments for a flight, that does not mean that you don’t have a seat or that you are the one that is going to be denied boarding. It means that because of the price of your ticket/time of booking/etc, you will be given your seating assignment at the gate. And I emphasize will.

    If a flight is overbooked, an airline must offer and ask and offer compensation to any volunteers who wish to take a different flight, before it does anything to a normally ticketed passenger.

  65. jamesdenver says:


    Christ I am so sick of hearing about f-ing AMTRAK as an alternative to airlines. With exception to close urban corridors they’re two ENTIRELY separate options.

    Amtrak cannot get most people to another city in under four hours travel time. Period. I like weekend trips, and I live out west. Even as shitty as the airlines are, I can still leave New York or Chicago early Monday morning and be to work by 10am.

    Amtrak is great – if you have ample time to spare. My mom is retired and loves Amtrak. I love Amtrak out in California. But for trips under 5 days of over 400 miles its completely worthless. (And that includs most business trips too.)

  66. @kepler11: The story HAS more detail. Click the link. It’s the reddish brown words. Your pointer turns into a hand when you hover over it.

    In other news, this is despicable. These folks did everything right, including purchasing full fare tickets and buying insurance, and they STILL get screwed! All United has to do is acknowledge they screwed up and that will get the family their refund from the someone else’s insurance. United won’t be out one. damn. dime. Save for the cost of paper, ink, and a stamp. Oh, that must be there excuse… stamps just went up a penny. I smell a new airline fee!

  67. Orv says:

    @jamesdenver: Right. Amtrak is great, if your time has no value.

  68. EricaKane says:

    @Julia789: Confirmed seat assignments would most assuredly help you prevent from being bumped. These folks evidently bought 8 tickets, did not get seat assignments and thus made them easy target for United bumping. Get seat assigments ASAP as it makes it harder to bump you.

  69. @Corporate-Shill: There is no such animal. All accounts of events are biased.

  70. Dave J. says:

    God, that just kept getting worse. I expected the story to tell me that the CEO showed up and killed their dog while they were at the funeral.

    You’d think with all the horrible news about airlines that some company CEO would put down his/her foot and say “screw it, we’re going to kick ass from here on out. No bogus surcharges, no cancellations, treat people well, the whole 9 yards.” Just the positive press alone would be worth it. Sadly, people over the last 20 years have been driven crazy with their obsession to always get the LOWEST. POSSIBLE. FARE! and then wonder why service seems to get steadily worse.

    I wonder what would happen if an airline said “we’re raising rates 30%, but you will absolutely love the experience when you book a flight through us.” Probably go out of business, sadly.

  71. Caveat says:

    I am sure United is getting better. I saw someone off yesterday for a flight to Europe. The flight was only 7 khours late and they only lost one of the two bags.

  72. JustThatGuy3 says:


    It’s not clear whether or not they had confirmed seat assignments. Also, having seat assignments, while it certainly helps, doesn’t 100% ensure you won’t get bumped. If the flight’s oversold, the airline asks for volunteers first. If they don’t get enough volunteers (which is rare, they usually do get enough of the “take a later flight for a $400 voucher”), they can start bumping people, and who they bump is really up to the airline. They’ll typically start with people who aren’t frequent flier status holders; within that group, they will usually choose some combination of (a) no seat assignment, and (b) cheapest tickets.

  73. My former airline ticket agent family member tells me that United saw how far in advance the tickets were purchased and figured the family would be no-shows. Flimsy excuse in my book.

  74. TechnoDestructo says:


    Yeah, unless/until we get real (~200mph) high speed rail, Amtrak is irrelevant to most situations.

  75. dirtyblueshirt says:

    Had this been anytime between October 2000 and November 202, I would have offered my apologies on behalf of the company in my position as a United Reservations Sales & Service Representative.

    However, in September 2002, in an effort to better serve my customers by participating in the FlyerTalk.com community to offer help, United Airlines fired me for misconduct by claiming I “was not a representative of the airline and therefore could not speak in such a capacity”

    So there you go. United has (and had) people that care, unfortunately, they live in an environment where the dollar is valued more than the customer, and they fear for their jobs as a result.

  76. Triborough says:

    @jamesdenver: Amtrak is insanely expensive in the Northeast.
    For example, if I was to catch a train from Penn Station to Trenton it would cost $51.00 one way. If I was to catch a NJ Transit train it would be just $12.00 one way. Something isn’t right there.

  77. EricaKane says:

    @JustThatGuy3: Your right it isn’t clear, but the context of the article indicates they did not get seat assignments, for example the stepfather was able to “confirm his seat’ prior to departure, which sounds like they were trying to do.

  78. Desk_hack says:

    @jamesdenver: This is totally possible in the B terminal.

  79. katiat325 says:

    Althought the OP did accept a refund, she should still consult with a couple of lawyers to figure out if any other compensation will be allowed to her. The loss of $10k, plus emotional distress of not being with a dying family member can be a good suit. I’m not sure on which grounds, maybe a breach of contract, since United didn’t honor their end, and even lied about it, therefore costing the family an EXtra $10k. It may work. It does depend though if they signed anything important and with lots of fine print when they accepted the refund.

  80. timmus says:

    Yep, now’s the time to short-sell that dog.


  81. jdmba says:

    I never feel comfortable until I am in the seat, and do whatever I can to pre-board. The airlines play such games that you are at risk until that very second.

    Right now, my wife is in Europe, returning tomorrow on Delta. We are counting out blessings that she made it out with no problem, so her trip survived intact. If she manages to make it onto the plane tomorrow morning, and the plane takes off, then we are 1 step better, because being stranded in this country is better than being stranded there.

    … but this is now how the airlines have reduced us to looking at things.

  82. boomerang86 says:

    Since I started flying commercial aviation jets twenty nine years ago, NOT ONCE have I ever experienced the (dis)pleasure of flying the friendly skies of United Airlines.

    Thanks to this story, I hope I never will!

  83. sketchy says:

    I agree that the family in question has been through an ordeal and that United doesn’t seem to care.

    Reality check – as consumers we have to be judicious in where and how we spend our money, but big corporations simply don’t care what we think – only if we pay.

    How many airline stories do we hear every week and how many people ACTUALLY follow through boycotting airlines for what has happened to someone else, if people really cared they would donate some time or money to help instead of paying lip service through a totally passive boycott action (which I doubt many people stick to beyond the next time they need to fly and THAT particular company offers a better fare or flight than the others).

    But…don’t airlines make the most money on Corporate fares (I’m not talking about the full fares paid in this story, but the often and recurring fares most airlines get from corporate customers) why would they care more about a family who will likely only bring them a dozen more sales like this in their lives when a corporate customer might bring them that many fares per flight? I know who I would rather retain as a customer if I were the airline.

    Sure they SHOULD care about every customer as if they were me, but they can’t if they want to stay in business. Consumers demand, time and again, the lowest price and this is how they do it. Sell at the highest return, outsource everything which can save money or time, provide the bare minimum of service because people keep flying in any event, with price being the one big determiner of how much and how often.

    Also, I keep hearing about these ‘eager young lawyers’ who love doing pro-bono work, is there a listing of them somewhere because I need to sue somebody real bad.


  84. ModernDemagogue says:

    Lawyer up. Threaten to sue for compensatory (make it a nice big number for not being able to say goodbye to the dying family member) and suggest a large punitive sum might be in the outcome of the jury trial you’ll seek. If your ducks are in a row, and the story truly is as depicted, the airline’s lawyers will be sombered by the thought of a jury trial they’ll throw you a highball mid-five-figure offer just to make you go away.

  85. hildyburns says:

    I would almost sign up for Digg just for this article alone.

  86. JollyJumjuck says:

    The people at United who are responsible for this, everyone from the CSR who lied, the one who authorized the “seat bump”, the one who refused to write the letter to the insurance company, and their superiors who were responsible for directing their decisions and possibly overriding any attempt at making things right, ought to be fired immediately with all outstanding, owing wages forwarded to the family in question. And even though nothing can make up for the family being unable to see their (now deceased) relative, United ought to compensate this family to the order of what ModernDemagogue suggested.

    Obviously what ought to be done and what will (if anything) be done are two different matters. But if United doesn’t pony up and at least try to make amends, I hope they lose (due to bad press and people refusing to do business with them) many, many times the amount of profit they made by reselling this family’s tickets for a higher price.

    I must, however, congratulate United Airlines on the finest example of amoral corporatism and profiteering that I have ever read about.

  87. jumpycore says:

    @Ahoatam: Well, it’s true. They shouldn’t have relatives that die so easily.


    true that.

  88. Breach says:

    Wow, every member of this airline has a reserved spot in the 7th circle of hell

  89. dragonfire81 says:

    these people need a lawyer. NOW.

    They should make United pay out the nose for being assholes and keeping them from seeing a dying family member.

  90. bwcbwc says:

    @ArntorFTL: Well, I don’t know about THE most disgusting, but it’s certainly the most disgusting example I can recall relating to a supposedly legitimate service provider rather than a complete scam outfit. Lie upon lie upon lie…

  91. otkrage says:

    @OmniZero: “I do the same thing with Circuit City and how they fired people to hire new ones at lower wages and ADMITTED it.”

    Yeah, I totally hate it when free labor markets work efficiently too.

    Let me guess, if they raised their prices accordingly with the amount the higher priced employees were being paid, you’d wouldn’t bitch then, right?

  92. bwcbwc says:

    @bwcbwc: Oh, and the wheelchair-bound woman who had to crawl out the jetway in West Palm Beach probably is a close second. I suspect the final four of the 2009 Golden Poo award will contain a couple of airlines, plus the usual suspects Comcast and BofA.

  93. jamesdenver says:


    If she manages to make it onto the plane tomorrow morning, and the plane takes off, then we are 1 step better, because being stranded in this country is better than being stranded there.

    I disagree. If I’m stranded in Europe I get an extra day of vacation. If I’m stranded on my way TO Europe I lose a day or more of my trip.

  94. Onouris says:

    They don’t give a crap, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. No higher power gives a crap because they’re not doing anything about it either.

    Airline’s way or tough luck and they’ll keep your money for the hell of it half the time. Like I said in another post, they’re fucking ridiculous. Don’t excuse my French.

  95. bwcbwc says:

    @Caveat: Was it the bag they charged the 2nd bag fee for? Ask for a fee refund.

  96. InThrees says:

    Absolutely unforgiveable, and this absolutely needs to go to court.

  97. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    What happened to the family is horrible and the part about the dying relative tugs at the heart strings… but they booked the hotel 12 months in advance so seeing a death-bed relative was surely not at the top of their agenda.

    When I read the FAQ on vacation insurance websites I am amazed that *anyone* can collect.

  98. mac-phisto says:

    @JollyJumjuck:“I must, however, congratulate United Airlines on the finest example of amoral corporatism and profiteering that I have ever read about.”

    that’s exactly what this is. & until we restore the state’s (& subsequently, the people’s) right to assert control over the companies that conduct business here, we can only expect the same to happen in every industry (as it does).

    there was a time when corporations were constrained by a charter & that charter could be revoked at any time if a corporation were found to violate the laws meant to maintain morality. we must restore this kind of control – civil/class action lawsuits are no longer enough.

    the lying is unconscionable, but it’s secondary to the main abuse – theft by deception. if you or i acted in this manner, we could be held criminally & civilly liable. & if corporations cannot be held to the same standards as you or i, then what kind of society do we live in?


  99. Mercurywaxing says:

    Confirmed seat assignments and being “bumped” is pure bull, I can’t believe this is open to debate here on Consumerist. When I buy a seat on a train or bus, I get a seat on a train or bus. If I miss departure then the seat is empty and Amtrak or Greyhound gets my money anyway. If they are worried about fuel prices it would be better for them to get the money and have less weight on the plane. They can even keep the money AND take a person who paid standby person. I don’t get the concept of overbooking. People missing flights should be a good thing for the airlines.

    There is a very disturbing trend here. Airlines are lying more and more to get out of paying restitution. From the fake “weather in Dallas” issues to this. This is illegal. Where are the FAA fines?

  100. crashfrog says:

    @otkrage: “Yeah, I totally hate it when free labor markets work efficiently too.”

    Is that efficiency? I notice that Circuit City has been on the slow decline for quite a few years, now. Probably from a declining shopping experience.

    There’s the free market working freely, and then there’s this – a parasitic management class raiding corporations, and regular workers, for all that they can before they’re paid (paid!) to move on to the next feeding trough.

  101. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    Folks. Let’s keep it on topic.

    Circuit City is not on topic.

    Politics are not on topic unless they are involved specifically with regulation of airlines – generally free market vs protectionism is not on topic.


  102. jamar0303 says:

    If you’re going to cross any part of the Pacific ocean, there are better options. For example, JAL to Hawaii through Tokyo probably would have been quicker than this mess. Plus you actually get good service like United USED to give.

  103. Pylon83 says:

    More government regulation is not the answer. The market is already deciding against United, as I believe it is losing the most money of any of the airlines. People are already deciding against them, but it’s not an overnight process. The best thing that can happen is for things like this to be publicized and let people make their own decisions.

    On another note, I don’t think that United owes these people anything for their “emotional distress”. When they planned the trip, they clearly understood it was possible that they wouldn’t make it there. This could have occurred for any number of reasons, from weather to mechanical errors to getting bumped. They bought insurance for this reason, and it’s the insurance company that is causing the current problem.

  104. nsv says:

    This is the same airline which dumped a pot of hot coffee down my back, took my shirt off to see if there was any damage (yes, we females sometimes prefer to not strip in front of a plane full of passengers,) and gave me a hearty “Oops!” and “We’re taking this very seriously.”

    Can’t honestly say I’m a bit surprised. United really doesn’t give a damn about their passengers.

  105. mac-phisto says:

    @Pylon83: i’m not talking about regulation. i’m talking about restoring our basic right to dissolve corporations that act in a criminal manner. it’s a right we once had & deserve to have again. it was an underlying principal in the establishment of this great nation.

    i agree that voting with our dollars sends a powerful message & can institute change, but unless we stand up & tell corporations that we’re not going to allow criminal violations of our laws to go unchecked, allowing them to even participate in the market is unfair to competitors that choose to follow those principals.

  106. @ceejeemcbeegee:

    Yes there is such an animal. It is called competent journalism. How many journalists will sit on a story until they can verify some (or all) of the facts alleged by one party? The answer is very few. I see in my local media as well as national media. Everybody is in a hurry to beat the competition and most will cut corners to do so.

    There are so many holes in the story it makes it hard to believe. A good journalist would have tried to fill some of the holes.

    Start with the simple “fact” that a family member was in a hospice and the vacation plans were made one year out.

    Hospice care starts when a physician has determined there is no hope for meaningful survival and the patient has only a short period of time before death is expected. I believe my state standard is 6 months. IMHO one year is a wee bit of stretch for a hospice patient. If indeed the ex-husband was determined qualified for hospice care, why wait for an extended period of time to make the trip?

    MAYBE the ex-husband entered hospice care after the trip was booked or about the time the tickets were purchased. That seems a reasonable and possible event. But the story fails to mention that fact. In addition if a family member is given just months to live, does a prudent person wait to the last minute to travel to see the dying family member?

    The journalist writing the story needs to fill the holes. Offering proof and explainations would go a long way to providing me with the bullets to shoot in the direction of UAL.

  107. Pylon83 says:

    Well, to keep this on topic, what has United done here that you would consider criminal? They refunded the peoples money, that’s all that was due. I’m not sure how you have moved on to the point where they acted in a criminal manner. Enlighten me (and the rest of us)

  108. Shadowman615 says:

    Wow. Everywhere you look it seems like the airline industry is slowly (quickly?) dying in this country. This kind of behavior reeks of a last-ditch effort to burn everything down in a feeble attempt to stay alive just a bit longer.

  109. 4ster says:

  110. MercuryPDX says:

    @Consumerist-Moderator-Roz: (Smattering of applause) Amen sister.

    FTA: It’s funny how every story of airline misbehavior inevitably arrives at this junction – the point at which a passenger must debunk a blatant lie to learn the truth.

    Perhaps airlines like being caught in lies, if only because of what follows: The passenger, now distrustful of everything the airline says, is inclined to walk away and make other arrangements.

    It would be great if they didn’t lie in the first place, but I hear in THAT alternate reality the flying car exists.
    If the airlines think people will continue to meekly walk away, they are in for a VERY rude awakening. If this happens to me, you better have security standing by when you confess to screwing me.

    It’s a shame SOSD doesn’t have a Digg button to give this story the visibility it needs.

  111. Triborough says:

    @timmus: At that price some shares might just be some good flight insurance.

  112. SinisterMatt says:


    I’ll second that. Holy Fat Lawsuit for Emotional Distress (if they can prove that United intentionally lied to them), Batman!


  113. SinisterMatt says:

    Sorry, did it again. That should be at: @R3PUBLIC0N:

  114. Jbondkicks says:

    This is a terrible way to treat customers. The dying family member angle may cloud the issue, but it’s irrelevant. When you book eight family members on a flight six months in advance, you obviously have a lot vested in the trip. Airlines have to realize that at some point their “watching their bottom line” is really screwing people hardcore. It’s a business that has begun to believe they’re customers have to put up with whatever they throw at them.

    God help airlines if a high speed rail system ever comes to be in the U.S. At least over here in east we’d be able to hop from city to city pretty easily.

  115. mac-phisto says:

    @Pylon83: it’s fraud – theft by deception. taking payment with no intention of providing the service rendered. sure, the contract of carriage absolves them from any liability (if they really wanted to push it, i’m sure they could have refused refund b/c they offered to get the family to their destination – albeit a week late), but it shouldn’t.

    a simple refund is not adequate compensation for the family. consider this – they purchased tickets at price x. at the time of travel (when they were denied their trip), the price of tickets was actually x+y, y being whatever it would cost to get the family to their destination as planned. whatever that cost is, even if it equals the cost of chartering air force 1, that is what should be paid to make the family whole – not what they initially paid 6 months prior.

    is that unreasonable? perhaps. but then, with stories like these appearing more often, perhaps the problem is not the airline, but the standards we hold them all to.

  116. Marshfield says:

    I’m ready to launch an EECB of my own. I know there are 2 sides to every story but I can’t imagine what United could say in their defense that would amount to anything significant.

  117. Pylon83 says:

    You could NEVER prove that United intended to take their money and not provide a service. Even with that, based on the contract, if United did not provide service, a full refund is all that is likely required (though I’d imagine perhaps “compensation” under the contract for being involuntarily bumped might be in order, but not the kind of figures people would expect/demand). You’re suggestion is indeed unreasonable (you seem to accept this), and I don’t believe that we hold them to too low of a standard. Too high a standard and companies would go out of business, or charge so much to hedge for situations like this that airfare would be outrageous.

  118. gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

    OMG that really depressed me and I kept looking for links or info where United came back and did something to help this family because of the crap they put them through but I didn’t find anything. :( What’s worse is that while reading this I was watching Call 911 on the Investigations channel and that made me even more stressed out heh. OK I need to go chill out now!

    — Julie A Frates
    gc3160 —

  119. cf27 says:

    @Pylon83: Criminal? Maybe not. But, a refund is insufficient — the passengers bought travel to Hawaii on a certain day. United should have to get them there on that day. If that means that United pays $10,000 to a charter company to get them there on that day, then that’s what United has to do.

    If you don’t have that rule, then airlines oculd do this: Book passengers in advance. If costs go up, then cancel reservations and force passengers to book same seats at higher rate.

    Here’s an analogy: let’s say that you told your Broker on Tuesday “Buy Coke at $100.” On Friday, when Coke is at $150, your Broker can’t say “Oops. Forgot. Here’s your $100 back” — they have to either give you the Coke Stock or $150. (Otherwise, the Broker can buy the stock with your money and, if it goes up, give you the money back and keep the stock.)

  120. mac-phisto says:

    @Pylon83: the intent is proven by the fact that they had x number of seats to sell & instead sold x+. if you can only fit 100 people on a flight & you sell 120 tickets, you are intending NOT to carry 20 passengers.

    i accept that chartering a private flight for the family is unreasonable, but i also believe that overbooking flights is equally unreasonable.

    what i don’t accept is that this business practice is necessary. i’m not an apologist – i don’t believe that united acted in any manner that could even be remotely construed as responsible. if they must resort to shenanigans to operate their business, than they really have no business being in business & the state should have a right to tell them so.

    allowing them to continue in such a manner is abhorrent.

  121. SabyneWired says:

    @Corporate-Shill: On the whole Hospice thing (as both a pre-Nursing student and an individual who has had family members in Hospice care), I can tell you that Hospice predictions are by no means exact. When my Grandfather (Dad’s Dad) was put into Hospice in early 2002, we were told to expect him to (maybe) live 2-3 days tops and barely be lucid. He lived for about a month, and was pretty lucid until the last 4-5 days or so. Also, Cancer itself is a pretty fickle disease, so there’s a chance he received the “terminal” sentence, but his cancer didn’t progress as rapidly in those final stages as had been predicted.

    As for the whole “booking everything 12 months prior” part, remember we’re talking about Hawaii in June here. When I used to work in a bookstore, if I had a nickel for how many people I helped who were taking a summer vacation to Hawaii, I wouldn’t have needed the bookstore job to sustain me. It’s like booking a hotel room in San Diego around July, when Comic-Con rolls in. Unless you want to either pay through the nose (and other orfices) for a place to stay, or end up without a place at all, you should plan extremely early.

    I’m thinking they probably felt they had the time to go and see their relative. Maybe they had been told he had more time than they were originally told he had. And for that reason, coupled with the high popularity of Hawaii in summer, they felt the need to plan everything way in advance so it would all be ready for them when they departed. In any case, I reserve a hearty “F You!” to United for their mismanagement of this. Had I done something this colossally asinine in any of my jobs (or even in my current internship), my ass would have been grass eight times over by now.

  122. cromartie says:

    I don’t waste time booking airlines that hub out of O’Hare. This just adds another reason to the pile.

  123. the_wiggle says:

    @JustThatGuy3: just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s good business, never mind ethical.

    @mac-phisto: one owned by big business apparently

    the very worst thing about this clusterf*ck: family might get $$ but they’ve already lost their goodbye time with the deceased.

  124. the_wiggle says:

    @dirtyblueshirt: united’s not the only place where people are forced to choose between ethics & putting food on the table. . .seems to be the norm now at most places.

  125. Major-General says:

    @Triborough: Not if my experience with America’s worst run Wal-Mart is any indication. I’m not telling where, other than the West Coast.

    @Pylon83: I thought the insurance was on the house they were renting.

  126. Anonymous says:

    @sourc3: I agree; normally I read airline stories posted here and think, “God, what crappy service,” but this is the one that’s going to prevent me from ever booking a ticket on United again.

  127. PinkBox says:

    @: I agree, especially with this particular topic. The family obviously did nothing wrong.

    US needs to step up here. They’re costing themselves more in bad publicity than they actually saved from bumping this family from their flight.

  128. ViperBorg says:

    @SinisterMatt: Third that, right here. US Airlines should pay dearly!

  129. ViperBorg says:

    SO how long until we boycott US Airlines and they wither away and die?

  130. ObtuseGoose says:

    Since no one at United feels compelled to do the right thing. Anita should escalate this to television outlets. Local news or Dateline NBC would love to air a heartbreaking story like this. If United gets enough bad publicity, someone high-up in the company will get wind of it and do the right thing. Sadly, this is the only way it’s going to get resolved.

  131. ViperBorg says:

    @ViperBorg: @ViperBorg: Er… United. Dang… way too early in the morning for me.

  132. Wally East says:

    @Corporate-Shill: You’re confusing a column written by a columnist with a news article written by a reporter. This was a column written by a columnist. There’s no responsibility to report both sides since no reporting is being done at all. Despite that fact, the columnist did try to get the other side of the story:

    “Weeks ago I contacted United’s media relations folks seeking an explanation for this abysmal conduct. I never heard back.”

    The “weeks ago” indicates that he did, in fact, sit on this story for, well, weeks.

  133. floraposte says:

    @Mercurywaxing: FYI, buying a seat on Amtrak doesn’t guarantee you one. I’ve stood for a three-hour trip on an overbooked train.

  134. HogwartsAlum says:


    “I’m just a dog chasing planes…I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!”

    Heeeee ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho hooo!!!!

    No, seriously. This sucks. Somebody needs to do something. It’s gotten to the point where you just don’t even expect any service, anywhere, and getting it is the exception, not the rule. It seems like as soon as they deregulate something, it just immediately goes to Hell.

  135. econobiker says:

    There is a reason that there is a whole website dedicated to the idiocy of United Airlines:


    yes, that is

    Untied Airlines – Problems with United AirlinesCustomer complaints about United Airlines and its customer service. Includes a database for passengers to submit their experiences.

  136. quirkyrachel says:

    And the relative who was dying was the kids’ father. Eeew. I wonder if the airline people just felt so bad that they couldn’t face up to it.

  137. econobiker says:

    This is a classic customer revenge against United:


  138. picardia says:

    @: Sorry, but the fact that the family member was dying IS pertinent. That’s how much the trip mattered; that’s what United screwed with. And yes, that’s the kind of thing a jury could and should hear to evaluate damages. There’s a legal name for this principle that I may be mangling here, but it’s something like, “You take your victim as you find him.” If you do something wrong, and it hurts that person far more terribly than might normally have been expected from your wrongdoing (i.e., you punch someone who turns out to have brittle bone disease and so suffers multiple fractures instead of a bruise), then you’re still liable for ALL damages. You screwed up, you take the blame. United screwed up. Why do you keep trying to minimize the blame?

  139. kimsama says:

    @Shrike70: I have been boycotting United for years, as well. As I’ve mentioned numerous times on the Consumerist, I delight in paying more for another airline because 1) I know I’ll actually get where I’m going and 2) keeping money out of United’s hands hopefully puts it one step closer to bankruptcy.

    I highly encourage other Consumerist commenters to join the boycott!

  140. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: My former airline ticket agent family member tells me that United saw how far in advance the tickets were purchased and figured the family would be no-shows. Flimsy excuse in my book.

    Are you kidding me? If anything, I would presume the opposite. I only make reservations that far out when it is imperative that I arrive at my destination on the day in question. That is the worst piece of “logic” I’ve heard in a very long time.

    My heart goes out to that family. Confirmed seats or not, by refusing to write the letter to the insurance company, United has lost a customer for life, here. The lying was dispicable, but continuing the torment of this grieving family by refusing to own up to their part in this mess is inexcusable.

  141. dopplerd says:

    I don’t think this story is true. United has such nice commercials about how great their customer service is and how much of a joy it is to fly with them. Everyone knows that commercials are the real truth.

  142. Quilt says:

    How much does it cost airlines to deal with all the mistakes they make? How much does it cost THEM to screw around with the customer?

    I honestly wonder if airlines companies would save money if they were more straight forward and honest about their business.

  143. Nighthawke says:

    The OP needs to play Hardball with United. Lawyer up, no compromise, no payoff, no excuses. Go All The Way to a jury trial. Let the airline burn on its own stake that it set.

  144. generalassembly says:

    Can someone answer this for me: when did buying a ticket no longer become a guarantee for admission?

  145. Japheaux says:

    The whole situtaion sucks, but you can’t bring the hospice situation into the argument. When they bought tickets six months out, there was no family member in hospice. Normally, hospice is an end-game scenario which may last a few days, but not months. The guy may have had cancer and they could have chosen to go see him then, but I think the reunion had more to do with this trip than the hospice visit…so they need to lay off the guilt trip with the hospice.

    Back to the airlines…..what a bunch of maroons. I thought crap like this only happened to me.

  146. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    @Japheaux: The guy may have had cancer and they could have chosen to go see him then, but I think the reunion had more to do with this trip than the hospice visit…so they need to lay off the guilt trip with the hospice.

    I respectfully disagree. Six months out is certainly a reasonable time-frame within which to get a diagnosis of fatal cancer. I’ll agree that the fact that he was in hospice was simply luck of the draw on timing (and bad luck for him, at that), but the reunion was undoubtedly timed for the kids to see their father before he died. A very relevant fact. He did in fact die shortly thereafter. Mentioning the fact that he was in hospice at the time of the trip just goes to show that the family was wise to plan their trip when they did. Pity they could not plan on United.

  147. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    Eek! Must close tags.

  148. jswilson64 says:

    What “terrible” could happen to United? Even if they reimburse the family for the tickets, rental fees, heck even treble damages, we’re talking less than $100,000 for a huge corporation. That’s a drop in the bucket. That’s probably not enough money to refuel one 737. Think they care?
    If the family draws it out, suing for emotional damage, it’s still not going to hurt United’s bottom line, unless it’s in the tens of millions, and that’s not going to happen; plus, they probably have insurance for just such an occasion.
    Face it: This sucks, but it’s going to feel like a mosquito bite to United.

  149. Anonymous says:

    @Pylon83: What about their ability to admit fault for the failure in the contract? You could argue that the their lie about why they canceled the flight is fraud. By refusing to admit fault, the insurance company won’t pay the family the $10K for the lodging reservation. Even if the insurance company did pay up, they’d now be out $10K due to United, and they’d try to recover the cost from United if possible.

  150. MercuryPDX says:

    @picardia: Change “victim” to ‘Plaintiff’ and you get:

    @jswilson64: Yes and no. If it does play out that way there’s no telling what the collateral damage to United’s image will be. People aren’t exactly going to book tickets on a airline that puts “Just Because” next to “Bad Weather” and “Equipment Failure” as “Reasons we will not be honoring your ticket today.”

    They won’t lose tens of millions as quickly as overnight, but they would eventually. I don’t ever plan on flying with them on the rare occasions when I need to travel.

  151. RodAox says:

    I wonder what the FAA is doing about this… Shouldn’t they get involved somehow ?

  152. snowburnt says:

    @Dave J.: probably because no one would trust them to actually provide that experience…

    Although I’ve heard Virgin provides excellent service while being more expensive.

  153. ElizabethD says:


    United for the next Golden Poop award. That is just terrible.

  154. jamar0303 says:

    @: Only on United and some other US airlines will this be the case. (broken record moment here) International airlines are good for cross-ocean trips- yes, I’d rather fly to Tokyo or Singapore or Bangkok or wherever and back to Hawaii than suffer through a US airline.

    Another alternative is endorsing to Northwest by BUMP (like Rule 240, except that you do this before check-in and you don’t need the airline’s endorsement). You can take your ticket to Northwest and have them pull your ticket over to them.

  155. jamar0303 says:

    @jamar0303: That was supposed to be @generalassembly there (edit function, please?)

  156. El_Fez says:


    Are there any airlines that are actually worth flying anymore, quality-wise?

    Yeah – international flights. The few times I’ve been the Europe, I’ve been treated like a king on British Air and was treated as slightly better than cattle on Delta. Now while I’m sure that BA has it’s share of problems, I didnt see any of them.

    Meanwhile Delta had the same in-flight movie mix tape on all the fights (and believe me, Hot Rod aint worth sitting through ONCE let alone four times), and they couldnt be bothered to focus the red/blue/green guns on the projector.

  157. Veeber says:

    @Triborough: That’s probably because the Northeast Corrider is the only profitable track and subsidizes the rest of Amtrak

  158. ELC says:

    And they are now advertising this wonderful new service for international travel. If companies would spend less on empty marketing and more on services, what a change it would be. The word would get around who was really good. Why won’t any company grasp this fact????

  159. ELC says:

    @: suggestions – lying that the flight was cancelled, still having a full plane when they had purchased tickets a year earlier? others listed in the article.

  160. mariospants says:

    @: “I agree. I think there is certainly another side to the story, or at least more details that would reveal what really happened. While it’s sad that the family member was sick, it’s not really germane to the issue of what happened. I think kepler11 is right on in his assertion that it simply clouds the issue.”

    In principle, you may be right, but you missed one important thing: when the OP was called to be informed of the flight “fuck-you”, they informed the CSR that: they had multiple family members flying together (which should take precedence over a couple of last-minute honemooners), that they had a relative who was dying at the destination and that they had a house rented at the tune of $10k. Those points may “cloud” the issue in some people’s minds, but it should have rung a very VERY clear bell in the United CSR’s tiny little off-shore brain that this was a situation they should resolve, not shrug off as “business as usual”.

  161. andy966 says:

    “Never book a flight with United.”

    Corporations like United should truly be boycotted for actions like this.

  162. JeanFronto says:

    I was attending a wedding in Europe in July. I bought the tickets in January
    from a travel agent, figuring gas prices would only go up. The domestic part
    of the flight was United, the European was Austrian. I worried for months
    about such a scenario happening, but I got lucky and my tickets were
    What was obvious however, was on the Austrian flight, there was this nice
    clean plane. We were severed delicious salmon, and food that exceeded the
    quality of many restaurants I’ve eaten at. On the return flight, we get into
    the United terminal. They have 3 flights booked out of one lobby (smaller
    planes). Massive over crowding, as it was designed for one flight’s worth of
    folks. I watch out the window as I see about 15 maintenance workers beating
    on the side of the plane with various wrenches. They eventually give up and
    the baggage carts that were waiting turn around and go back into the bowels
    of the airport. Needless to say, we didn’t get our luggage till 2 days

    Then we got on the flight, the plane was filthy, the toilet didn’t work and
    there was no air circulation– it was broken as well. The flight attendant
    said, he only had water. He brought out a cart. It said Swiss Air on the
    side. I asked him and he said it was donated. Apparently the Europeans felt
    some charity and gave United enough water for the flight.

    It is without a doubt that United is suffering from mismanagement. I’m
    scared to fly with them again.

  163. snclfe says:


    Did they really “admit that they lied”? They were just forced into a corner where they could no longer plausibly deny it any more.

    And the lawsuit should be a home-run/slam-dunk. $10K is a substantial amount of tangible damages and the “didn’t get to say goodbye to a dying relative” angle should really bump up the punitive damages. You really can’t put a price on being able to see a loved one one more time and juries know that. Of course, collecting your damages is going to be hard once United files for bankruptcy again.

  164. My own personal United horror story jives with the experience these people had. After flying over Kansas to avoid a thunderstorm that closed O’Hare for a while (I was flying from New Orleans to San Francisco through O’Hare), we arrived at O’Hare to find that….

    -United had cancelled two of the remaining four flights to San Francisco that day.
    -United’s India-based call center had no idea what to do to get me to the west coast that day.
    -United’s 100-foot-long kiosks were staffed with three people each to handle to masses of folks who were stuck in O’Hare.
    -United decided to send the 777 to San Francisco on time, even though it was less than half-full – most of the passengers for that flight were stuck in the air.
    -Instead of holding the 777 on the ground for thirty minutes to complete boarding and give the delayed passengers time to get to their connection, United opted to fluff their “on time departure” stats at the expense of 150+ people who were then forced to try and find seat on the two remaining San Francisco-bound flights that day.

    So it’s entirely plausible to me that United would just send a flight off without paying passengers in order to meet some internal metric they can later advertise as a sign of “customer service”.

    My ordeal happened almost two years ago, and I haven’t flown “Untied” airlines since.

  165. secgeek says:

    All the airlines have gotten incredibly worse over the last few years.. I am a frequent (Platinum) flyer with American and this past weekend they screwed me on both my outgoing and incoming trip, Spending most of my daughters first birthday in the air, missing the first day of a conference, losing a paid hotel night…

    I am officially boycotting American…

    There is nothing that United can do for the OP… $$$ will not make up for the fact they will not be able to see their father again. I think we should take a stance against all airlines that consistently hold us hostage as they feel they are doing us a favor of taking our money.

  166. jswilson64 says:

    @MercuryPDX: They already have “just because” – it’s called “overbooking.” Which is what happened to these folks. And bad P.R. isn’t going to hurt too much when there’s only, what, 3 airlines left.

  167. MercuryPDX says:

    @: To me, overbooking is “Attention passengers, we have oversold this flight and are asking for volunteers….”, followed by whatever version of “The Lottery” the airlines decide to enact to make it work if no one comes forward.

    This family wasn’t overbooked, they were just plain booted.

  168. trujunglist says:

    This is absolutely outrageous. I am seething with anger right now. I don’t understand how a corporation can get away with this kind of abuse and nothing ever happens. Well, I know which airline I will NEVER fly again for my many business-related travels. Fuck you United. Shabby, really shabby.

  169. Anonymous says:

    IF they had confirmed seats, which isn’t 100% clear, and got bumped a whole day before, that’s just slimy on United’s part. Preparedness is a practice to be rewarded. Instead they got the shaft.

    Not that I need to fly United (most of my travel is international), but here’s to hoping Jetblue and Virgin America open up more flights.

  170. jblaze1 says:

    Let’s help her out and boycott United!

  171. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    By now, I would have expected to hear some sort of “we’re taking this very seriously” response from United. The silence is deafening. Especially given that the San Diego paper ran their story two days ago. United should have been out in front of this thing within 24 hours. If they don’t care enough to comment on a screw-up of this magnitude? I can only imagine how much they care about the average traveler.

    They richly deserve the massive boycott they are about to experience. And I’ll help.

  172. tcs says:

    Since no one else (even AdvocatesDevil) is truly playing devils advocate, let me do the honors. As a business owner, I feel it’s important to point out the contractual obligations of the consumer. There is no doubt ‘fine print’ that states which rights the airline reserves. And it can be deduced that one of their rights is to make decisions that protect their profits (they do have shareholders, right?). Not giving this family a letter that would basically make an eventual suit for the 10k an open and shut case was a smart BUSINESS move, IMO. And United is a business, not a “we want to make everyone happy all the time” organization. Profit matters more than the satisfaction of EVERY customer. If this family had been more paranoid, printed confirmations from the web using the printscreen function, than the insurance company probably would have refunded them. Instead, they relied on the goodwill of United to honor their original transaction. FOOLISH. This is a dog-eat-dog, fascist society masked as a democracy. GET USED TO IT. Learn to not trust anyone, or suffer the financial fallout for having faith in a stranger when it comes to your money. I know people will flame me, but I think and act in terms of absolute truths only. If there’s no evidence, it doesnt exist in my world. And I must say, this cynical, paranoid view of humanity has treated my financial stability well, I suggest you at least give it a trial run. I’m not saying I’m proud of being so negative, but I didn’t ask to be surrounded by all this greed, either. If you can’t beat em, join em I say!

  173. zithero says:

    well I’ll never fly united then. it’s one thing to contact a customer prior to the flight and say “Unfortunately the ticket price last month has increased substantially and we’re going to need to charge you more due to rising fuels costs. We apologize for the situation.” it’s a completely different thing to lie to the customer, and then deny it ever happened to an insurance company for little other reason than to be mean about it.

  174. Ausarb says:

    Every time that I was on an overbooked flight, the gate attendants would start announcing over the PA that they were looking for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for a voucher on a future flight. They keep raising the value of the vouchers until someone eventually accepts.

    Ironically, the only time I’ve flown United is when my Delta flight was canceled and they booked me on United.

  175. Charlotte Rae's Web says:

    If I was a lawyer, I’d advertise and/or troll around consumerist.