United Adds $800 In Fees To $560 Trip, Loses Customer For Life

We have a feeling this is going to happen with increasing frequency as airlines continue to bleed once-loyal customers for extra revenue: Greg Dean, the cartoonist behind Real Life Comics, has had enough of United gouging him. First it was the second checked bag fee, then the first checked bag fee. Then they doubled the pet-in-cabin fee to $175 each way, which works out to more than the cost of a human round-trip ticket.

And let’s not forget the exorbitant booking fee for using miles for one of our tickets. The actual FLIGHT was only $280 round trip per ticket, but with the booking fee TO USE THE MILES TO PURCHASE A TICKET, we wound up paying over $500.

When Dean tried to convert the two tickets into travel vouchers, the airline charged him another $300. And that, readers, is when the airline killed off one of their better customer relationships.

For a trip that requires two roundtrip tickets priced at $280 each, or $560 before taxes, United managed to tack on over $800 in additional fees:

1st checked bag*: $30
2nd checked bag 50
pet-in-cabin fee 350
booking fee (estimated) 150
travel voucher conversion fee 300
Total: $880
figures reflect round-trip totals


 

Dean doesn’t have a permalink to his post—it’s just up on the “News” section of his front page—so we’re reprinting it below for posterity:

There seems to be a trend with me lately – it seems that, without fail, if I am on the phone with United Airlines, it’s going to end in me cursing them out.

First, let me point something out. I used to be a devotee to United Airlines. For years, when we had trouble flying on American or Delta or *shudder* Southwest, United was always there as our rock – flights were usually smooth, we got decent service, and life was good. We signed up for frequent flier cards, (Even got a free upgrade to First class from L.A. to Chicago once) and I got a credit card that would give me bonus miles with them. I also had sort of a soft spot for them in my heart, given that my Grandfather worked maintenance for them for most of his life in San Francisco. After his memorial, I wound up taking a bunch of his old United memorabilia home with me, and I’m always going to treasure it, no matter what.

But coincidentally, that particular flight was where the love affair started to go south. See, it was around June, and it was when they started adding on fees for the second checked bag – which we didn’t know about until we got to the gate, of course. I understood, to a degree – fuel prices were at an all-time high, and the airlines had to make up for the difference somehow. But I do clearly remember mentioning to the gate agent that “Heh… you KNOW those fees aren’t going to go away when fuel prices come down again.” How right I was.

Now, of course, fuel has dropped to the lowest price it’s been in YEARS, and have they removed the fee? HA! They went one step further… because in early October, we booked a flight home so we could spend Christmas with our families. During that phone call, I discovered that not only had they added a fee for the FIRST checked bag (WHO flies without checking at least ONE bag?!) but they had increased the pet-in-cabin price from $85 per direction (It had previously been $75 the year before) to ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS per direction. Considering we’d be taking Selphie both ways, that adds up to MORE than the price of a ticket – just for the privelege of putting a dog carrier under the seat in front of us. And let’s not forget the exorbitant booking fee for using miles for one of our tickets. The actual FLIGHT was only $280 round trip per ticket, but with the booking fee TO USE THE MILES TO PURCHASE A TICKET, we wound up paying over $500. The pet-in-cabin charge would be paid at the gate, of course. And don’t forget the roughly $80 extra we would have to pay just to check our bags. This was the first instance where the phone call ended in extreme profanity.

Now, of course, we’re MOVING BACK to California. We no longer have need for a flight from Austin to Sacramento. So, I decided to call United and see if it would be possible to convert the tickets into travel vouchers that we could use at another time. Certainly, said the reservations agent! There’s only a fee of $150 per ticket to do so.

THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS?! FOR YOU TO PRESS A FEW BUTTONS AND CHANGE SOME INFORMATION IN A COMPUTER?! Needless to say, that phone call did not end in a civil fashion. I don’t care if these people aren’t personally responsible for these fees. They’re representatives of United, and as such, they deserve to hear what I have to say. Take your fees and shove it.

And so, here and now, I officially renounce United Airlines. Call it whatever you want. A denouncement. A boycott. I don’t care – the long and the short of it is this – I will never willingly fly United again, and I would urge anyone to whom customer service is important to boycott them as well. And not just United – I pledge, here and now, to never fly on another Star Alliance airline, either – domestically, this means no flying on US Airways. (Not exactly a huge loss) And I’m going to keep this up until United elects to rescind their fees for the first and second bags, and until the silly fees like $175 for a pet-in-cabin go away. But I’m not silly enough to think that the actions of one man are enough to get something done. That’s why I’m calling on you guys.

I’m sure I’m not the only one furious with United Airlines for the treatment I’ve recieved – I’m sure many, many others have had the same experiences. Tomorrow, I will be writing up an actual, paper letter and sending it off to United, and I encourage you to do the same. If you feel so inclined, their mailing address is as follows:

Customer Relations
WHQPW
United Airlines
PO Box 66100
Chicago, IL 60666

Whether the fees go away or not is immaterial. I’m just pissed that United has $500 of my money that I’m never going to see again, and they’re holding it hostage unless I pay an ADDITIONAL $300 to make use of it sometime in the next year. And so, I’m going to throw in my one profanity in this entire post – I say this so that people like my mom who don’t really care for profanity can stop reading now.

Fuck you, United Airlines. You just lost a devoted customer.

Real Life Comics (Thanks to Arthur!)
(Photo: Getty Images)