Social Media is Powerful & A Final Resolution to my United Customer Service Issues

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united customer service compensation

United Customer Service Conclusion

Last week I talked about United’s response to the issues on my first class flight from Las Vegas to Chicago. As a quick recap, a ceiling panel came loose shortly after takeoff which led the purser to delay service in first class for two hours. United’s twitter team saw a tweet I wrote about the panel and reached out to me, asking me email customer service about the experience.

So I wrote to customer service and received a totally canned response more than a week later. After a few exchanges with the customer service agent, he assured me that management reviewed emails between customer service agents and customers and that he had shared the details with his supervisor. I ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth the frustration to pursue this matter further and let the whole thing die with last week’s post and his final email to me. (Text below.)

Of course, United monitors Twitter for mentions of their name and I’m sure they saw my post last week just as they saw the post about the initial issue with the ceiling panel falling. So this morning I received a call from United. The very nice agent explained that my situation was escalated to her. The call was a surprise based on their last response to me which is documented below:

We work closely with our supervisors, and per your request, I did share our email correspondence.

In addition to your specific request, please know that email correspondence is reviewed for quality assurance.  At United Airlines, we each have an important role to play, but we are united by our overall common goal — to provide optimal service, and we thank you for letting us know how and where we can improve.

After reading that I realized it was either fight or giveup. I decided to give up, because mentally the fight just wasn’t worth it. After all, this isn’t the worst thing that happened to me on an airplane. I did go for hours without anything to drink, but so many worse things could happen. I wasn’t happy, but it was time to move on.

The Make Up Call

So back to the call. The agent was very friendly and I could immediately tell that she is well trained to deal with upset customers. Thankfully my anger has long since passed, so we had a brief but polite conversation. She acknowledged what happened on the plane was not up to standards and said she wanted to offer me a travel voucher or miles.

I thanked her and we talked about the situation a little more. At that point she said my son and I could each have a $200 voucher or 10,000 miles. I decided that offer was more than fair considering what happened and didn’t even push for anything else. I accepted the vouchers since I have an upcoming use for them, although they expire in a year, so the miles might have been a better decision for some.

My One Remaining Concern

At the end of the call just before hanging up, the agent said one thing to me that was a concern. She said to make sure I go to Twitter to let everyone know how United made things right. At that moment it became obvious that the escalation happened because of my posts and because of Twitter and not because of their service or response being sub-par.

I want to be clear that I am happy that United reached out and offered something. Their initial response was still a huge failure and I fear that had I not been someone with a semi-loud voice on Twitter and social media that nothing would have happened. Still, United did proactively reach out to me after I had let the issue die. They do deserve some credit for that.


I guess the key lesson here is that it pays to be loud and it definitely pays to use social media. (Twitter is so powerful!) The agent didn’t make mention of my blog, so perhaps it was just Twitter that drove this response. Either way I am happy to have received more than fair compensation, however I am still a little disturbed about the process I had to endure to get it.

Shawn Coomer
Since 2007 Shawn Coomer has been circling the globe with his family for pennies on the dollar. He uses that first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.

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  1. […] No matter how you feel about who was right and who was wrong in this situation, one thing is clear to me. At best, this company is totally indifferent towards their customers based on my experiences. We have seen it in cases such as the leggings controversy and in others. I learned it first hand when a ceiling panel on my flight fell to the ground and United’s response was full of boiler plate garbage. That is until they read about in on this blog and suddenly changed their tune. […]

  2. A United FA made us install a car seat against its manual once and Customer Service ignored me on Twitter and tried to justify the actions over email. I took the issue to the DOT and all of a sudden they reached out to me…..I’m thinking of framing the letter from DOT that says that I was right and United was wrong.

    • I believe that when you file a complaint with the DOT, United gets forwarded the complaint and they have I believe 60 days to contact the person who filed the complaint. The last time I had to do this, the reply I got from the DOT included a personal contact at the DOT. This contact said to email them back if I didn’t hear a response from United.

  3. Hey Shawn. Thank you for the honest post and always appreciate your transparency. Right on brotha.

    My comment is this:

    – Really happy you got nice treatment even even though you had to be the squeaky wheel blogger
    – Your situation is a great example of how life works in general. Some get. Some dont. Life is unfair.
    – The PR tactic from United seems pretty normal to me. Even better since you were honest about it and disclosed it for your readers to understand how YMMV works in life. Say a peon low life like me had the same experience and I tweeted and nobody called me, but someone called you. Well, I wouldnt be surprised and I may fight for my voucher and points too if I was upset enough, but wont really hold United accountable for being unfair. Really depends how shitty I felt when a ceiling panel fell off and I didnt get any service for an hour in first class. You cant expect United to give 100% VIP service to 100% customers. Thats not how this works.

    Glad you got the vouchers man!

    • I just share the truth and go on record with what happens and has happened. There are many many companies I have dealt with that will proactively take care of the customer if something goes wrong. Sure it is nice to get the vouchers, but to be honest I would have been just as happy with a sincere apology in the beginning along with no voucher.

      As for giving 100% VIP service to 100% of the people, they don’t have to. All they need to do is provide the service that is paid for and make things right if they don’t. (Which can be as simple as a sincere apology.) Plenty of companies do that. No one and no company is perfect. There have been many times in my life and I’m sure everyone’s where we had a bad experience that was made right by good customer service and no compensation.

      Finally, their PR tactic doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. In this post I wanted to give them credit for what they offered, but also point out that it was most likely because I have a loud voice. We don’t live in a perfect world, but it is too bad that they didn’t react similarly (even without the vouchers) when I first contacted them or when anyone else contacts them.

      Thanks Ninja!

      • I like how you think man.

        Unfortunately, in this world. Or maybe just USA, an apology in the beginning along with no voucher does not work for a lot of people. In this Me Me Me society where everyone expects compensation for everything, companies like United have to pick and choose their battles with the most ROI.

        Although I agree that many companies in fact do proactively take care of the customer if something goes wrong. Very true.

        But just as you said, its a shame you had to unofficially escalate the concern via social media to get noticed, but thats kinda why the squeaky wheel.

        Also will do my best to visit Vegas next time and need to buy you a drink!

  4. Unfortunately United’s customer service and efficiency in resolving issues isn’t anything to rant about. Fortunately in your case, you spoke loud enough that they cared. They have so much potential if they just gave some real concern for their passengers

  5. I had horrible problems with United about a year ago. Nothing worked and I really did deserve compensation. I finally filed a complaint with the DOT and within 48 hours United phoned me about the complaint and gave me what I thought was fair. I have never seen United simply do the right thing, but I have seen them finally react to outside pressure or publicity.

  6. Hey Shawn,

    Long time reader! I was recently on an AA flight from CDG to JFK in business class (thanks to AARP deal posted a few months back). The seats my wife and I sat in were dirty, with splatter all over the trays and remotes and such. I tried using the online form for AA and they responded with there wasn’t anything they could do. I offered to forward them pictures, and they again, said they would not provide any compensation. Is Twitter the way to go?


      • Exactly.

        Many companies are finally getting serious about their social media strategy and they are budgeting for it. If you have an issue, you should always try all channels of communication.

        Just as Shawn said, Social Media is very powerful. It can save your life, but it can also kill you, get you fired, and force people to commit suicide.

        • We think alike, I believe.

          Used Twitter and FB last year to solve a massive attack on a selling site. 28 rude and obscene feebacks. Of course my score was destroyed. Tweeted at the CEO of the company, Facebooked to them and him, etc. Worked MARVELOUSLY! ALL feedbacks elimnated, other user banned and a lovely email apologizing for the events.

          Social media, IF used properly, can work wonders!

          • Great example Carl. Thanks for sharing man. Exactly why Yelp feedback utility/collateral damage is so controversial.

  7. So alpha bloggers get invited to airline galas, and everyone else is just ranked by how many Twitter followers they have?


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