In recent years, United Airlines has often been hailed as a stellar company and commendable in its service to their passengers. This summer, they discovered that they can excel when it comes to making customers not only pleased, but very happy.
It happened when they canceled the last flight from Indianapolis to Orlando, Florida, including connecting flights from New York, Chicago and Washington D.C.
CNN reports that Hannah Lamberton and Christian Muehe had their flight to Orlando canceled around midnight on July 27, 2018. They planned to spend a couple of days at Walt Disney World, so Lamberton used the couple of days off of work to go. They said it was clear that United was sick of these two, so they snagged as many gate passes as they could find.
After first stopping in Cleveland, the airline’s plane finally got the pair to Orlando and even made it to its destination in Jacksonville, Florida. Muehe got lucky and didn’t board the return flight. He figured he missed it due to the airline’s poor customer service, but also thought maybe he had missed it because there was too much traffic on the previous flight. When he had to get to his hotel at 2:30 a.m., he learned that the flight had been canceled again.
Muehe grabbed up a bag with all his clothes and suitcase, and Lamberton handed her suitcase over. Apparently, United started making unannounced phone calls that afternoon, telling them they were being made to fly to Cleveland and then Newark, New Jersey, in hopes that at some point things would get back to normal, Muehe would tell the airline it was safe to come home, and then they would rebook him on the Orlando-bound flight. Apparently, they forgot to add seats for the kids.
Finally, Lamberton could leave the plane, but by then Muehe’s stuff was already packed and he was in dire need of their connecting flight to Chicago, D.C. or New York back to Florida. The friends opted to spend 24 hours on the plane and watch movies and bicker.
They ended up together once again, this time in Cleveland. A few hours after it arrived, United reversed the decision and got them to the correct Florida-bound flight. They arrived at the Orlando airport around 9 a.m. the next day, with Lamberton claiming to still be in Cleveland.
A couple of days later, Muehe was advised by the airline’s customer service to wait for the next flight with his own luggage, which would eventually be compensated for including the first flight to Florida. After doing some research, they discovered that he was not only eligible for the same trip for free, but also that United had paid for his change fee and purchased him a second ticket. They flew from Cleveland to D.C. and back, and finally arrived at their Orlando hotel just around 1 p.m. on Thursday, August 30.
“It was embarrassing,” Lamberton said. “It’s human nature. He’s a 25-year-old, 27-year-old kid that didn’t know what to do with a suitcase. I was off by four or five days, and he said, ‘Can I crash?’ It was kind of a joke.”
Muehe said that United staff still called him every morning and told him the odds were against him, but he still hoped that they would give him a second chance.
“I was like, no they’re not going to do that,'” he said. “If you were a monster like me, they would never give you second chances.”
United reached out to Muehe a week after the incident to apologize. The airline said that in the future, they would try to find alternate flights to accommodate frequent fliers who have chosen a route for a specific flight.
“We’re serious when we say that flying United to a destination you want to take can and should be rewarding,” Jennifer Pih, United’s managing director of consumer service, said in a statement. “First and foremost, our employees keep our customers happy. Sometimes that’s saying, ‘no.’ And sometimes that means saying, ‘you can take a friend with you.'”
— Matt Carey covers mass shootings for NewTimes.com. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter.