Doug Toppin's Blog

My thoughts on technology and other stuff

United Airlines Flight Cancellation Saga

I thought that I would pass along our recent United Airlines flight cancellation saga for anyone that might find it helpful from the perspective of a poor customer experience.

Two months ago we planned a long weekend vacation to Ottawa and Montreal and booked the flights with United Airlines. We were departing from Dulles to Ottawa where we would spend a couple of days and then take a train to Montreal for a couple of days and then fly home. The hotel accommodations and train tickets were all ready and since we had not been anywhere in a couple of years we were ready for vacation!

The morning of our trip we got up early, Uber’d our way to the airport, got on the plane (UA3982) and waited. We waited some more and then a little more. After a bit the pilot got on the PA and said that there was an issue with finding the second flight attendant but they were still trying. A second FA was found on another plane and they were hopeful that our flight could leave.

We waited a little longer and then the sad news of the flight being cancelled was announced by the pilot. At that point everyone on the pretty much full flight hot-footed it to the customer service area. We were told by the agent that there were no other direct flights that we could take that day nor the next so we had to give up and Uber our way back home again.

We decided to take a short diving vacation and went to Fredericksburg, Va where we had an excellent weekend and were able to see a number of very historic locations.

Upon return I started checking my credit card to see when the refund for the flight might appear and after 2 days decided to call United. Eventually I was able to speak to someone and they sent in a refund request. I received an email confirmation for the refund but there were 3 ticket numbers in it one of which I had no idea who was associated with. I called United back, worked through the answering system (again) and spoke to someone (again) who asked a couple of times for the name and birthdate associated with the ticket number that I had no idea who was for. Eventually the phone agent said that they had no record of that ticket number and to not worry about it.

From the perspective of customer experience I would have say that I was very disappointed that United could not find an FA for the 1.5 hour flight and instead opted to cancel it entirely. Also having to call to get a refund was disappointing. While getting the mail confirmation was helpful, having to call again to ask about the third ticket in it was disappointing. Wasting a day of vacation and paying for 2 Uber trips were also disappointing. While I may have been able to call and complain and get some kind of payment for the aggravation/cost I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if I did not. The answer was, other than the pilot saying that he was very sorry that the flight was going to be cancelled, that was pretty much it.

All-in-all we had no complaints about the Fredericksburg trip and recommend that area for anyone looking for a history filled experience. From the Northern Virginia area no flights are required to get there which is also a good thing.

Eventually we are hoping to make it to Ottawa and/or Montreal and our prior experience will likely factor in to our travel plans.

Comments