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May 7, 2013

United’s customer service disappoints passengers traveling to Mardi Gras

by cab5de

In early February, I made the trip down to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras for the first time with a few undergraduate friends.  My flight was out of Washington, DC and I was scheduled to take off around 5:45 pm.  I was flying on United Airlines and should have known from Professor Maxham’s comments in class that something was bound to go wrong.

As all of the young, college-aged passengers boarded the plane, it was clear that many people’s Mardi Gras were starting right then and there.  The excitement for the weekend ahead filled the air.  However, the plane still had not taken off an hour after everyone was seated on the plane.  On top of that, the air conditioner was not on.  By this point, everyone’s excitement had turned to anxiousness and many people were starting to ask the flight attendants what was going on.  Almost an hour and a half after boarding the plane, the flight attendant informed us that the plane was not repairable and that we needed to unload to switch planes.

News that the flight might be delayed until the morning immediately started circulating around the plane.  As you can imagine, this news did not go over well with almost all of the passengers who were in a rush to get down to New Orleans.  Luckily, the airline found a new plane, but announced that there would be a 3 hour delay in which we would have to wait at a new gate.

After what seemed like an eternity, I was back on a second plane hoping to take off for New Orleans without any problems.  During the time spent waiting at the gate, many passengers started talking about how frustrated they were with United and talked about different forms of compensation they should receive.  The consensus was that United should offer everyone on the plane a free alcoholic drink for having to wait so long.  Everyone thought that this made sense considering the destination of the plane and the purpose of almost everyone’s visit.  When a group of passengers asked the flight attendants if this was possible, they rudely snapped back that United did not owe them anything and that we were lucky to even be arriving in New Orleans that evening. 

As you can imagine, this resulted in very negative attitudes among the passengers and even resulted in loud, overwhelming boos as well as negative chants about United Airlines.  The people on the plane, including myself, thought that they should be compensated for the inconvenience that United Airlines provided us with.  A free drink voucher made the most sense for the target market and would have appeased everyone.   Passengers might have left the airport with a more positive view of United Airlines if drink vouchers or any other type of compensation were provided.  Instead, the airline assumed that passengers understood that delays were always a risk when flying.    

United should have exercised better customer service because it would prevent me, Professor Maxham,  and all the other Mardi Gras-goers from spreading negative word of mouth about the airline and the airline’s customer service. 


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