United Calls to Apologize for Avianca Strike: Miles Refund Included

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You may recall that Avianca went on strike and almost ruined my trip to South America & Africa.

Here’s the strongly worded letter that I wrote to United and a recap of the events:

My flight from LAX to Cusco via Bogota was cancelled on Avianca because Avianca went on strike only nobody told me that it was cancelled. There was no email, no call, no notification. Indeed, when I called to confirm that the flight status, the agent said it was not cancelled. Paranoid, I called again. Again, the agent said it was not cancelled. I called a third time and told the agent to switch me to United just in case. Low and behold, the agent said it was a good thing I called in because my Avianca flight was cancelled. 

When we flew from LAX, we were delayed for hours. We arrive in Lima and stayed in the airport all night because our flight to Cusco was early in the morning. When we went to board, we could not find our flight. Again, nobody told us but the flight was cancelled. We had to wait in the airport and see if they would put us on the next flight. A day and a half later, we arrived. 

Had I not called United, I would have missed my flight to Cusco. Had I missed that flight and had I not been given a spot on the next flight to Cusco, we would’ve missed our connecting flight from LIM to JNB (South Africa). 

Had I missed my flight to South Africa, I would have missed my flight back to the United States. All the flights were on United except for the flight back to the US. The lack of communication is inexplicable. It created unnecessary drama. 

I want my points and my companion’s points refunded because of this experience.

Too dramatic? I think not. Anyhow, United responded with the following:

I’m sorry to read you were affected by Avianca pilot strike.  I am also sorry you did not receive notification of the cancellation.  I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you experienced. 

I know this wasn’t how you envisioned your travel plans with our Star Alliance partner, and for that I apologize. Whether you’re traveling with a partner or United, you should be able to count on a safe, on-time, and comfortable travel experience. I regret this didn’t happen. Your feedback is important and I have shared your impression of the events with the proper management team so we all can improve future recovery. To apologize for your inconvenience, I am depositing 15,000 bonus miles into each of your MileagePlus accounts, which will reflect in each of your accounts in a few days,  I hope you will give us a chance to give you a more positive travel experience. 

We are unable to honor your request.  Since there is no value left on the ticket, I won’t be able to offer a refund and re-deposit of award miles. 
  
Mr. Bachuwa, we appreciate your loyalty to United and our Star Alliance partners and we look forward to providing the travel experience you not only expect, but deserve, as a valued customer. 

To which I said:

Thank you. I appreciate the response. While I appreciate the gesture, 15k does not go far. Indeed it is only 15% of the 95,000 points I expended per person to take this trip. I understand that I cannot get fully reimbursed but I do not think it is unreasonable to ask for a significant amount like 60k per person. 

15k won’t even get me to Chicago and back. 60k may have been a bold request but why not ask?

To which United responded:

Dear Mr. Bachuwa:

I’m sorry you weren’t satisfied with my compensation offer.

My intention was to show you I understood your concern and let you know I’m sorry about everything that happened. I hope you will accept the bonus miles and know we appreciate your business.  I’ll include the additional comments to your file. We’re listening more than ever and working hard to be your airline of choice. This feedback helps us get there.

Mr. Bachuwa, thank you for your business and MileagePlus loyalty.  We hope your next trip with United will deliver the experience you deserve.

At this point, I was ready to move on with my life, but today I received a call. To my surprise, it was United. The agent wanted to follow-up regarding my complaint. I explained the situation again, and the agent said that 15k is higher than they usually go for these incidents. However, as a courtesy, she offered me an additional 5k. Obviously, I had to ask for another 5k just to be sure I had hit the ceiling. The agent said she could not do anything more. At that point, I told her that I appreciated the call and was very thankful for it and the additional points. I bid her good day and checked United off the Festivus list.

Could this be the new United? I’m a believer after this experience.

Cheers to United Customer Care!

7 COMMENTS

  1. That’s great to hear. What’s really encouraging is most of the language of the two e-mails you received appears to have been written by a human being who actually read your complaint.

    • Exactly! And a phone call? Crazy. I thought I’d get a ‘kick rocks, technically we aren’t responsible for strikes.’

  2. So you’re mad at United because Avianca went on strike? Could it be that the agents you spoke with were still showing your connecting flights as ‘on schedule’ which happens all the time in situations like this where an airline doesn’t preemptively cancel flights because the hope is that the strike could be resolved in time?

    I’m confused why you think United owes you anything when your trip was delayed because of actions totally out of control?

    Also, which flights were actually on United? Because UA doesn’t fly LAX-BOG or to Cusco or to JNB. Your letter says all of your flights were on United expect returning to the US. Thats confusing.

    • United as in ticketed through United. Obviously, the others aren’t so you shouldn’t be confused. And what’s your solution? I’m just supposed to sit around and do nothing? Clearly, I took proactive steps while United’s agents (multiple) kept saying everything is fine. They didn’t even know about the strike. I can’t deal with people who defend corporations at all costs without providing a solution.

  3. I never have problems with United! After they called the police on me in Frankfurt because they tagged my bag on the wrong flight and therefore I was a “security risk” I have avoided United entirely. Best call ever. 4 year “united free” and don’t miss united them a bit.

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