Flight service feedback for United Airlines.

Dear United Airlines customer service department,

I never write letters like this, and I’m usually very easy going, but this experience left me pretty upset, and I figured the customer feedback will be valuable for United Airlines.

I was on flight UA84 from Newark to Tel Aviv which departed on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. I was at the back of the plane, row 35, the JKL side. One of the flight attendants was servicing this section and from the start, was fairly rude. I gave her the benefit of the doubt; maybe she was working overtime or was having a bad day.

But as the flight continued, it only got worse… She snapped at passengers with a tone of frustration after being addressed the first time. She seemed constantly on the defensive, even if no one started with her first. Or as if she was constantly being purposely annoyed, even when people made modest requests or had questions.

After a kosher meal mix up between my son and the young woman in our row, which she didn’t seem interested in pointing out while it was happening, I went back to clarify the mistake and got a curt ‘yes’ and her back instead of an offer to try and work it out. When my row-mate tried to ask for another kosher meal, she got a quick ‘there are no more.’ I found it all odd that there was no proactive offer to accommodate until a different flit attendant stepped in.

Other points throughout the flight displayed the same sour attitude. But what made me realize it was more disdain than frustration was when I heard her speaking with a passenger near my seat. To the best of my memory, I heard her answer him with, “They pay more to work this route.” The man answered, “Surely because of the long distance.” Her reply was, “Hong Kong is also a long distance. But *that* flight is just so different.”

It was difficult to hear a blatant insult, (spoken in the tone of an insult) delivered so casually to a customer. Is that acceptable practice?

Whether the assertion is true or not, I don’t care. I’m an American expat living in Israel. I completely understand cultural differences, and challenges for a flight staff. But it was inappropriate to speak to a customer about seemingly internal company matters, and loud enough for other patrons to hear it. If this route is so problematic for this flight attendant to the point where she is continuously rude and disdainful the entire flight, she should probably not be working on it.

I chose United this time, when I usually prefer to fly El Al (I find it more child-friendly and appreciate the staff’s service efforts) because the schedule was more convenient. I even paid slightly more to do so. While the flight got me where I needed to go, I can’t say I felt it was as pleasant from the staff treatment point of view (though other attendants were, in fact, helpful and even borderline friendly).

I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but as a marketing professional I do believe strongly in quality customer service making all the difference. I hope this helps improve your US/Israel program.





5 responses to “Flight service feedback for United Airlines.”

  1. Yosef Silver (@ysilver) Avatar

    Unfortunately, I have heard this from staff working British Airways too – I have often found staff on a TLV route to be more uptight. Flight attendants live on those planes and sometimes I get the impression that we, the customers, are invading their privacy or disrupting their day when we board the flight. Comments like this bother me every time I hear them.

    Most cultures differ from the US – expecting all customers to confirm to a different standard of etiquette is unacceptable.

    I love flying British Airways, but our scope for international travel has diminished significantly as our family grows, but when flying within the US, Southwest is always my first choice, the flagship carries have a long way to go before winning back people when stories like this are so frequent.

    1. Liz Avatar

      Right… I did hear a similar comment on a different flight – by then Continental – but it was in a joking manner, somehow way less offensive… And it was more implied. And didn’t come with all the other samples of bad attitude.

  2. Liz Avatar

    I did finally receive a reply from a Customer Care Manager today. I didn’t really expect more than this, so I’m satisfied I suppose:

    Thank you for contacting United Airlines.

    I very much regret learning of your disappointment in our performance and welcome the opportunity to address your concerns.

    At United Airlines, we believe all customers and co-workers are to be treated with dignity and respect. This philosophy is deeply woven into everything we do. There is never an excuse for unprofessional behavior, and I am very sorry this was your experience of the services received from our flight attendant.

    I realize my apology cannot erase what happened, but I hope it helps to know we take your concerns very seriously. It was especially helpful that you were able to supply such a detailed description. Please be assured your comments will be forwarded to appropriate senior management within Inflight Crew Services for internal review and necessary corrective action.

    I do understand the value of your decision to fly with us and assure you we will make every effort to leave you with a better impression when we again have the privilege of serving you. I ask that you accept my apology and allow us that opportunity.

    We appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.

  3. […] I would like to say though, that I did actively choose EL AL over Delta and United for two reasons, despite the fact that Delta was cheaper, and United was the same exact price. Confidence in their security is one, and the second – I appreciate the way the EL AL staff, from start to finish, handles parents traveling with children. They are the only airline I’ve been on that really gets it. Truly ‘your home away from home.’ Despite some glaring service setbacks, it’s heimish. And as we know, United failed at that the last time I flew with them. […]

  4. […] is the second time I’ve complained to United about something and I don’t expect a helpful response this time either, though I’d love […]

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