United Breaks Families

Whenever a bad airline experience ends up posted here, it seems to often have something to do with United. Sure as shit they’re at it again, and this one will be hard if not impossible to top…at least I hope.

They didn’t just lose luggage or treat people very poorly this time (although both of those things most definitely happened). this is much worse. In levels of incompetence and we don’t give a fuckedness that I’m still trying my hardest to comprehend, United Airlines lost a 10-year-old kid! For real. Oh, and when it was brought to their attention that they’d lost a 10-year-old kid, it didn’t seem to bother them and the only way the kid’s family could get help was by playing to the humanity of one employee…who had to go off duty before she’d do anything!

United was flying Phoebe as an unaccompanied minor on June 30th, from San Francisco to Chicago, with a transfer to Grand Rapids. No one showed-up in Chicago to help her transfer, so although her plane made it, she missed the connection. Most crucially, United employees consistently refused to take action to help assist or comfort Phoebe or to help her parents locate her despite their cries for help to numerous United employees.

A few key details.

1. After Phoebe landed in Chicago and no one from (the outsourced firm) that was supposed to take her to her next flight showed up. Numerous United employees declined to help her, even though she asked them over and over.  I quote from the complaint letter:

 The attendants where busy and could not help her she told us.  She told them she had a flight to catch to camp and they told her to wait.  She asked three times to use a phone to call us and they told her to wait.  When she missed the flight she asked if someone had called camp to make sure they knew and they told her “yes—we will take care of it”.  No one did. She was sad and scared and no one helped.

2. Annie and Perry only discovered that something was wrong a few hours later when the camp called to say that Phoebe was not on the expected plane in Grand Rapids. At the point, both Annie and Perry got on the phone.  Annie got someone in India who wouldn’t help beyond telling her:

‘When I asked how she could have missed it given everything was 100% on time she said, “it does not matter” she is still in Chicago and “I am sure she is fine”. ‘

Annie was then put on hold for 40 minutes when she asked to speak to the supervisor.

3. Meanwhile, Perry was also calling. He is a “Premier” member in the United caste system so he got to speak to a person in the U.S. who worked in Chicago at the airport:

“When he asked why she could not say but put him on hold.  When she came back she told him that in fact the unaccompanied minor service in Chicago simply “forgot to show up” to transfer her to the next flight.  He was dumbfounded as neither of us had been told in writing or in person that United outsourced the unaccompanied minor services to a third party vendor.”

4. Now comes the most disturbing part, the part that reveals how sick the system is.  This United employee knew how upset the parents were and how badly United had screwed-up. Perry asked if the employee could go see if Phoebe was OK:

“When she came back she said should was going off her shift and could not help.  My husband then asked her if she was a mother herself and she said “yes”—he then asked her if she was missing her child for 45 minutes what would she do?  She kindly told him she understood and would do her best to help.  15 minutes later she found Phoebe in Chicago and found someone to let us talk to her and be sure she was okay.”

The family is still trying to sort all of this out with United, which is going as well as you’d expect, perhaps worse.

What a shitty, shitty company on every possible level.

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