United Airlines – The World Bank’s “Preferred” Carrier: Not Mine

At the World Bank we are required to use certain airlines who have a contract to provide us with service. For trans-Atlantic service we have several choices so I try to fly Lufthansa, but for trans-Pacific we unfortunately have only one choice: United.

Now, as far as American airlines go United is not that bad. Just check out the complaints against airlines at Consumerist.com and you will see that compared to American, US Airways, Continental and Southwest there are comparatively few complaints against United. But for those of us who use them regularly we do it with a grain of salt: old aircraft (one time in First Class from Beijing [I was upgraded!] the seat of someone next to me would not recline); poor service on board (the aircrew are too often inconvenienced if you have the audacity to ask for water when they would rather be chatting), … the list goes on.

On my recent trip, however, they excelled even their own record for poor customer experience by losing my bags. Hey, it happens and is an occupational hazard to travelling 178 days a year. I got one bag back after a day – but it was the empty case I had for all the things I was collecting in Washington. They managed to lose all my clothes for 10 days which is a bit hard to accept. Especially when their customer service lie to me saying “the bag is in Chicago” when they should say “we have it last recorded in Chicago but have no idea where it is”.

Anyway, I’ve sent them a bill for the $1200+ I spent having decided after five days that it was gone forever and I would need more than the single set of clothes I arrived in for the rest of my five week trip – and a suitcase to put them in. Why so much? A lot of stuff I would normally carry in my hand luggage was put in the case due to the heightened security. It is a real bother as I don’t need two sets of everything.

They may come through and accept my claim, which would be a very pleasant surprise – but I am expecting a battle ahead of me. Still, it could be worse. They could have broken my guitar…

That happened to a fellow Canadian who spent 9 months trying to get compensation. In the end he said his only option was to write a song and put a video up on YouTube. United’s response: “Good luck pal”. The video became a huge hit (currently some 7.5 million downloads) and United asked him what they could do for him to take it down. He replied: “Good luck pal”. The guitar manufacturer gave him two replacement guitars, but they aren’t the same. Check out the video below.

If you thought that United breaking a Canadian’s guitar did not go down well, just thing how Adolf Hitler responded when he found out that United broke his guitar:

Postscript: I was very pleasantly surprised when United accepted full responsibility and, after 7 weeks, without any further hassles sent me a cheque to cover my expense claim. Well done United. It made a very bad experience a bit better.

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