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United is Terrible

Chesnee, South...
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United is Terrible

Just trying to unload and get advice. My wife and I recently booked round trip tickets with United from Charlotte to Spokane for an 8 day vacation. While there, her mother had a serious car accident and was airlifted to a Trauma unit (and remains there to this day). We called United and asked for the first available return flight (Spokane to Charlotte). They first said the ticket exchange fee would be $300 ($150X2) and we agreed. They then said the total additional fee would be $2112.40!! But, we could later submit a refund request based on emergency medical reasons of an immediate family member. Having no alternative and not thinking about anything other than her mother, we accepted and returned home 2 days early (1st available flight). To make a longer story short: United has now denied our refund request and will not provide further information regarding: buildup of the $2112.40 cost; credit for the original return flight fare that was exchanged; refund policy for medical emergency, etc. We are totally frustrated with them. They are really low class for taking advantage and gouging customers in dire emergency situations trying to get home. You can spend hours on the phone on hold and getting nowhere with their customer care (cc) department. I even had one of their CC agents flat-out tell me the $2112.40 charge was overbilled. We live and learn; if anyone has suggestions; pass it on. Obviously we will never use United again. Thanks

atlanta
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1. Re: United is Terrible

While I am very sorry about your family member, an airline is a business. It is not s caring living organization designed to give cheap emergency travel

For others reading, this is what travel insurance is for.

Ayr, Scotland
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2. Re: United is Terrible

I am really sorry for your personal difficulties. You should claim from your travel insurance. I presume you have this? Airline have no liability here sorry.

And I am the tardy typist! Posted same time as above! ;-)

Edited: 05 August 2012, 23:51
Maryland
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for Las Vegas, Washington DC, County Donegal, Western Ireland
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3. Re: United is Terrible

Not sure if this has been posted elsewhere on this forum, but it looks like United stepped up recently to help a family. Big time.

huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/26/aurora-shootin…

Portland, Oregon
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for Air Travel
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4. Re: United is Terrible

Firstly, I'm very sorry to learn of this terrible situation and my best wishes to your mother in law and your family.

As others have mentioned, travel insurance would definitely cover this type of situation and, if you have insurance, you should make the claim there.

(And, for the benefit of others who may read this, this is the type of situation that justifies travel insurance.)

As far as United goes, it's difficult to understand the situation without knowing exactly what the communication was between you and them, and given the obviously very upsetting situation you were facing, I can see that it's quite possible that the rules/policies could have been misunderstood or misread (and I include the United agent in that, who was otherwise trying to get you onto the first available flight as quickly as possible).

United does have a compassionate fare policy, and does mention the issue of refunds in "unplanned" emergency situations, which includes sudden illness of immediate family members. I'm actually surprised it's that wide in coverage. But, it doesn't go into specifics of exactly which situations are covered and, if covered, how much of a refund is paid (it may only be the 5% discount that they offer in regard of buying compassion fares from scratch).

united.com/web/…refunds.aspx

united.com/web/…default.aspx

The only thing I can suggest is that you check that you supplied the correct documentation, and then contact United, ask for information about your (lack of) refund. Be polite, as that should almost certainly exact a sympathetic response and make them want to help (even if ultimately they can't). If it turns out to have been an incorrect/insufficient documentation issue, I would expect that you should be able to resubmit.

Good luck and best wishes.

Edited: 06 August 2012, 00:14
Edmonton
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8,300 posts
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5. Re: United is Terrible

Unfortunately, this is the way it goes. If you chose not to buy insurance, their policy (as most airlines) is $150 change fee and any difference in fare. Because it was last minute, the fare would have gone up dramatically. Compassionate fare would not cover this and it is 50% off a a full fare, so the price wouldn't be much different. This is why insurance is so important.

Lesson learned.

Portland, Oregon
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for Air Travel
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6. Re: United is Terrible

>> Compassionate fare would not cover this and it is 50% off a a full fare <<

This may have been a typo. Compassion fares are 5% (five per cent) discount off a fare.

Edmonton
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7. Re: United is Terrible

Actually, I did mean 50%. That is off a full Y fare, not a discounted fare. However, some scheduled airlines have now gone to a "waive the advance purchase requirement" instead of 50% off the full Y fare. For those who don't know what a full Y fare is, it is the most expensive fare on a plane without being in first class. This doesn not apply to charters. This is only for deat or imminent death and you must travel withing 7 days.

atlanta
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8. Re: United is Terrible

Compassion fares are no longer that good on most airlines. Not sure where the 50% came from

At most OP is entitled to about a 5% reduction based on United's own inf

united.com/web/…default.aspx

Edmonton
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9. Re: United is Terrible

I'm a travel agent and have been selling airline tickets for years and 50% is the industry standard off full Y fares, not regular fares or any discounted fares. Like I said, some have gone to waiving the advance purchase instead, but it's definitely out there. I just sold one from Edmonton to Toronto about 2 weeks ago, so they are out there, but that was not United.

Their 5% off any fare is a relatively new thing and is actually much better than the 50% off the full Y fare.

Compassionate or bereavement fares as some airlines call them have never been good as an advance purchase ticket with a scheduled airline can be about 1/4 of the price of a full Y ticket.

Bangkok
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for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
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10. Re: United is Terrible

Hi,

"They are really low class for taking advantage and gouging customers in dire emergency situations trying to get home."

==> I might agree with this... but.. to do so is premised on the notion or fact that they set the fare at that higher level KNOWING that you were in dire conditions and needed to get home.. THAT to me, is a gouge..

However, I suspect if we went back and reconstructed what was, at that moment in time, the available fares to which your travel fell into (no-advance purchase) I suspect that was the fare.

So long as that was the then best available fare to which you qualified, and would be applied to all other similarly situated passengers, and it was not artificially changed higher knowing your circumstances, then I can't see a gouge here.

"But, we could later submit a refund request based on emergency medical reasons of an immediate family member."

==> This is the part that gives me pause.. United does have a compassion fare program as noted earlier..but.... what I'm not crystal clear on is what *exactly* were you told on the phone..

By that I mean IF you were told that you could send in X, Y & Z forms and *request* a refund that's one thing-- it's a REQUEST and would then be subject to the program rules etc... However IF you were told you WOULD get a refund (in other-words a verbal promise) then I think that's something different..

Based *only* on the wording you've used here; that being "... we could later submit a refund REQUEST based on emergency medical reasons..."

[emphasis added]

I suspect that you were not given a guarantee-- but were told about the program and to go that route post-travel.

I agree with USBT to write-- nicely-- asking for a better answer as to why your claim is being denied.. Include documentation to support your claim and try not to use "scorched earth" language...

There's not a lot of motivation for a clerk (who will be the first person to see and act or, or not your letter) to do what can be done to 'save' a passenger who has already clearly stated that "We'll never fly you again".

Best of luck

Travel Safe,

Edited: 06 August 2012, 06:47