United, We Fall

Poor customer service. Flight cancellations. Lost baggage. One hour holds on the phone for customer service. Never mind that you’re a loyal, frequent flying, Premier Access, Presidential Plus Card member of the United Club, like I am. United Airlines is an equal opportunity offender.

It’s hard to fathom that Presidential Plus card members pay $395 annually, not only for the privilege of shoddy service, but also unapparent restrictions. Case in point: last month I was at the Manila airport, holding a return ticket on United back to L.A. United does not have a lounge at MNL, but Star Alliance partner Thai Airways does. The United Club card proudly displays the Star Alliance logo with the words “Star Alliance Lounge” underneath it, and the United logo next to it. On the back of the card it states, “Present this card to enjoy access to United Club locations as well as affiliated partner lounges around the world,” though it goes on to add in vague terms, “Partner lounges may require additional proof of eligibility.”

I was told by a United rep that the Thai Airways lounge “services” United Club members at the Manila airport. When I tried to check into that lounge they told me that only Gold and Platinum card members were admitted from United, and I was denied access. I asked to speak to someone higher up, and they put me on the phone with Tricia, a passenger service agent with United: “I spoke with our Duty Manager, Bob Hernandez, and he confirmed what you were told.” United Duty Manager has the latitude and golden opportunity to do good, score a PR coup and assure the continued retention of a loyal customer, and flubs it. I asked to speak to Mr. Hernandez, and was denied.

I lodged a formal protest with United’s Customer Care Department. The response came two weeks later: “…Your comments have been included in a report to management for review…” (12/6/12). Two weeks later to date, no further feedback.

$395 annual fee. Premier Access, Presidential Plus, United Club Card, Star Alliance logo….”Prestigious,” is it not? Is it any wonder why United Airlines was ignominiously voted the most disliked airline in America, and the 5th most disliked company? (Business Insider, 6/29/12)

No courtesy, no renewal.

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