United to Disconnect Customer Service Phone Line

Posted February 17, 2009 by Carl Unger

RotaryphoneUnited will be disconnecting its customer service phone line this coming April, and instead will ask passengers to submit complaints and compliments via email and letter. The airline says written comments generally result in happier customers, because written comments tend to be more detailed than verbal ones and this leads to more effective responses from customer service.

I can believe that, but at the same time, is there anything more frustrating than writing a thoughtful email to customer service ... and then waiting, waiting, and waiting some more only to receive a canned response? Well, is there? Oh, what's that you say? Calling customer service and being put on hold for three hours is worse? I guess you have a point there.

My sense is that people will be divided on this. On the one hand, speaking on the phone gives you the satisfaction of actually speaking to a real person, a captive audience that can at least feign interest in your plight and perhaps even accomplish something. But at the same time, sitting around while on hold only adds to the frustration you are calling about in the first place, and this frustration builds and builds until finally you unload on the entirely innocent and likely underpaid service rep on the other end.

On the other hand, emails seem easy to ignore, but at least you can send the thing and get on with your life. And United is right: Sitting at a computer, you have time to craft your message and include details you might otherwise forget while on the phone.

What do you think? Do you prefer to file your complaints or compliments by phone or email? Leave a comment below with your thoughts. Should more airlines follow United's lead? Thanks!

(Photo: Wikihow.com)

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Reader Comments

I think that is taking it one step too far. I understand the concept and what they're trying to accomplish, but there should be an option for people who like to hash things over verbally. Not to mention, how to you follow up to an email that's never been answers or hasn't been answered correctly? Keep sending notes into the black hole that is complaints@united.com or whatever their clever address will be? While I'm more of a fan of email, things tend to be resolved a lot quicker when you suck it up and make the phone call. Yeah, you might have to wait 25 mins to get someone on the phone, but you usually get an answer by the end of the conversation. I think that should remain an option! Just my opinion...

Posted on February 17, 2009 at 05:44 PM by TravelNut

I find that to be outrageous. When I'm annoyed or upset, the last thing I want to do is wait. On the phone, even if you're on hold, there's a definite feeling of your problem at least being heard if not directly addressed, all because phone is a two-way communication system. Email and snail mail can be lost or ignored, and you're left wondering which.

Boo, I say. Shame on UA.

Posted on February 18, 2009 at 09:53 AM by denonymous

I actually don't think it's that bad. I'm a United FF, and I've spent spent countless hours talking with United customer service on the phone. I've never once hung up satisfied. On the other hand, I have had a few positive email exchanges.

Posted on February 18, 2009 at 11:49 AM by cgpunker

As a United employee, I want to encourage any and everyone who cares about United's future to voice your pros or cons to United headquarters. Employees are the messengers and don't always agree with management, but were are paid to do what we are told. Please help make our airline the PREFERRED AIRLINE. Your feedback is very important.

Posted on February 18, 2009 at 05:09 PM by Isabelle

I spent 35 years in the airline business beginning in 1956. In those days customer service was the most important service the airline could provide, other than bring the customer safely to his/her destination. And that was the atmosphere in a very regulated industry. Now all that has changed. I noticed it with NWA. All NWA cared about was lowering costs and maintaining their flight schedule. Their passengers, as well as their employees, were incidental. And look where it got them...a part of Delta, a real "customer service" airline.

Now United will discontinue their customer service by phone. A true "airline" type, one who knew what the airline business was all about, (look at Southwest) would ADD people to their phone customer service. That might possibly really increase their load factor.

I'm just not sure how the traveling public will accept that. After all it is they who pay the bills and they who want the service.

That's my .001 cent. Down from .02 due to the economy.

Posted on February 19, 2009 at 11:28 AM by Bill Allen

I don't like their approach. Yes, the letters may have more detail, but sometimes it's not the detail that get the issue resolved. It is the emotion and tone that shows how important the matter is for you. You can type "very" 1000x and it won't be as revealing as the urgency that is in your voice. I cannot see this being good for United Airlines or their customers.

Posted on February 20, 2009 at 05:10 PM by Anh

I really think true customer service requires both options be available. You might want to make the call to quickly register your problem and then followup with a more detailed email or letter. This just seems like another way to push the customer a bit further away.

Posted on March 09, 2009 at 02:07 PM by L.M. Hiltabrand

They're going in the wrong direction. As stated in comments above, email communication is vague at times and you don't know when you'll get a response - could be days. Emailing doesn't allow the parties to read emotions, voice inflections, etc.

Posted on March 10, 2009 at 03:30 PM by C Gates

united air lines could close today,i could care,their cust serv.is lacking,on a recent flight,on the auto check in there is a spot that reads need help,wash.,IDA,would not help cust. check in,they spoke to mgr,his reply was i can not come over that side,i helped cust get her boarding pass,WASH IDA should close to

Posted on March 15, 2009 at 03:51 AM by ron cabral

Please don't discontinue phone help, for as you know there are questions that cannot be answered by automatic service. This is one way that United has continued encouraging flyers and this kind of cut-back could cost you customers like me.

Posted on March 15, 2009 at 03:15 PM by LMP

I find that CRAZY!!! Although it doesnt really help to call the customer service, because they really dont know what their talking about..We just flew in from Chicago this morning and it was a very life threating experience! There was No warning of hitting really bad turbulance, as they said, but then when we went out to pick up, a security personal said that their was problems with the aircraft.....Yea imagine that!! It was one of thee most irresponsible airlines anyone could fly! Upon arriving home I called the customer service number and just got a bunch of BULL, and a well Im sorry to hear that, but thanks for calling!!! They need to do something about this before it gets out of control and people loose their lives because of there stupidity!!!!!!! My fiancee, mother and I will def. NOT BE FLYING with them any longer, nor will family or friends!!!Thanks

Posted on March 25, 2009 at 06:01 PM by Alfred hudson

This is a regressive move in terms of customer service. From what I read, United has one of the worst customer service via phone.

Posted on December 26, 2011 at 12:32 AM by polycom ip 550

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