Compensation Clinic: Delayed United Airlines Flight Causing Missed Star Alliance Connection, No Hotel Offered

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Our Compensation Clinic this week is about a case involving a readers journey that included a United Airlines connection flight that was delayed and caused him a misconnect.

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The reader had to overnight at Newark Airport on his own expense because the United agent who also issued the replacement ticket incorrectly refused to provide a hotel voucher.

Here is what the reader wrote to United Customer Relations:

I was booked on flight UA674 originally scheduled to connect to my SAS flight (initial ticketnr 117-XXXXXXXXXX). This flight was heavily delayed and caused me to miss the SAS flight to CPH, instead I was involuntarily rebooked by United staff to a Lufthansa flight on the following day.

The ticket had to be reissued twice and I was running around Newark Airport for almost two hours due to ticketing mistakes, in the end I received two United ticket numbers 0XXXXXXXXXX814 + 0XXXXXXXXXX211. I also had to pay the hotel at Newark out of pocket as the agent who rebooked me was unable to provide me with a hotel voucher. I ended up spending 211 USD for the Marriott and another 47 USD on meals. Furthermore I paid a high premium to fly SAS instead of Lufthansa just to end up on Lufthansa again. I’m really disappointed by the level of service afforded to me as a Star Alliance Gold member by United especially after already attempting to resolve this matter amicably twice.

Apparently the customer has sent receipts by letter mail to United but never got a reply in the last 6 months.

United replied to this email promptly though:

I apologize for the flight interruption, rescheduled unprocessed ticket, rescheduled downgraded and extra expenses inconvenience you experienced with your previous travel plan.

I can certainly understand how upsetting this was as it disrupted your travel plans. Keeping safety our top priority, we work closely with Air Traffic Control (ATC) to determine the best possible flight path and departure times. Unfortunately there are times when flight interruptions do occur due to air traffic flow control and passenger medical issues. We certainly acknowledge that you have a right to be transported in a timely manner and I am truly sorry that we did not meet this expectation. As this flight diversion caused you an inconvenience, your frustration is certainly understood. Although our goal is to provide on-time departures whenever possible, the safety of our customers and crew is always our foremost priority. While air traffic flow and medical issue is not within our control, our response to it certainly is.

United Airlines strives to have the highest level of professionalism exemplified through our services and employees. Based on your comments, you experienced rescheduled and unprocessed ticket exchange issues. It is never our intent to inconvenience you while rescheduling your flight. However, I apologize your ticket wasn’t processed correctly and your flight was downgraded. Your comments will be distributed to our managers for future service and star alliance communication improvements.

Unfortunately, passengers do not receive compensation nor extra expense refunds from United for costs resulting from air traffic flow control, medical, weather or other circumstances beyond our control. However, as tangible of our concern due to the overall inconvenience, I will issue a goodwill travel certificate that will arrive via separate email. Please allow 4 to 7 days for processing.

A United Airlines transportation voucher if US$250 arrived several hours later. The reader isn’t really happy with that outcome though. The email also sounds like a bunch of excuses.

Considering the circumstances I find this offer to be very low as it doesn’t even cover the hotel and dinner/breakfast expenses incurred and which United is required to cover as they caused the misconnect. There is pretty much no compensation for the inconvenience of this happening. From what I understood the reader didn’t like traveling on Lufthansa and that’s why he initially chose to book SAS which was also more expensive.

Conclusion

I suggested to our reader to request at least a US$500 travel certificate or 35,000 United Airlines miles. I also urged that he filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation to give the matter another strong push into the right direction. For now he is stuck with the $250 voucher, not much use for someone who lives in Europe and never flies United.

The voucher would have been a fair compensation in case of the agent issuing a hotel voucher for the passenger at EWR which surprisingly didn’t happen in this case. Very unusual for a business class passenger in such a situation.

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