It’s easy to forget that prior to their merger with Continental Airlines, United really was a broken carrier. Instead of investing in their product, they would give out passenger compensation liberally.
Flying international first class? It was important to test your seat to see if it would go into bed mode and back before the doors closed. If your seat was broken you would be switched into a seat occupied by an employee. If you waited until after departure to discover your broken seat, you were out of luck.
United knew their planes were in disrepair, and flight attendants were armed with cards they could hand out for easy compensation. These were known as ‘Skykits’ and later “Please Accept Our Apology cards.”
One of the radio button choices when redeeming the cards was even broken reading light. Everyone used to hope for a broken reading light on their flights, because the compensation was generous: a 100,000 mile flyer on a trascon or international flight would get a $250 travel voucher.
Of course, some folks took advantage of this:
- I remember one jerk who bragged about bringing a screwdriver with him to mess with the inflight entertainment on the plane as an excuse to get compensation.
- And, since United’s IT wasn’t very good, many folks on Flyertalk used to use the certificates more than once either (at various points) through simultaneous transactions or with the help of United.com support.
If you didn’t get a skykit inflight but had a complaint you could email United through their website. Sometimes if you were even emailing in to compliment them, the outsourced agents replying to emails were so used to cutting and pasting compensation that you might wind up with a “Please Accept Our Apology” for having provided good service.
Until mid-2011 there was no limit on the compensation you could receive. In May 2011 the airline imposed a limit of six times every six months. It’s insane that any passenger would be compensated so frequently — underscoring both how often United fell short and how overly generous their compensation scheme was.
Now Brian Sumers reports that United has a new compensation program that started yesterday.
United Airlines this week began allowing airport workers to give goodwill travel certificates for as much as $125 to passengers who receive poor service.
United agents have free reign to decide how to dole out the electronic certificates…
These are available, for instance, when an employee is rude to a customer (another employee can make up for it), a passenger who waits at the airport for a delayed bag instead of having United deliver it to them, and as a thank you to a customer who gives up their seat to help a family.
As in the past, premium customers and top elites get more compensation than others.
- Premium passengers and 1K and Global Services members can get up to $125
- Platinum and Gold elites get $50 to $100.
- Other passengers can get up to $50.