United compensation for cancelled flight – reason crew missing

On New Years Eve 2013 I had a direct United flight from San Francisco to Maui booked. I was surprised to find award seats a couple of months out. Departure was schedule for 9 AM that day and I was confident this flight would be a good one on a 777.

However when I got to the airport the message in the United app was shocking – CANCELLED.

The gate agents wasn't too helpful and only provided to rebook on United much later that day. Most flights were sold out by now. Apparently the crew was missing for the flight and there was a chance the crew would be around in the late afternoon and United scheduled a new flight for that time using the airplane that was sitting at the gate.

After 30 minutes on hold the United Reservations call center would offer more alternatives but they all required a terminal change and check-in with another airline plus security in less than 25 minutes. Not really an option at this busy travel day.

So I waited 8 hours – only to see the scheduled late afternoon flight to be scheduled again. I was eventually re-booked on a 6.30 PM flight with the last seat confirmed. This flight left somewhat on time and got me to the Andaz Maui just before midnight local time. Not the NYE experience I was hoping for.

After the return I inquired with United and left a compensation claim through teh link on their website. In my initial claim I suggested 10,000 miles as compensation which I think is pretty fair given that the whole trip cost 40,000 miles in Economy (cash tickets were on sale for about $1,200 for my dates).

Thank you for contacting the MileagePlus Service Center.

We are unable to issue any award miles as compensation when the award ticket was used.

We understand how frustrating irregular flight operations can be, but are unable to issue compensation due to weather concerns.

I replied that the weather was sunny and perfect that day – just the crew was missing but never got a reply on that.

Now 4 weeks later my inbox shows this:

The Refund Department has forwarded your file to Customer Care for review.

Please accept my sincere apology for your unpleasant travel experience Dec 31, 2013.

United recognizes how important it is to you to get to your destination on time, and we never want to disrupt your travel plans. Our goal is to achieve the highest level of on-time performance whenever possible. Unfortunately, our industry faces a number of daily challenges that affect our operation and I'm truly sorry for the inconvenience caused…

Your request for compensation is understandable therefore, I have deposited 10,000 goodwill miles into your account. Please allow up to 14 days for processing.

Mr. Jacobi, it is never our intention to deliberately cause you distress of any kind. I realize my apology cannot make up for the experience, but I sincerely hope you will travel with us again soon.

What a different in tonality and content! Wow! Thanks United for coming through without me pressing the issue.

4.5 / 5 stars