The No Asshole Rule author Bob Sutton took to his blog yesterday to tell an incredible story about a fuck-up of staggering proportions involving United Airlines, breathtaking amounts of buck-passing, and a lost little girl.
In the abridged version of this story, Sutton's friends Annie and Perry Klebahn sent their 10-year-old daughter Phoebe to camp in Grand Rapids, which required her to fly as an unaccompanied minor aboard a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Chicago.
In Chicago, a person from an unaccompanied minor service employed by United was supposed to greet Phoebe and take her to her next flight. That never happened.
to United's CEO details what did:
The attendants where busy and could not help her she told us. She told them she had a flight to catch to camp and they told her to wait. She asked three times to use a phone to call us and they told her to wait. When she missed the flight she asked if someone had called camp to make sure they knew and they told her "yes-we will take care of it". No one did. She was sad and scared and no one helped.
Eventually the camp called Phoebe's parents to inform them that their daughter was missing. They tried to get some answers from United, but were stonewalled at every turn. The worst by far was this exchange with a customer service agent in India:
When I asked how she could have missed it given everything was 100% on time she said, "it does not matter" she is still in Chicago and "I am sure she is fine".
Things get progressively worse until, finally, one United employee agrees to help. But only after going off duty.
When she came back she said should was going off her shift and could not help. My husband then asked her if she was a mother herself and she said "yes"-he then asked her if she was missing her child for 45 minutes what would she do? She kindly told him she understood and would do her best to help. 15 minutes later she found Phoebe in Chicago and found someone to let us talk to her and be sure she was okay.
After Perry and Annie tried to complain about their mistreatment and were, again, rebuffed, they reached out to a local news reporter, who started asking questions — and suddenly United became effusively apologetic.
"United doesn't care about Phoebe, they don't care about Annie and Perry, but they do care about getting an ugly story on TV," writes Sutton. "So some United executive called Annie and Perry at home yesterday to try to cool them out."
HuffPost Travel received a statement from a United spokesperson saying the company apologized to the Klebahns and the miles Perry — a "Premier" customer — used to purchase Phoebe's ticket were being redeposited in his account.
The incident, according to United, is currently under review.