Some days it seems like so few companies get it right, but every once in a while, a large airline will surprise you with their customer service. That was my experience with United Airlines this past weekend, flying back from a wedding in Decatur, Il.
My first flight was with Pacific Wings, on a 9 seater prop plane which was an amazing experience. Watching the runway show up and seeing the pilots navigate the approach and landing was a unique and fun time. It was much better than my brother’s experience a couple weeks back on a different plane, when apparently the door opened up while they were making their decent!
I landed in St. Louis for my connecting flight to Chicago with a ton of extra time with both layovers, however in a quick 20 minutes, the sky went from overcast to black. Flights began getting delayed, but again I had 2 1/2 hours to play with before I would miss my connection back to Portland. It became clear once flights were getting diverted during the storm that I was going to be late, but United’s customer service began stepping up to the plate.
After standing in line to see if I needed rebooked, I finally got to the front and spoke with Carmen. She was very pleasant, had a friendly attitude and a warm welcoming smile. Something I never expected after the 2+ hours of people she had to deal with rebooked people all across the country. As we spoke, she let me know a plane was leaving within 5 minutes to Chicago, and that should help give me some extra time to get to the gate. I thanked her, and promptly proceeded to the gate.
Unfortunately, we sat on the tarmac for an hour because Chicago shut down incoming traffic, but Carmen was such a bright spot in what could have been an awful day. I ended up landing half an hour after the flight to Portland took off so I got my mind ready for the night to come; sleeping in the O’Hare airport.
Full disclosure, United had already booked me for a flight the next day, but it was at 10 am with a layover, and I knew there was an 8 am direct flight. I know you can’t get what you don’t ask for, so I knew I had to talk to someone. After deplaning, I was directed to the customer service desk, which was bustling with travelers who had missed flights and we’re just trying to get to their final destinations. And that was when I met Rhonda, the customer service member at O’Hare for United. She greeted me with a smile, another great start, and I calmly stated my name, my destination, my situation, and oh by the way, I know there’s an 8 am direct the next morning, could she please help.
And help me she did. She saw what I knew, that they had already booked me, but with ease she said, “oh we don’t want that, no layover for you, let’s get you onto the 8 am flight.” Check. Done. I’m a happy camper. I can find my corner and sleep now. But wait, that’s not all. She kept clicking away on her keyboard, and then let me know they were putting me up in the Crowne Plaza for the night. On United! I was flabbergasted. I thought I had a weather delay, which means nothing. No hotel voucher, no food, nothing.
Needless to say, I am a really happy camper now. No concrete floor for me, I’ll be sleeping in a bed. And then, she made it even better by adding in two complimentary meal vouchers! Dinner and breakfast on them! So now I’m ecstatic, and just ready to sleep in a bed, but on top of it, Rhonda threw in a complimentary overnight travel bag, with toiletries in it for my inconvenience. Inconvenient? Yes, staying a night in a city and losing a half day of work stunk, but this was anything but inconvenient. I promptly thanked her for her time, her help and hospitality and went on my way.
Rhonda really made my day a lot better, and so did Carmen trying to help me get to Chicago a little faster. I may have been delayed by a night, but United really stepped up to the plate and delivered on customer service. I didn’t even ask for anything, they just knew what was the right thing to do for a customer, and made sure it was done. And the icing on the cake? I was booked into a king bed, with a nice hot shower waiting for me in a clean and great hotel. Talk about some great customer service and appreciation.
Question What customer service have you come across recently that has really exceeded your expectations?