Unacceptable Disrespect by United Airlines

Below is a letter I sent to United Airlines. I will never fly United again if I can help it. Their agents yelled at a disabled lady...

To Whom it May Concern:

Customer service offered by Shawn/Sean at IAD, gate A3/4 on 4/27 at approx 10pm was unacceptable. I have flown all over the world, and been on hundreds of airplanes, but this was by far the rudest encounter I have ever experienced. According to your web-site's customer service promise, "In the air and on the ground, online and on the telephone, our customers have the right to expect — to demand — respect, courtesy, fairness and honesty from the airline they have selected for travel." Shawn was disrespectful to a women his senior, a woman who PAID to fly with your company. He was NOT courteous nor was he fair. I was looking through the 12 points for customer commitment...are these just to save face or does your company really uphold these standards? If they are for real, then step number 7 needs to be shown to Shawn/Sean.


7. Readily, Capably and Respectfully Accommodate Travelers with Special Needs

United’s commitment:

We will provide our customers who have special needs, including individuals with disabilities and unaccompanied minors, with the level of attention, respect and care they deserve.

Below is the encounter btwn Shawn and the elderly lady who couldn't walk (he yelled at her).

A flight to Allentown was overbooked/overweight so they bumped 8 people. Shawn announced they would bump all those who paid the cheapest fair price. One of those people was an elderly lady who couldn't walk. She had two medical bracelets on her arm, one pink and the other yellow. One said "fall risk." She was told a wheelchair was coming to get her and take her to customer service where she could get on another flight the following morning. When no one showed up she asked a United agent about it when he walked by. He blew her off. She began to get visibly flustered. She got out an inhaler and used it twice. A few minutes later, another passenger reminded Shawn the lady needed a wheelchair, he said one was on it's way. At this point it had been almost 30 minutes, and still no wheelchair. The lady began to get more flustered and started to shake, muttering about how she needed to get home to her son. She took out a portable machine and wrapped it around her wrist. I believe it was a blood pressure machine, because she said she needed water to take her blood pressure medicine. Shawn then yelled across the room at her, saying he told her 30 minutes ago to go to customer service - there was still no wheelchair. She said again that she needed water to take her blood pressure medicine, and he yelled again to go to customer service - STILL no wheelchair. This lady could NOT WALK. How was she supposed to get to customer service? She was waiting for United to provide her the services she required, but instead she is humiliated in front of other passengers. So a few ladies, myself included, went to help her. I got her water. She was shaking so badly that she could barely get the pills and water in her mouth. She spilled it on herself, the chair and the floor because she was shaking so severely. She was slightly disoriented from her blood pressure getting so high and was also beginning to sweat. Shawn never once helped or treated this elderly woman like a human being.

I am APPALLED that your airline would allow this to happen. She had someone escorting her during her other flights, and then because she was bumped, she is left high and dry? This is unacceptable. To treat a helpless, handicapped woman, who cannot walk and obviously has medical problems is an atrocity. I have emailed, twittered and facebooked about this and I plan to continue to. I want everyone to know how United treats it's disabled passengers. It is unacceptable. Shawn needs to be punished or fired. If you claim you don't know who I am talking about, I took a photo of him with my phone, so there is no confusion. Here is a link to the photo: http://s618.photobucket.com/albums/tt266/emtravis/?action=view&current=UnitedShawn.jpg

For Shawn to humiliate this woman the way he did is unacceptable. I have only flown United a few times, and every single time I have been delayed going out of IAD. But the way your personnel treated a PAYING DISABLED passenger has sealed the deal for me. I will never fly United again. And I will NEVER suggest it to anyone. I have already told a number of my friends this story and they have agreed that they cannot fly an airline who treats people this way.

United needs to review the 12 points with their agents. I have never seen such disrespect by any other airline. A number of the passengers on my flight 8009 to Richmond said they plan to write and call as well. I plan to report this event on any other website I can. It is unacceptable. I would be glad to talk to someone.


    You are AWESOME! Thank you for getting the word out on this Atrocity committed by this CSR of United Air. I have been a faithful customer of this airline for years and am a member of their million mile club (as a result of traveling for work).

    I would absolutely not tolerate this form of abuse by any of my CSR team members to anyone of my customers I will rethink my choice of doing business with this airline and make a choice based on an airline that values it customers.

    Thank you so much for looking out for others. You have helped restore some faith in the human race. Outstanding Job.


    Thank you very much for posting this story.

    I, personally, wouldn't say that the way Sean(sp?) treated this lady is the way ALL United personnel work. I think is an outlier, and it should be treated as such.

    I fly United a lot, and have found good attendants, and bad attendants. Like in any airline.

    What I find fascinating is the fact that, thanks to today's world and technology, we are now able to make a bigger footprint in the world, and make our voices be heard. I bow to you for having the courage and taking the time to report this, with photo and everything. I'm sure this won't go unnoticed to UA.

    As for me, I intend to keep flying United for now (I'm just one trip away to get Premier status)... however I will be following this case, and certainly if the outcome doesn't satisfy me, I'll simply switch to other carrier. I don't care about Premier status if they don't take action.

    And to me, action consists of 3 things:
    - Investigation of the event and disclosure of the details.
    - Termination (admin punishment is certainly not enough) of this person. I think there are a lot of capable people out there, without a job, that will gladly accept the position.
    - Compensation to the Lady. I certainly think this person represented UA at that very moment. And UA has to be accountable of his actions. Not sure if Economic compensation would be appropriate, but I believe free flights for life would be something noticeable. With Premier status for life too, of course.

    Once again, thanks Marie for sharing and do not let this very bad experience to go unnoticed.



    Thank you for your nice comment. :) I could not sit by and let something like this go unnoticed. The poor woman was so sweet - and I just pray she made it home safely the next day...I was a little worried with them putting her in a hotel by herself since she couldn't walk. :( I hope that not only will United do something about the rude CSR, but also that they refund this woman's money, plus some. She deserves it.

    Thanks again for your support!



    The service at the gates for USX flights out of terminal A at IAD is well known to be uncivilised and a trouble spot. I have personally spoken all the way up to UA executives at the VP level on this very issue. Why such basic customer service problems have been unresolved for years is beyond me.



    Unfortunately these things happen at all businesses who do any amount of volume. Unacceptable. Please keep in mind that Customer service employees should be offered the same code of respect from the flying public and that although the majority of our disabled passengers are as kind, patient, and respectful as can be they too have been known to disrespect the customer service employees like any other group. What I am saying is that sometimes an incident taken out of context is not at all what it seems. If you are looking for negative it is most certainly there to be found in this ever changing airline world. As a front line employee we are hired therefore obligated to always have the good of all in mind in any given moment. This is something that the occasional traveler just still doesn't seem to get. Our frequent flyers are the most considerate and respectful passengers generally. It sounds like you encountered a bad seed that day and thank God that people like you are out there to defend, assist & speak about injustices when you see them. But I have been with UAL for 23 years and I must say that there isn't a day that has gone by in my career that I haven't witnessed some sort of extraordinary kindnesses that are exchanged between employees and passengers and even passengers towards us and to each other. This is what I strive for when I go to work and so do most of my co-workers. The airline system for the large legacy carriers is still broken and yet the majority of front line employees somehow manage to put on their smiling face aand helpful hearts lloking for ways to soften the blow for passengers. It's the only way to survive all the changes. Sorry if you had a bad experience at UAl. I hope you still come back so we can offer you our best more often!


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