It seems that United’s PR nightmare is having a domino effect across its flights. In March, the airline got into hot water for booting a 94-year-old disabled grandma, Nanay Paz Orquita, off business class because they wouldn’t let her daughter (who paid economy) in the first class section.
Last week, they got in an even worse situation after forcibly removing a doctor from an overbooked flight. And this week, they kicked another passenger off business class to make room for a “higher priority” traveler! Ooooops.
A frequent flyer on business class, TriPacific Capital Advisors president Geoff Fearns, 59, went to Hawaii on a business conference. According to the LA Times, Fearns’ investment company “handles more than half a billion dollars in real estate holdings on behalf of public pension funds.”
Because he had to return early to Los Angeles, California, he bought a full-fare, business class ticket amounting to around $1,000. He certainly could afford the amount.
Fearns boarded his plane at Lihue Airport on Kauai island and was sitting comfortably in his seat at business class and enjoying a complimentary glass of juice while waiting for the plane to take off when a United employee told him he had to get off the plane.
Puzzled, Fearns why and was told that the flight was ‘overfull’.
“That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute. They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me,” Fearns revealed.
Like the doctor in the much-publicized United incident, Fearns stood his ground. After all, he paid for his ticket in full, was a frequent flyer on the airline, and also had important matters to attend to that’s why he was on that flight!
“I understand you might bump people because a flight is full. But they didn’t say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to,” the businessman added.
He insisted he had to be on that flight. So, how did the airline deal with Fearns’ case? Well, he was forced to move to economy class – and his misadventures continued because he got seated in the middle of a bickering married couple who spent the entire 6-hour flight fighting with each other. And they refused to sit together, so he was stuck in between like some referee.
As soon as he got back to California, Fearns consulted his lawyer and wrote a complaint to United, asking for a full refund of the flight and for the airline to make a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice.
But the email from United’s “corporate customer care specialist” was strikingly similar to what Nanay Paz’s family received!
First, United apologized for the apparently unpleasant experience he had, promising to refund the difference of the price between business class and economy. The airline does not agree with the $25,000 donation for charity – and he was offered $500 travel credits for future trips with the airline.
“Despite the negative experience, we hope to have your continued support. Your business is especially important to us and we’ll do our utmost to make your future contacts with United satisfactory in every respect,” United’s customer care specialist concluded.
What’s Fearns’ reaction to the email? He was definitely furious! Just like Nanay Paz’s family, Fearns felt insulted with the ‘travel credits’ and the way United handled his concern. He’s now considering pressing charges against United.
The LA Times reporter couldn’t help but ask him if he’ll ever fly with United again.
“Are you kidding?” Fearns said with a laugh.
United is definitely in deep, deep trouble!