Since I took the step of publicly feuding with United, I might as well give a surprising update. They had told me often—as a blowoff, I figured—to complain through their website. The call center representative slowly spelling out the URL: w-w-w-dot-u-n-i-t-e-d-dot-c-o-m was easily the most infuriating part of my whole experience.
It turns out that United Airlines might have one thing in common with me: they find it easier to express uncomfortable emotions in writing rather than over the phone. In this case, they managed to express their regret for having secretly rebooked me and then canceling my whole ticket once I missed my new (secret) flight. Here’s the meat of the email they sent me:
We apologize that you have never received a flight notification via email or phone contact. We have been in contact with our Easy Update Department about your concern of not being notified properly. They have informed me it is a known issue system wide and are working on correcting the problem as soon as possible.
They then followed their words with $200 vouchers, three of them (a strange number, since there were four people in our party). That is, of course, appreciated. But, in a perhaps predictable fashion, it wasn’t really the vouchers that I liked most about this. It was the simple acknowledgment that they could have done better and that it is a “known issue.” I now know why hospitals that simply acknowledge and apologize for mistakes face fewer malpractice suits. I’d like to think that most people are not wired to be litigious or even whiny. They just want to be heard and acknowledged, which can be a challenge in a huge customer-service bureaucracy like the airlines have. So thank you, United, for finding a way to express yourselves. We are friends again.