United Responds (Poorly) to Claims They Downgraded Polaris Passengers


I wrote earlier today about a viral TikTok video in which a woman alleges United Airlines involuntarily downgraded passengers from Polaris to economy class on a flight from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare in order to accommodate a crew, without offering refunds or compensation. Upon landing, the couple received expedited customs processing and sketchy promises of waived overweight baggage fees (the couple claims a United employee lied that their bags were overweight so as to be able to then waive fees), but still no financial amends. You can read about the incident in more detail here.

United’s statement

In a statement given to Matthew Klint over at Live and Let’s Fly, a United spokesperson said the following about the incident:

“To provide the required room for crew members to rest during the flight, we had to reassign two customers who were originally ticketed in Polaris to Premium Plus seats instead. We understand this is frustrating for our customers, and we refunded the price difference for the seats and offered each customer a $1,500 certificate for future travel.”

What’s wrong with this statement

I find this statement pretty unsatisfying because it essentially dodges allegations made in the original TikTok. Namely, it doesn’t address the Schwab’s accusations that United never mentioned compensation or refunds at the time of the downgrade, that nobody at the airport would help her with her complaint, and that the customer service rep in Chicago dishonestly claimed their bags were overweight.

The real issue here is United’s poor communication surrounding the downgrade and how hard the couple had to fight for recompense, and the fact that they eventually received it doesn’t diminish that. That the primary purpose of this statement seems to be pointing out that compensation was eventually given makes me think that United a) misunderstands the complaints made by Schwab, b) doesn’t think the complaints are particularly important, or c) understands the complaints but doesn’t want to take responsibility.

Though it would be refreshing to see United acknowledge their shortcomings and apologize, that’s just not the United we all know and love.

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