Travel marketing mystery: How United Airlines won a fare war but lost a customer.

My wife and I recently booked a ticket on United Airlines to Minneapolis.

We were on our way to visit our youngest son, a college student in Minnesota.

I usually fly Frontier or Southwest to Minneapolis.

I like the feeling of fun and freedom both airlines give me. Besides, their prices are the cheapest when I book early.

This time I went with United because they undercut my favorite airlines on the last minute fare.

With only a couple weeks left until our trip, I paid twice the normal amount for my ticket that I can usually get it for when I book a month or two out.

I was not too happy with their price, but I had to hand it to them for winning this battle of the premium fare wars.

They also offered 3 more flights to choose from that day, which did sweeten their deal for me.

All went smoothly until it was time to board the plane.

When it came time to load my trusty Victorinox carry on luggage–a bag designed to be squeezed into any overhead compartment–it wouldn’t fit.

After watching me struggle for a couple of minutes, the stewardess came over and corrected me.

Stewardess: “Next time please bring a smaller piece of luggage.”

Me: “But I’ve used this bag for years.”

Stewardess: “Your bag is too big.”

Me: “I think your overhead compartment is too small.”

Stewardess: “No, your bag is too big.”

Before I could get a head of steam on my anger, my wife told me I was starting to embarrass her.

So I retreated to my assigned seat, and spent the rest of the flight smoldering from the injustice of it all.

After we landed, I did a little research. Turns out United was flying an Embraer 170 that day.

According to Seat Guru this compact Brazilian-built jetliner has full-size overhead bins on the right side of the cabin, but the left-hand side overhead compartments are too small to fit a regular-sized carry on.

It’s been awhile since this happened, and I have avoided United with a vengeance.

As I look back on my experience United won the fare war, and the argument that day, but lost a customer. For life.

Incidentally, the Customer Service Scoreboard ranks United #330 of 550 companies that have been rated by their visitors, with an overall score of 33 out of a possible 200.

Looks like I’m not the only traveler they’ve disappointed.


2 Responses to Travel marketing mystery: How United Airlines won a fare war but lost a customer.

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