Should United reimburse me for my rental car?

Linda Oliver’s flight from Seattle to Denver was delayed by weather, and she missed her connection to Wichita. She had to rent a car from Hertz and drive home.

It’s a seven-hour drive from Denver to Wichita, but that’s not why Oliver is upset. No, she’s ticked off because United offered to pay for her rental car, an offer it then rescinded in writing.

Should I help her get a full refund of the $406 she had to spend, or is this just someone who doesn’t understand the system making assumptions she shouldn’t have?

Let’s take a closer look.

Oliver’s first flight, United 695 from Seattle to Denver, experienced delays related to bad weather on Oct. 2. After missing her connection. Oliver says she waited in a two-hour line.

“We were able to get another gate attendant to get us on a flight to Kansas City, but after two hours, that flight was delayed and then the flight crew was grounded,” she says. “We called
United back and they told us to get back in the customer service line, which had now doubled.”

The line was now about four hours long. Yikes.

“We called United and they said they would cover our car rental from Denver to Wichita,” she says. “They transferred us to Hertz and they concurred that United would cover our car rental.”

OK, time out! A United representative transferred Oliver to Hertz and not one, but two employees confirmed that this was on United.

“United canceled our flight to Kansas City and gave us a refund of around $78 for each ticket,” she says. “I believe our refund should have been to our original destination of Wichita.”

When she returned the car, she asked United for a refund. Here’s what it said:

I am sorry to hear about the difficulties you experienced on October 2,
with your return flights from Seattle to Wichita.

If a flight irregularity prevents you from reaching your destination, our agents will help to arrange alternate transportation for you.

Sometimes an alternative city will have a sooner flight option and we are glad to reroute your ticket for you, as we did when you were rerouted to Kansas City, after missing your Wichita connection.

When we make a change like this, due to a flight delay or cancellation, we take the value of your original ticket and apply it toward the new airport.

We do not calculate or charge a fare difference, it is processed as an even exchange. Therefore, when you received a refund for the unused ticket to Kansas City, it represents a refund of the portion of the airfare from your original ticket, for Denver to Wichita.

I am sorry for the cancellation of that United Express flight to Kansas City, and I regret if the soonest available option for you to get home at that point was to rent a car. We can appreciate that sometime our customers will need to make alternative plans than what we have available; however, United does not reimburse any extra expense this may create.

You should be able to count on us for reliable transportation, and we let you down this time. Although I am unable to reimburse your rental car expense, I would like the opportunity to make things right, and as a goodwill gesture, I have requested a $150 electronic travel certificate for both you and Ms. Oliver. These will arrive together, via an email, within 1-2 business days.

We thank you for your business as MileagePlus members, and we look forward to another opportunity to deliver the experience that you deserve.

Unacceptable. Oliver appealed to United’s executives. Listen to your call center recordings, she urged the airline.
And, predictably, here’s what it said:

Your file has been escalated to my attention. I appreciate having another opportunity to review your case. Let me start by saying your business is very important to us. I truly regret your unresolved disappointment and any negative impression this situation may have left you with.

I truly regret any possible miscommunication or possible misunderstanding. We can empathize with the disappointment you have expressed. I understand that our goodwill offering cannot compensate you for the unpleasant experience throughout this incident.

Nonetheless, the certificates were offered as a token of goodwill and an expression of our regret over what transpired when you traveled with us, and our gratitude for your interest in United Airlines.

I’m sorry we will not be able to meet your expectations at this time. Our continual goal in Customer Care is resolving your concerns by receiving your feedback and sending it on to appropriate channels for review corrective action. This ensures we continually learn from these experiences and grow to become the World’s Leading Airline. With the feedback you provided, we will definitely make strides to reach that goal.

We understand the value of your decision to fly with us and will make every effort to leave a better impression when we have the privilege of serving you again. Please accept my apology and allow us that opportunity.

Thank you for choosing United Airlines.

Nice form letter.

I think United owes it to Oliver to review the recordings. If it promised her a refund on the car, it should do what it said. Doesn’t matter what United’s policy is. Doesn’t matter what the rules say. You do what you say, right?

Then again, what if Oliver, you know, “misremembered” (to quote a famous politician)? Maybe that’s what United is actually saying. Maybe it already reviewed the recordings and made a decision based on what it knows to be true.

Should I take Linda Oliver's case?

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