United Airlines is offering passengers affected by the weeklong delays and cancellations 30,000 frequent flyer miles following a bumpy recovery and a string of bad publicity.
“I know this week was hard,” United wrote in an email from Chief Customer Officer Linda Jojo on Saturday to impacted passengers, and obtained by TPG. “Really bad weather, air traffic control issues and some of our own operational challenges led to a rough experience for you and many of our customers.”
Severe thunderstorms spurred widespread travel disruptions last weekend, however, United fared far worse than the other U.S. airlines, as it led in cancellations and delays in the days following the inclement weather.
As a result of the thousands of cancellations and delays United reported within the week, thousands of travelers were left stranded in airports across the country, scrambling for backup flights ahead of July 4, reported to be one of the busiest travel weekends on record.
According to United, the email was sent to customers with trips between June 24-30, and who were delayed overnight or had their flights canceled.
United told TPG via email, “Customers will get a follow-up email later next week with simple steps to automatically add 30,000 miles to their account (existing MileagePlus members will have one path, non-MP members will be given instructions on how to sign up and receive their miles).”
United initially blamed the Federal Aviation Administration for the disruptions, but the carrier also faced staffing issues, with its chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA reporting long wait times for scheduling.
To add fuel to the fire, Kirby also chartered a private jet from Teterboro Airport to Denver as the Chicago-based carrier struggled to restore its operations. United said it did not pay for Kirby’s flight.
Kirby apologized for flying on a private jet as United faced operational woes in a memo sent to staff.
“Taking a private jet was the wrong decision because it was insensitive to our customers waiting to get home,” he wrote.
As of Saturday afternoon, United seemed to be on the road to recovery, tallying 523 delays and 56 cancellations, according to FlightAware. Still, 19% of its flights on Saturday were delayed as of 4:48 p.m. ET with most of those delays again coming from its Newark hub.
“Providing these miles is the right thing to do,” Kirby wrote in the email to passengers. “After all, you put your trust in us and expect more.” Customers will receive a follow-up email with how to claim the miles.
United told TPG, “This gesture is in addition to the many other ways we’ve been helping our customers whose travel has been impacted this week, including things like: providing vouchers for hotels and meals, offering amenity carts with snacks and beverages, and giving customers future travel credits and miles.”
Interestingly, United does not suggest it would reimburse all affected customers for costs incurred during the meltdown as Southwest did after a similar mess during Christmas.
“This has been one of the most operationally challenging weeks I’ve experienced in my entire career,” Kirby wrote to employees in a memo first reported by CNBC.
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