Q: I recently flew from Seattle to Wichita, Kansas, on United Airlines, with a stopover in Denver. My first flight was delayed, which caused me to miss my connection in Denver.
I called United, and a representative offered me two options: I could stay overnight and fly home the next evening at 5:30 p.m., or I could rent a car, and United would reimburse me.
I asked for a confirmation number or an email in regard to this promise, and the agent reassured me that it was not necessary. She transferred me directly to Hertz to make the arrangements, and said that all I needed to do was fax the car rental expense to United and I would be reimbursed.
I decided to rent a car and drive home. When I sent United my bill, the company refused to pay it, saying that it’s very sorry, but it’s not United’s policy to reimburse for car rental expenses. Can you help me convince United to do the right thing?
A: If United promised that it would refund your car rental, it should have refunded the rental — regardless of its policy.
According to Rule 24, Section E of United’s contract of carriage, it may, at its sole discretion, arrange for you to travel on another carrier. “United may also, at its sole discretion, and if acceptable to the passenger, arrange for the passenger to travel via ground transportation.”
If United promised that it would refund your car rental, it should have refunded the rental — regardless of its policy.
You followed all the correct steps, first by emailing your bill to United through its site, and then appealing its decision to one of United’s executive contacts, which I list on my website: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/united. Unfortunately, that didn’t work, either.
United is trying harder to fix its badly damaged relationship with customers, and this would have been an excellent opportunity to deliver on a promise. I’m disappointed that it didn’t come through for you.
For future reference, it’s very unusual for an airline to pay for alternate transportation, although it’s not unprecedented. These assurances had been given to you in a phone conversation, and as you probably know, these calls are recorded for “quality assurance purposes.” All United needed to do was review the recordings, and it could figure out what was said.
I contacted United on your behalf and urged it to review its records. United cut you a check for the car rental bill.