Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In
Latest News: Member News

Overbooking and Doing What's Right

Wednesday, April 4, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Phil Symchych
Share |

The following is a letter sent by Phil Symchych, CMC to Mr. Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Continental Holdings, regarding United’s overbooking actions that stranded Phil in Denver for 24 hours.

Mr. Jeff Smisek

President and Chief Executive Officer

United Continental Holdings

Dear Mr. Smisek,

Congratulations on being voted the most admired airline by Fortune magazine. That is a significant accomplishment in a highly competitive industry. Source: Your employees, especially the pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and baggage handlers deserve this award. I’m not so sure, however, about the executive suite.

You see, your award-winning airline stranded me in Denver for an entire day. There may be a lack of alignment between your corporate mantras and customer experience.

Your website states, "As a company, we realize that the actions we take and decisions we make matter. Learn about our sense of responsibility and commitment for doing what’s right.” Source:,6998,1276,00.html You may want to change the wording order: people make decisions first and those decisions guide their actions.

Here is what I’m mad about. I recently flew from Cleveland to Denver to Regina, Canada. My Denver to Regina seat was not assigned so I approached the gate in Denver. Donna, the friendly gate agent, advised "The flight is oversold by seven people and you are number four on the waiting list.”

"That’s not good. I had a first class ticket from Cleveland to Denver. And I’m bumped? Does this happen often?” I inquired.

"It’s been going on for 20 years and it’s especially bad around spring break,” she said, almost empathetically.

Dejected, I sat and watched my plane leave for Regina, without me.

It’s possible to rationalize that overbooking is a standard industry practice and helps to maximize revenues and share price. I don’t care.

You see, your company flew me, intentionally, into a no win situation. Had I been informed of the situation in Cleveland, I may have mitigated my problem. For example, I could have flown to Chicago or Toronto and, most likely, been home on the same day.

However, due to your overbooking practices, lack of proactive communication, and failing to do what’s right, I was delayed an entire 24 hours in Denver.

The decisions your company made and the actions your company took (and didn’t take) showed disrespect and caused inconvenience and stress for your involuntarily stranded passengers, their families, friends and clients.

You know, the hint that your strategy may be flawed is when you need a permanent sign explaining it.

The involuntary compensation of a $400 travel voucher, for a 24-hour delay, works out to $16.67 per hour. When was the last time you were happy with $16.67 per hour?

How does overbooking align with doing what’s right? It doesn’t.

Here is some consulting advice: make decisions and take actions that are in the best interests of your customers. And, stop intentionally stranding your passengers. That advice is worth more than $400.

Mr. Smisek, I ask you to practice what you preach and do what’s right for your customer.

Yours truly,

Phil Symchych

In conclusion, Phil sent the letter to Mr. Smisek through United’s website and is awaiting a reply. There are consulting opportunities to help all businesses improve their customer service, retention and experience.

Copyright 2012. Phil Symchych. All rights reserved. Phil Symchych CMC, is the president and founder of Symco & Co. Management Consultants that provides strategic and financial advice to high growth organizations. Phil is a chartered accountant and certified management consultant who accelerates profitable growth and mentors entrepreneurs, solo consultants and accountants. 306-569-9111