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Read some tips for passengers considering legal action against the airline.

March 13, 2013

Aaron Woolfson shares wish us his 2008 Small Claims Court filing against United Airlines for $3000 for an involuntary denied boarding incident. Oddly, even though the law was clearly against the airline, United nevertheless fought this one but still had to pay out a total of $2000. Aaron notes that it cost very little to go to court, apart from his time. And the result was clearly worthwhile.

June 8, 2011

A reader thanks the site for guiding him to the necessary resources for a successful Small Claims action against UAL.

After a long drawn out process, and over 103 days of back and forth, today I received a check for $2103.25 for the lost bag and items that had to be replaced. I had to go to court and have a judgement filed in order to get the check, and I had to set deadlines for them. But if anyone needs to sue United (whether in Oregon or elsewhere), the approach below worked just fine. Thank you for all your help. I'm happy to say I finally got what I deserved.

Details
I went to the Sue the Airlines site, which gave the local name of United in the state of Oregon. From that, I had an in-state address to file the lawsuit. I believe that every state is covered on that site. In order to conduct business in a state, they must have a local contact in which to send correspondence such as this.

I tried 4 separate times to reach someone who could give me closure, and each time I was told someone would call me tomorrow. Finally, I told the person I was talking to (I kept every name I spoke with, time I talked, when I talked, and what our agreed upon course of action would be) that if he did not follow through and have someone in authority call me the next day I would file a lawsuit in small claims court. Obviously, the next day was like every other time and I was blown off once again. So I filed my lawsuit. Because it was over $500.00 I had to pay 85, but that was added into the final amount I received. I also included all the costs of correspondence to United since every letter I sent them was sent registered mail.

Two days after filing a lawyer from United contacted me asking for details, and apologized for the fact that no one had returned my phone calls nor sent me a reimbursement check for the items which were in my bag. (I had received one check for 130, but my claim was for over 2200).

In the conversation I explained politely and firmly that I felt I was being personally insulted by United for sending me a sum that didn't even cover the cost of the bag itself. He assured me that he would find out what was happening and get back to me.

About a week later he called me back, and asked if I would sign an agreement saying I would drop the case in exchange for the remainder of my claim. In order to have a check cut, he would need me to sign this document. I told him I would sign it, but I would not go to the court house until the check was cleared in my bank account.

3 weeks passed, and no check arrived. I called the lawyer and told him again that I had not seen the check, and he promised he would have it cancelled, have a new check sent to him, and he would personally FedEx it to me. A week later I called him and told him that I had not seen any check, and I explained that if I didn't see a tracking number by the COB the next day that I would go to the court and file a default judgement. He asked me to give him till the end of the week, but I firmly, and politely explained that no, I had waited far too long and he had 24 hour to have a check in FedEx's hands on the way to me. He understood. The next day at 4pm, Chicago time I went to my court house and filed a default judgement. At 8pm Chicago time, I had an email with the tracking number. The next day I had the check in my hands.

I learned that I was being pushed around far too much. I could have filed a court case much sooner, and I could have held United's feet to the fire much earlier. Instead my case went 102 days before I saw a check. Every time they blew me off, I told them "If you don't do what you told me you would do, I will go to court". Instead of just threatening to do it, I had to actually follow through. Once I did that, I found an agreeable outcome.

I'm happy to say I received full restitution. I hope I can help others do the same as well.

December 21, 2010

I was on a recent business trip to Korea and my luggage was delayed for about 28 hours by United. I was upset because I was only in Korea for one day (one meeting, actually), and my change of clothes was going to arrive only after the meeting.

United reps at baggage services in Seoul were fairly surly and unhelpful (pretty standard for most airlines these days). But, after speaking to a supervisor I was told to buy what I needed, save the receipts, and submit them to United for reimbursement when I returned. So, I went our at 10 PM in Seoul, bought a cheap shirt that didn't fit, a change of underwear, and some toilertries. Not really how I planned to show up for my meeting, but that's what happens sometimes.

Anyway, I saved all the receipts and came back to the US. I got on United's web site and found that they only have a PO box to send the receipts to. Here at work, we don't have any overnight envelopes for the USPS, plus I don't trust them with my original receipts anyway, so I wanted to use Fedex. But Fedex won't deliver to a PO Box.

So, I called United baggage services and talked to several employees, all of whom claimed that there was no physical address, only a PO box. This culminated with a discussion with Deepak, a supervisor who refused to give his last name, the name of his superior, or anything besides a statement that there was absolutely no physical address to send the claim to.

Ed note: UAL's headquarters is currently situated at 77 West Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL, 60601. Presumably, most high-level contacts, including UAL Legal, can be reached at that address.

I sent in a demand letter, addressed to their legal department, along with the receipts and a copy of my ticket stub. I included details about my previous experiences with their "front line" staff and told them that as a matter of principle I would sue them in small claims court if they didn't honor my claim.

I gave them 10 business days to respond before I filed suit. 10 days was yesterday, and I got a check and an apology letter in the mail last night.

So, here's my take on the situation. United's first-line customer "service" staff is terrible. At least all of the ones I had to deal with (both personally in Korea as well as on the phone). It is simply ridiculous that they wouldn't give me an address to which to Fedex something. This is obviously a corporate decision not to give out the actual address, since I assume that the employees drive to work somewhere and must know where they are located. This is a stupid decision on the part of United-Corporate, since it just escalated what should have been a simple and ordinary customer issue.

So, from that standpoint I think United has some very deep-rooted cultural issues that place customer satisfaction rather lower on their list of priorities than, say, operational efficiency (which is the only reason I can think of why the wouldn't just give out their address).

On the other hand, IF you can somehow manage to penetrate their outer "shield" of stonewalling customer service reps to someone who actually can make a reasonable decision, AND you have a truly legitimate claim (I know there is a lot of debate about what is legitimate), then United can and does act quickly to resolve the issue. So that's good.

Overall, having to waste so much of my time on this leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, but not nearly as much as if I'd actually had to sue them.

I do appreciate this web site, and I think it performs a valuable service if some of the reasonable people in United monitor it and will perhaps address some of the very simple policies that confound and frustrate reasonable passengers. If not, perhaps our collective experiences will at least provide a useful guide to others on how to pursue their claims against the company.

July 13, 2007

Today I was awarded $775.15 in the Burlington, VT small claims court. The original ticket only cost just under $200. United reps lied through their teeth about my flight being cancelled and my bag being lost and porperty missing when it was finally delivered to me days later. Obviously the Judge did not buy into their BS and I am finally being compensated. I think UNTIED.COM is the best thing since sliced bread. Keep up the good work.I cannot stress enough to my fellow passengers: Fight the fight. Do not take United's crap. Go the distance and document everything. The system CAN work for you if you persevere!

May 21, 2007

A ski vacation was partly ruined by United offloading the passengers' skis to make space for commercial cargo. Despite numerous promises, the skis were delivered too late for the couple to enjoy their full vacation. United promised a response within 60 days, but we all know about their promises. Untied.com suggests legal action: according to the DOT, the airline is liable for provable consequential damages up to $3000 per passenger (for domestic flights).

May 2, 2007

One of our readers won a Small Claims action against UAL but the airline wasn't paying up. After the former passenger filed papers threatening to garnish funds from United's corporate bank account, the airline suddenly came up with the cheque.

I have Premier Executive status and fly pretty often on United (as they have the contract with my employer for a number of transatlantic routings that I need to take for business). Last year I had an assignment that had me flying from Washington to Vienna about once every three weeks. As a Premier Executive member, I am supposed to receive double miles from United, as the Premier Executive rules state that Premier Executive members will receive a "100% redeemable mileage bonus when they fly on a paid United flight."

United doesn't actually fly between Washington and Vienna. Rather, they have a code-share with Austrian airlines. However, all of my flights were on a United ticket and all of my flights had a United flight number. From my perspective this should qualify as a "paid United flight." United disagreed. When I asked customer service and Premier Executive Customer Service about it, I was (after being on hold for quite a while) told that these flights were no "paid United flights," and that I would receive no mileage bonus.

I had everything documented (including all of my old United tickets/receipts and boarding passes), so I told them to small claims court for failure to comply with the terms of the Mileage Plus/Premiere Executive Status program. It didn't take that long, and the only tricky thing was figuring out who United's resident representative in my state (Maryland) was, but that was easily obtained from the State of Maryland's Department of Industry/Business. After United was served papers they responded that they would challenge the small claims suit. However on the day of the trial, there was no United representative present, and the judge decided in my favor, and awarded me $4050 ($4020 for the value of the miles I was not given and $30 for court filing fees).

Since then, however, United has failed to comply with the judgment. I have not heard from any one from United about any issues, including plans to pay the judgment (notwithstanding a fax to the Legal Department and a call to customer service). Under Maryland law, I can garnish funds from a United bank account, but I need to know which banks in the United States have United funds. Then the court can order the bank to turn over funds to me.

Ed note: Various readers noted that cheques were drawn from the Wachovia Bank of North Carolina, NA, Winston-Salem, another suggested the Chicago Federal Reserve, and yet another, Chase Bank. Most recently, an anonymous UAL employee indicated that he or she received a cheque from the airline draw from Wells Fargo Bank Ohio, N.A. in Van Wert, Ohio, account number 56-382/412. Many thanks to those who responded to our request for information.

Update -- June 19, 2007

About three weeks after I filed papers with the Maryland Court to garnish funds from United's accounts in Wachovia Bank, I was contacted by a representative of United's Legal Department. She apologized to me for the delay in any response from the airline, and she promised to have the entire amount sent to me within a matter of days. Today, I received a check (send priority overnight) from United for the full amount that was awarded to me by the court. It took a bit of time and energy, but United has now fulfilled its responsibilities to pay me the court-ordered amount.