Pushing back – Improper airline compensation

Last Sunday I got myself ready for my early flight out of Tampa and into Houston. I needed to be in Dallas that evening, but needed to stop by Houston to take care of some personal matters. The early 9:00 a.m. departure, along with the 1 hour time difference, although away from my family for the day, would give me plenty of time in Houston, where I would later rent car and drive the rest of the way. I had reserved the United nonstop to Houston at saver space (12,500 miles one-way) and a one-way $80 car rental, much better deal than the almost $300 for a paid flight all the way to DFW.

Once we were ready to go, we pushed back, and we waited. And then waited, and waited some more. Finally after a while, the captain announced there was a “minor” mechanical issue they were troubleshooting, which to make a long story short, made for a return to the gate, waiting around, then waiting another hour after boarding, and an eventual almost 5-hour delay.

Ground delay was longer than this view

Ground delay was longer than this view

While I understand safety is the number one priority, this delay completely derailed my day. Instead of rolling into Dallas at 6pm with plenty of time for an early Monday morning meeting, I got into my hotel at midnight. During the flight, flight attendants prompted us to go to the United customer service site to apply for compensation, which I eventually got around to do. My offer was either 2,500 United miles or a $50 voucher for future use. While I appreciate the airline making an effort as a gesture of goodwill, I found the 2,500 miles offer to be insufficient for all the trouble, and quite frankly borderline insulting, so I wrote them back and told them I expected better compensation for such a long delay and wrecking of my day’s plans.

After a few days United eventually got around to respond, and instead offered me 5,000 miles, which they deposited right away into my account. Now, I still believe the offer was inadequate, but given I have no status with United (which influences the amount of compensation and overall treatment) and due to lack of time, I decided to call it a day and move on. Yet, an additional 2,500 miles for taking a few minutes to write a note to United seemed worthy of my time.


This may be stating the obvious, but if you ever experience interruptions or poor customer service either at a hotel or with an airline and you are offered compensation, but you feel like such compensation is inadequate, don’t feel like you just have to take what they offer you. Take a few minutes to write them a note or tweet them a message and let them know you don’t believe the offer is adequate, and they might make a second attempt to make it right. The worst that can happen is that they say no.

Have you ever experienced a delay long enough that you received what you felt was improper compensation? If so, how did you handle the situation, and were you successful in receiving additional compensation?

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