Monk Loses Temper w/ United Customer Service…4+ Hours on Phone & No Resolution

“Today I spent almost four hours on the phone with United customer service and have spoken with three supervisors. At one point, we were told by a supervisor, Mark, that United had indeed erred and that he would rebook the flight for January 6 at no charge to us; however, we never received the promised itinerary via email, and when we called United to follow up on it, United denied that this conversation took place. They refused to honor the agreement.”

It seems like even daily prayer and contemplation can’t prevent extreme frustration when dealing with United’s customer service team. Brother Noah of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in New Mexico says he failed to stay peaceful while dealing with United Airlines on the phone. The New York Times reports that:

In late November, Brother Noah’s friend at the monastery, Brother John Baptist, flew to Malawi in southeastern Africa to see his sick mother on a $2,489 round-trip ticket, paid for by the monastery. After arriving, Brother John Baptist realized he needed to extend his trip several weeks, so Brother Noah called on Dec. 10 to reschedule the return flight. But United said the original purchase was fraudulent even though his friend already used half of the ticket. A United representative reportedly suggested that the monastery’s leader could drive three hours away to a United desk in Albuquerque to work everything out. Then he spoke to a supervisor, identified as Mark, but the issue was not sorted out. “Everything became our fault. There was no evidence that Brother John Baptist had been placed on a new return flight,” Brother Noah told the Times. “No record of the conversation with Mark. I really struggled to remain calm and charitable. My monastic life is about staying peaceful in all circumstances. I failed during this call.”

To set everything straight, the monastery posted an open letter on its website outlining the experience and asking for help which finally resulted in an apology from United and a $350 travel voucher.

Dear Friends of the Monastery,

Blessings to you! Christ in the Desert is having some difficulties with United Airlines. Perhaps someone reading this will know a way to help. I am sending this to everyone on my Notebook list in the hope that someone might be able to forward this letter to someone who might actually help me get through this difficulty.

Our Monastery booked travel for Brother John Baptist on November 4, 2014, through the United Airlines website, so that he could visit his family in Malawi. He was scheduled to depart on November 25 and to return on December 19. The ticket cost $2,489.02 – a lot of money for the Monastery.

We decided to extend Br. John Baptist’s stay in Malawi because his mother is ill and she needs help. I called to change the ticket on December 10. At that time, I learned that United had canceled Br. John Baptist’s return flight, after United’s Credit Management Division raised concerns about credit card fraud. United provided no notice of this decision to anyone, and we only found out about it when we called to change the date of the return.

United refused to rebook this flight via phone for two reasons. One, United suspects that the transaction to purchase the ticket was fraudulent. But it was not. The credit card belongs to the Monastery, and I made the reservation personally. In any case, canceling a return ticket without notice and stranding a passenger abroad is not a reasonable first step to resolve concerns about possible fraud. Two, United said they never received payment for the ticket. But we checked our credit card records, and United’s claim was completely false: we paid United on November 4.

Today I spent almost four hours on the phone with United customer service and have spoken with three supervisors. At one point, we were told by a supervisor, Mark, that United had indeed erred and that he would rebook the flight for January 6 at no charge to us; however, we never received the promised itinerary via email, and when we called United to follow up on it, United denied that this conversation took place. They refused to honor the agreement.

To summarize, United Airlines canceled a brother’s return ticket while he was in a foreign country without notifying us. United has failed to justify this decision. Most distressingly, United has done nothing to help us return our brother to the United States. The airline’s conduct is clearly not acceptable, but most of us customers are completely powerless in the face of such unacceptable actions.

So I thought of the internet and of asking people on my list to read this and, if possible, forward it to someone who might have a possible solution or to someone who works at a high enough level for United Airlines to have some effect. I am calling this my small experiment with the social media of today, to see if it can truly have an effect.

Please help, if you can. Love and prayers to you!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Abiquiu, NM 87510

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