The gaffe might more charitably be chalked up to a "clerical error" were it not for United repeatedly demonstrating its lack of understanding of what constitutes good customers service.
Here's the letter as originally posted anonymously on Reddit.com.
Dear Mrs. (name redacted)
Thank you for letting us know about your recent experience with United Airlines. I apologize if our service did not meet your expectation, and appreciate you taking time to share your concerns.
Our goal is to provide a consistently reliable product and an exemplary level of customer service. Based on the events you describe, we did not meet this goal. Your comments regarding (SPECIFIC EVENT) will be used for coaching and training our employees.
To encourage you to fly with us again and as a tangible means of acknowledging your disappointment, enclosed is (SPECIFIC ITEM).
(CUSTOMER NAME), I ask that you allow us another opportunity to serve you, as we consider it our privilege to have you aboard.
Customer Care Manager
United's cavalier attitude toward customer service has irked a great many travelers, including a professional musician whose expensive guitar was broken by baggage handlers and for which United refused to take responsibility. That lead to the creation of the video, "United Breaks Guitars," which quickly went viral.
The airline has also pissed off other passengers.
"I know from my own personal experience with United customer service that their email replies are extremely generic and rarely address the actual concerns noted in my correspondence," wrote a blogger for BoardingArea.com. "On more than one occasion, I’ve responded back asking if they actually read my email or simply sent me a generic response with my name filled in."
I've also blogged about situations in which United charged me more but gave me less. Read that post here.
One reader of this blog took the time to excoriate United for its response to TheTravelPro's inquiry about the reduction in the number of airline club locations available following US Airways' merger with American (NYSE:AAL). Read the post and the comment here.
What I said at the conclusion of that post bears repeating.
United would do well to heed the words of its own CEO. During the company’s 3Q13 earnings call on Nov. 13, 2013, Jeff Smisek said, "The only way you can differentiate yourselves is through excellent customer service."
Again I say: This isn’t it.
Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.