Praise Where It’s Due

United Air Lines Customer Relations
P.O. Box 66100
Chicago, IL 60666

United Air Lines
Terminal Three
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco, CA 94128

RE: Alberto Romero – An Extraordinary Employee

Dear Sir or Madam:

I write today to praise an extraordinary employee of United Airlines, San Francisco ticketing agent Alberto Romero. My wife and I recently flew on United Air Lines on a round trip from our home of Palmdale, California (PMD) to Chicago, Illinois (ORD). The only United hub that services Palmdale is San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

On our return trip on September 24, 2008, the last leg of our trip, from SFO to PMD, was postponed and then cancelled at nearly 11:00 p.m. The agent working at the gate informed us that we could cancel the trip and get a refund so as to allow us to rent a car and drive home, because I had a court appearance the next morning that my client simply could not afford to have me miss. If that did not work out, she said reversing the cancellation would be easy and we could get on the next morning’s flight to Palmdale. Thus advised, we opted to attempt to rent a car and we were issued a “voluntary” refund.

Unfortunately, no one would rent a car to us at the airport and we were left with no alternative but to get back on the next morning’s flight. When we attempted to contact customer service at the airport, we found that the terminal had closed and the ticketing counter shut down for the night, and there was no one on hand to assist us. Calls to United’s 24-hour customer service number informed us that United had in essence washed its hands of us and if we wanted to get on the flight to Palmdale the next morning, we would have to pay over $500 per ticket, for a flight that we had originally purchased for under $80 a ticket. We were also told, contrary to the advice given by the gate agent, that reserving the cancellation was impossible and the only way on the airplane the next morning would be to buy new tickets.

Having no where else to go, we spent a sleepless, frustrated, and uncomfortable night in the ticketing lobby.

When the ticketing counter opened the next morning, we were assisted by San Francisco ticketing agent Alberto Romero. Mr. Romero listened carefully to our story and expressed genuine sympathy for us. He understood that we were contending with a mostly-automated bureaucracy that could not accommodate the situation we had. Most importantly, he obviously cared very much about making the situation right for us.

Mr. Romero spent a long time, despite a long line of other customers who needed help too, searching in the computer for some way to make things right for us. He relied on the rest of his team to assist the other customers. After about fifteen minutes of doing something with the ticketing system, he apparently needed approval from a supervisor. He spoke to her for several minutes, visibly serving as our advocate in a difficult situation. In the end, he obtained whatever authorization it was that he needed, found a way to repurchase the tickets for us for the same amount money that we had originally purchased them, and got us on the first flight home that morning.

I still missed my court appearance, which was a matter of great concern to my client and which I am still in the process of mitigating. I hope you understand that a missed court appearance is not a matter of mere “inconvenience” to your customer and can have broader effects than that. However, I write today not to complain of this but rather to praise your employee Alberto Romero.

It is likely difficult for me to fully appreciate the complexities of United’s ticketing and pricing system. But it is clearly a byzantine process, and Mr. Romero knew how to navigate it. Mr. Romero stood up for his customers and made our problem his own, and did not stop working until he had reached a good solution. Frankly, given the extent of the problems caused by the flight cancellation, I was of a mind to sue United because of the frustration caused by the cancellation, the misrepresentations that were made to us by the gate agent, and the harm caused to my client’s case by virtue of my missed court appearance.

Mr. Romero, however, singlehandedly saved your company from that lawsuit by virtue of his good work and empathy for us as customers. He is to be commended and it is my hope that this letter of unambiguous and warm praise for his assistance to us is noted in his personnel file, and is considered when evaluating him for raises, recognition, or other rewards for excellence within the ranks of your employees.

Mr. Romero went far above and beyond the call of duty and achieved excellence in customer service. His conduct in the early morning hours of September 25, 2008 is a model and example for all of your employees to follow.

You may feel free to contact me about the above if you have any questions.


Transplanted Lawyer

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.