United Leaves a Woman who is Blind Locked in Plane

May 14, 2010

I was just forwarded this link reporting that Jessica Cabot, a woman from Vancouver who is blind, was left behind and locked inside a United plane upon landing in Chicago. She was accidentally discovered by maintenance workers shortly after.


I’ve heard about this happening before with sleeping passengers implying that the crew failed to perform the final aisle check before leaving themselves. In this case however, someone on the crew would have interacted with the passenger at the start of the flight so, in addition to doing the final check, she was simply forgotten. Understandably this passenger was shaken by the experience and apparently could have been in the plane for much longer than the 10 minutes she was there.

What was United’s response?  They offered a $250 voucher for future travel and apologized for “the delay” in providing her with her escort.  I think the unexceptional monetary offer should have been a little more in-line with the exceptionally poor customer service, but I know the written response was just plain insulting.

This response demonstrates that the priority with United’s damage control policy in customer service failures continues to focus on protecting themselves legally. Their lawyers write carefully worded statements that either fail to take responsibility or they phrase them in such a way as to apologize for the situation but not the fact that they may have caused it.  The response should have been simple:

1)    We dropped the ball on this one

2)    We’re sorry for that

3)    We’re now going to do something that will make your next experience with United extra special (maybe even ask the customer: “what would you deem fair”)

4)    We’ll find out how this happened and will make changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again and we’ll notify you when we put those safeguards into place

When you screw-up admit and make it right.  Don’t call your lawyer and say: “get me out of this will ya?”   When your customer service goes to crap the answer is to admit it, apologize and clean it up, not cover it in varnish and show the world what you did.

People despise being treated like fools more than they despise being inconvenienced and when you treat people like fools, it makes them want to show others who the real fools are.  I’ve been asked a few times why I followed through on making three videos about my experience with United after the first one went viral.  Stories like these make me wonder why I stopped at just three songs and begs the question: “Can Jessica Cabot carry a tune?”

23 replies
  1. Jim says:

    I was wondering if United’s CEO left his mother behind, would he offer her Cab fare and continued on to his club? What is the cost of respect, cab fare?

  2. Patricia says:

    Remember how Captain Sullenburger walked the length of the plane twice before getting off when he landed in the Hudson?

    Here is a new story in the news about United. They left an unattended child, whose parents paid a $100 babysitting fee to the airline, in a waiting room for 8 hours and lied to him that his plane was delayed after they just forgot to put him on his connecting flight.

  3. Katie says:

    United seems to just be entirely inept. We flew for literally a year, many flights, without paying for tickets by taking advantage of United’s inability to use decent seating projections.

    Bought tickets to another country, gave them up for a later flight and a boatload of miles. On the way home, did it again. On no less than 4 later flights, we were able to continue doing this, because they are always oversold, and have a corporate culture built on not caring about decent business practices or customer service.

    A year later, a friend who was flying with a ticket we “bought” using United miles, volunteered for bumping and got her own stash of miles. They apparently just rely on their horrible customer service and completely inept employees to discourage people from flying free on United for years.

  4. Dorsey Hudson says:

    They offered her a $250 voucher. Whoop!

    Assuming she would ever want to fly on United again, a voucher for a round trip ticket to anywhere in the world that United flies would come closer to making amends.

    Vouchers suck anyway; cash talks.

    Is there anywhere UAL flies that a $250 voucher would get you even a oneway ticket?

  5. Bill S. says:

    That’s an interesting story given that I walked off a United flight a few years ago with my video camera under my seat and no sooner did I make it past the gate did I discover this. When I went back, they wouldn’t let me on the plane to get it back and funny enough, they couldn’t find it… or should I say that they did and someone scored!!! They can find a video camera under a seat but they can’t find a woman sleeping in the seat. Interesting!

  6. Cheryl says:

    Not only United but O’Hare where the guitar was broken. Sounds like the United folks based in Chicago need some retraining. If she was supposed to have assistance – who was assigned the job? Nobody apparently. Makes you wonder what would have happened if a 6 year old was left alone on the plane.

  7. Bonnie says:

    I can see one person forgetting her, but the entire crew? Isn’t there more than one attendant on each flight?

    Every flight I’ve ever been on where I was the last to get off, a flight attendant walks up and down the aisle to check on things.

    How in the heck could they not see a full grown adult? I would hope the flight attendants would have the decency to call her and apologize.

  8. Peggy from Porcupine says:

    One would think that after all this negative press and the words of “we will do better” that they would, indeed, do better.

    Our boarder waited over 3 weeks for his luggage to be found – of course no word of apology.

    And that is minor compared with needing help and not getting it.

    I am sure if Jessica Cabot couldn’t sing others would sing her song for her! (Written in a low key I could sing it for her!)

    United – inexcusable.

  9. Steve C says:

    Kudos Dave!

    You may consider contacting her and telling her of your experience(s), then ask her how she feels about the incident and perhaps she would like to take it to the ‘next level’ and a new song may be in the offering. You are like a lightning rod (hero) for so many of us who have been mistreated by companies such as United… a resonant chord is struck and we all cheer when a wrong is made right!

    PS love your music

  10. Maria says:

    Truly awful, yet not surprising. Reminds me of an absolutely awful experience on Carnival Cruise Lines–(aka “Wal-Mart on the Water”). Offered me $100. meal credit for “a future cruise”. Yeah, like I want to do that again. Good thing for the Internet, may not keep ’em honest, but it sure is a good way to spread the word about bad service! Go get ’em Dave 😉

  11. Rita says:

    Amen!!! love Dave’s respond, if this poor girl cannot sing, you could teach her! or maybe she can use what ever talent God has blessed her with. You are a terrific example of doing what is right.

  12. Jessica says:

    There is another problem here. What good would the $250 voucher do if this incident made the woman decide never to fly with United again?

  13. Jessica says:

    This is horrible. It was lucky it was not more then 10 minutes. And still 10 minutes is still really bad. And Dave is right, they should take more responsibility for their actions. What is something bad had happened to this lady while she was locked in the plane? Sheesh. People should learn something from this (and previous situation): DON’T FLY WITH UNITED!

  14. Todd says:

    Untied Airlines [sic] will not improve. It’s not that they can’t, it’s that they won’t. They keep proving, time and time again, that they simply don’t give a sh_t about their customers. Perhaps this is endemic of most publicly held companies who only care about what their share-holders think and the incentives packages and salaries their “C” level and not the customers whose money untimely pays for everything. Several years ago, after a particularly bad experience flying from Dallas to Vienna, I swore I’d walk before I ever flew Untied again and I still haven’t.

  15. Anne Tenaglia says:

    I think you should ask her if she can carry a tune! She might even have ideas for the lyrics. I like what you’re doing DAve.

  16. Becky K says:

    I’m legally blind–still have some sight remaining, but I use a white cane. This experience is pretty unnerving and enough to make me want to take the Greyhound before I used United.

  17. Craig Milton says:


    How hard is it to start from the back washrooms and wander up the isle moving your head from left to right before you reach and check the front washrooms? I can only pray that United has employees with a longer attention span to basic detail in their maintenance/technical departments.

    “Oh, did I remember to fix the cargo latch before they took off?”

    Cummon’ United, you could do so much better than this, why do you keep providing us with ammo?

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