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article imageUnited Airlines: Monk upset after customer service makes mistake

By Megan Hamilton     Jan 5, 2015 in Odd News
Abiquiu - It takes a lot to rattle a monk, but somehow, staff at United Airlines managed to do it.
Brother Noah of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, located in New Mexico, is the monk in question.
The story begins when Brother John Baptist, of the aforementioned monastery, took a flight in late November to Malawi to visit his sick mother. He flew on a round-trip ticket purchased by the monastery for $2,489. Some of his travel would be on another carrier, but United sold the ticket, The Haggler reports, in a column published by the New York Times.
It wasn't long after he arrived that he realized that he would need to stay longer. The monastery called the airline to reschedule his return trip, extending his stay for a few weeks.
That's when things got interesting. Brother Noah called United and said he was told that the company hadn't received payment for the ticket. Since Brother John Baptist had already used the outbound portion of his itinerary, this sounded nutty. To add further fat to the fire, a rep for United said something rather contradictory — Brother John actually had credit for his return flight, but couldn't use it because of the suspicion that the original transaction was fraudulent.
So then the rep suggested that Abbot Philip, the monastery's leader, visit the United desk at the airport in Albuquerque, a three-hour drive from the monastery, the Times reports.
Brother Noah said he would rather speak to a supervisor.
"I spoke to a Mark," Brother Noah told the Times. "He took full responsibility and said that he was reissuing the ticket. He said we'd receive it via email."
So that should have solved the problem, right?
"We waited two hours. It never came."
"Everything became our fault. There was no evidence that Brother John Baptist had been placed on a new return flight," Brother Noah said, per Yahoo! News. "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."
"I said to her something like: 'Thank you for speaking. God bless you. I will pray for you. But you have not been helpful.'"
This didn't sound like much of an outburst, the columnist for the Times said. It was the tone of his voice that manifested anger, Brother Noah said.
The good Brother called again and gave customer service the original confirmation number, passenger name and whatever else they needed. But the rep couldn't find it. Once again, he asked for a supervisor, per the Times.
That's when Abbott Philip stepped in, posting an open letter on the monastery's website.
"The credit card belongs to the Monastery, and I made the reservation personally," he wrote. "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."
So the faithful got busy, with dozens of people responding to the post, and someone forwarded it to the Haggler. Another person connected the monastery to someone with clout at United and Brother John Baptist's ticket was reinstated.
So what went wrong?
Another rep, this time in corporate customer care, told Brother Noah that United had hired a fraud detection company.
"They got a bit overzealous," the person told the good Brother. "I can't even say what I want to say about it. It has gone up the chain. One of our senior V.P.s was involved and knew about it. I don't think they'll be making this mistake again."
At the end of the kerfuffle, United personnel was contrite and offered an apology along with the return flight, and a $350 credit toward future trips.
So perhaps United has learned a vital lesson from this ridiculous episode: It's not a good idea to make a monk angry.
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