Wow, I just got denied a Skykit for the first time ever.

Oh joy, some days in the “friendly skies” are a real hoot, like this morning’s TPA to IAD flight. I get onboard and the audio works fine. Channel 9 is even on, so I figured it would be a good flight. Well, we take off and voila, the audio doesn’t work, except for channel one. The only thing on channel one is the audio for the video programming, which I’ve already seen three times this month.

I bring this to the attention of one of the flight attendants, who brings it to the attention of the purser. The flight attendant tells me I should be happy that the video is working. Sheesh. I ask this flight attendant if I could get a Skykit form (which, for those you that don’t know, are given out when there are onboard issues), and she comments “I don’t think we give them out for audio.”

A few minutes later the purser comes to my seat and says “Are you the one that wanted the voucher?” I said “Well, my audio isn’t working and I’ve seen this exact video three times this month. I was looking forward to listening to Channel 9 and music.” She says “No, your audio is working. It’s just your music that doesn’t work.” Totally puzzled I gave her a “WTF?” look, and again explained to her that I had already seen that exact video a few times this month, and that it’s the other channels I’m interested in. She just tells me “Too bad, we only give those out when the video and audio are broken, but your audio and video work fine.” She then walks away, before I can even respond.

Filed Under: United
  1. …these days i never cease to be amazed at just how bad customer service can be. I guess with million year old aircraft, United is getting stingier about giving out skykits when something is broken. I expect this to get worse.

  2. It does sound like you got RejecTED in an unfriendly way, but I don’t think this is an issue that warrants much if any compensation. I don’t know how SkyKits work in terms of amount of compensation offered. I am guessing that she felt there was no real option for “channel missing” and that “audio out” would be grossly exaggerating the situation.

    Can you really claim that much outrage? Wasn’t everyone on the plane only receiving only Channel 1? Only Ch. 9 (and maybe Ch. 1 on occasion) are critical to me. The other channels existence seems to be equipment dependent.

    We all know that Ch. 9 is at the pilot’s discretion (for better or for worse) so, can we really expect compensation when our favorite channel isn’t available?

    I would call this “poor service”, but if that warranted compensation, they would just place a SkyKit on every seat of the aircraft before you boarded, as everyone can find reasons to claim poor service.

    That being said, I enjoy reading about your posts, and your general effort to “test the system” and report on this great blog about you ongoing experiments.

  3. If only one channel is working, is “audio out” really “grossly exaggerating”? It’s a lot closer to being out than to being fully functional, no?

    Seems like the right way to police it is to tie the compensation to the event (i.e. don’t give much, or perhaps even anything, for this comparatively minor annoyance), not to pretend that manifestly malfunctioning systems are “perfectly fine.”

  4. Sorry, you know I am normally a big fan, but I fail to see this as an item that warrants compensation. There was no excuse for the way that the in-flight crew handled the situation, but I just don’t see this as a big issue, especially one that warrants compensation.

  5. Normal compensation? No. But perhaps an aplog letter for the tone of the FA would be in order? Lucky is very good at praising those who do well so I think he should email 1kvoice to at least comment about the attitude he encountered…

  6. I had an even weirder situation on my DEN-SFO on Monday night… pre-departure, Ch. 9 had static, and then once we took off, it became clear that it was tuned to an AM radio station, with some talk show (I assume the previous flight had been listening to the NCAA basketball final, which had ended by this point)… when the captain gave his intro, he mentioned that Ch. 9 would be available, so I flipped back to that channel and heard both the talk radio show AND the ATC communications on the same channel.

    I mentioned this to FA a few minutes later, and after explaining for a couple minutes what I meant… she called the flight deck and they said they turned off the AM radio, but nonetheless, both were still active. I shrugged and tried to listen to the ATC over the other programming.

    Then, 10 minutes after that, Channel 9 switched to the XM Kids channel, where it remained for the rest of the flight. 🙁

    I didn’t even think of asking for a skykit because, frankly, Channel 9 is at the pilot’s discretion, and I really didn’t care all that much anyway, as I had my laptop to watch movies.

    I also had a flight last month where Channel 9 could be heard the entire time, even during the safety briefing and PA announcements. That was actually pretty cool… I guess the system that pumps the ATC into the IFE is more than a simple “on/off” toggle… it must have as many buttons and inputs as my a/v receiver at home. 🙂

  7. For those of you not familiar with Skykits, I’d like to clarify a point. There are several boxes to “tick” when “redeeming” a skykit, and audio, video, reading light, etc., are all on that list. Does it seem like any of those should in and of themselves warrant compensation? Who knows. Still, I don’t make the rules, I just follow them, and United makes it clear that “audio” is a reason for receiving a Skykit.

    For me it goes beyond what should warrant compensation or not. The fact is that UA management continues to not maintain the interiors of their cabins, which I think is ridiculous. If you advertise “gate-to-gate audio,” then I expect gate-to-gate audio.

  8. I had a recent experience dealing with customer relations due to an issue with an onboard amenity. She commented if we kept giving money out for all the problems onboard then we’d be giving out thousands and thousands of dollars each day. My response was someone needs to be held accountable whether it’s catering for wrong meals, maintenance for non-functioning IFE or information technology for the website not working. If the money that CR was giving out was billed back directly to these departments then I’m sure they’d make sure that their area of responsibility would be up to high standards. I’m sure the various departments at UA have their own budgets to meet each quarter and they should be penalized if they don’t do their jobs. Yes maintenance can save over $xxx million by cutting back on preventative maintenance, but they better expect problems to happen as a result of cutting back. I can’t speak of all professions, but I’m sure most of you are held accountable at work for getting the desired results. I know I am. The many divisions that make up United shouldn’t be any different.

  9. No I agree with lucky, we’re paying for the flights, United states gate to gate audio as part of their CoC and since Ch 1 is turned off 15m before landing, there is no audio then from that time on… Now that is being petty, BUT we pay for these flights, as a 1K myself, I’m sick of paying for things that don’t work. Sure I’m paying to get where I’m going, but if I wanted to fly Southwest I would, I’m flying UA for the other parts and a skykit is definitely not out of line.

    UA just can’t seem to get its collective act together. Flight from ORD-HKG the other day and in business and the entire cabin, the overhead lights didn’t work, nor did the call attendant buttons for that matter, it’s ridiculous how crappy their planes are.

  10. When audio does not work on a number of channels, this means the IFE is inoperable, regarless of whether the video works. The proper thing to do is to issue a SkyKit.

  11. I was curious about “gate to gate” audio as none of my flights last week had it. The audio system and channel 9 were both off till the video system was started and they were turned off at the same time as the video as a prep for landing.. All four flights.. As I don’t travel as much as you guys (not “lucky” enough? 😉 ) I thought that this was new SOP.. Hate to hear that if it was as I love listening to channel 9 during takeoff and landing..

  12. Lucky, what did you pay for the flight, and what would you consider fair compensation (in dollars) for the broken/missing audio channels?

  13. @ Oliver — I’d prefer not to get into how much I paid for the flight, as I think it’s irrelevant. United is *very* clear about what they think is appropriate compensation, which comes in the form of a skykit, given that “audio issues” is an option when redeeming a skykit online. What I think is fair compensation doesn’t matter, since the compensation system at United isn’t ebay. Frankly I’d be happy with a lot less than they offer, but I feel that they should still be held accountable when they can’t deliver something they promise. They advertise “gate-to-gate audio,” so I expect them to have it, no matter how much I paid for my ticket.

    Out of curiosity, Oliver, what do you think? Should I get nothing for audio being broken when I was going to listen to it “gate-to-gate,” or what’s reasonable compensation?

  14. RE: “Wow, I just got denied a Skykit for the first time ever.”

    Don’t forget Judy denying you a skykit for the broken tray table! 😉

    I agree completely with your comments above.

  15. @Lucky — I think reasonable compensation is in order, but what UA is or has traditionally offered (and what many people now expect) isn’t. Now there’s certainly blame in that sentence that goes to UA. 🙂 If I bought a $150 ticket, I ptresumably bought it primarily for transportation, not to listen to XM radio. The same $150 on a competing airline such as WN or NWA might have led to an aircraft that doesn’t have any IFE to begin with. But as you said, it’s a feature UA offers/advertises, so it should work. But the “penalty” for it not working shouldn’t be excessive. On $150 ticket, a $10 off voucher would seem reasonable to me. And personally I would demand nothing if I hadn’t been inconvenienced (I generally carry an MP3 player onto the plane and don’t like most of the audio channels anyway, so they’d be no loss to me).

  16. FWIW,
    The audio screen wouldn’t deploy on my SFO-IAD flight yesterday and rows 10 and 11 on the right side got sky kits. After giving them, they told those of us sitting in those rows, we could move to another seat to watch the film. I was like lucky, it’s my third flight this month and I’m tired of seeing the same “Big Bang Theory” and other repeats.

  17. On 6 segments last month, I saw the same episode of Everybody Hates Chris (the one where he listens to Redd Foxx and George Carlin) 5 times. Sadly, that did not warrant a skykit. I do love Ch 4 on the Airbuses, though.

  18. I failed to mention that Ch 4 was playing Christmas music one time. It was kinda nice listening to Greensleeves and Hark the Herald Angels Sing in March.

  19. Sitting in the new reconfigured C from ORD-LHR a few weeks ago, my personal entertainment system had locked up. I mentioned it to the crew before we left the gate, but they said they couldn’t do anything until after take-off. After take-off, I asked two or three more times before one of the FA’s finally rebooted my system. So, I ended up having to stare at the ceiling for the first 30 minutes or so. I asked for a Skykit for the inconvenience, but the FA just looked at me like I was crazy. I was torn on whether or not I was justified. What do you guys think? Was I just being a snob?

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