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Since 1997, Untied.com has been gleefully skewering United for the kind of customer service lapses that are part and parcel of flying United (or most other major U.S. airlines). The site has two goals: to alert passengers “to United Airlines’ attitude towards its customers and employees,” and to provide a forum for passengers and employees “to voice their concerns and complaints, in the hopes that United will pay attention and act appropriately to respond to them.”
According to the website, it has collected around 26,000 customer complaints during its time online. Of those, United is known to have responded to 100, only half of which were considered satisfactory. Whatever the facts, that’s a scathing indictment. No wonder United is irritated.
Finally, according to the Chicago Tribune, United’s patience has run out and the airline has filed lawsuits against the website in the Federal Court of Canada and the Superior Court of Quebec. (The case in being brought in Canada because the site’s owner, Jeremy Cooperstock, is a Canadian citizen.) The specific complaints are that the website violates United’s copyright and trademarks, and that it unlawfully disclosed contact information of senior United management personnel.
Although the site does emulate United’s in many respects, including a very United-like logo, it is mimicry clearly undertaken in the name of parody.
No one would mistake Untied.com for United’s website after more than a moment’s perusal. As for publishing manager’s contact information, Cooperstock claims that such disclosure does not violate any right to privacy. Whatever the outcome of the legal action, United is likely to be the loser in this dust-up. In the court of public opinion, Untied.com will be cast as the righteous whistle-blower, standing up for the rights of beleaguered travel consumers; United will be the corporate heavy, intent on keeping its misdeeds out of the public eye.
My money’s on the little guy winning the war, if not the battle.
Reader Reality Check
In your eyes, who wins; who loses?
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