You've surely been one of those passengers.

At least once.

You get on a plane and the Wi-Fi isn't working. Or, perhaps, you get on a plane which you were told by the airline was equipped with Wi-Fi. And it isn't.

What can you do? Other than ask for compensation, that is.

Here's the problem when you're flying United Airlines, Flight Attendants tell me.

It used to be that the Federal Aviation Administration insisted that printed inflight manuals had to be on every flight. 

Then the airline went digital.

So it equipped its Flight Attendants with something known as a UA Link. This you'd know as an iPhone 8 that has all the required information on it.

Which is wonderful and modern. But, as one United Flight Attendant told me, there's a tiny drawback: 

Everything in the paper manual is now in the Link. But when the Wi-Fi on the flight isn't working or there's no WiFi when there were supposed to be, we can't offer the customer compensation.

I was intrigued, but wasn't quite sure I followed. So the Flight Attendant explained: 

The UA Link includes Customer Resolution, which gives the Flight Attendants choices of what predetermined compensation to passengers is applicable in any given situation. For example, if there's no WiFi.

OK. But, oh, I think I'm getting there. The Flight Attendant then offered the punchline: 

We can't access the Customer Resolution without Wi-Fi.

This, I understand, causes some disruption among passengers, as well as among Flight Attendants.

On a recent United flight, a Boeing 757 was advertised by United to have Wi-Fi, but didn't. 

Ergo, Flight Attendants couldn't offer passengers compensation. 

In this case, however, the purser wanted to do the right thing by the passengers, so they asked the captain if they could offer something concrete. 

Sadly the captain, I'm told, replied that this wasn't a United Airlines problem, but "a server problem."

I asked United for its view and will update, should I hear.

You might be concerned that, if the Wi-Fi doesn't work, Flight Attendants can't even access the emergency procedures on their corporate iPhones. This isn't the case. That can be accessed any time. Unless your phone battery's dead, of course.

This is merely, perhaps, just one of the slight teething problems when companies move from paper to digital.

Some might still wonder, however, whether the corporate phones are insured.

The answer: Only if the Flight Attendant pays for it.

This week sees the United Flight Attendants holding a Day of Action -- on December 13

I just thought I'd mention that.

Published on: Dec 9, 2018
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