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Bedbug attack and letter gaffe perplex United Airlines

August 5, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59An army of bedbugs have invaded the headquarters of United Airlines on the 16th floor of Chicago’s landmark Willis Tower. The airline already has enough trouble on its hands after one of its staff inadvertently sent a dissatisfied customer a generic template letter of apology, without bothering to fill in details like the customer’s name.

Willis Tower (better known by its former name, Sears Tower) was visited earlier this year by delegates to the US Travel Association’s IPW travel mart, held in Chicago. (Like Sears Tower, IPW has changed its name – the show used to be called Pow Wow.)

Willis Tower, under its former name, was once the tallest building in the world. Now, Chicago television station WGN reports that bedbugs have swarmed into the skyscraper’s 16th storey and are bugging United employees.

United Airlines generic

There is no suggestion bedbugs have boarded any of United’s planes, though the parasitic insects occasionally infest aircraft and have no brand loyalty.

“Employees are complaining that they’ve been told very little about the infestation which is believed to be contained to an area on that floor,” WGN said in its report last week, relayed by USA Today.

United has confirmed bedbugs are present and says it is working to fix the problem.


“We did identify an isolated issue in a small group of cubicles and immediately brought in exterminators to do a full remediation,” United spokesman Charles Hobart says in a statement to Today in the Sky. “We continue to bring in exterminators on site to ensure eradication.”

Bedbugs (sometimes known as bed bugs or bed-bugs, depending on your taste in punctuation) are parasitic insects of the cimicid family that feed exclusively on blood and cause an itchy rash. The common variety, Cimex lectularius, prefers to feed on human blood although other types of Cimex prey on the blood of specific animals.

USA Today points out that United has plenty to contend with, without bedbugs. Since the airline merged with Continental in 2010, “the company has been hit with several operations challenges and has dropped in most airline quality and customer-service ratings”.

Financially, United has been one of the USA’s least-profitable airlines during the past two years. It is itching to boost profits.

In the meantime, United’s PR people are trying to deal with negative publicity on FlyerTalk, a large online travel community, that followed a United employee sending a customer a generic letter of apology, completely unedited, without filling in specifics like the customer’s name (see above).

Written by : Peter Needham

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