United Airlines to unplug number for complaints


United Airlines is dropping an Indian customer call center that took compliments or complaints after a flight, telling customers to send a letter or e-mail instead.

The nation’s third-largest airline told workers on Tuesday that it would stop publishing its customer relations phone number, which will be turned off altogether at the end of April.

United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said the airline is able to respond better to customers who write, since they often include more detail, making it possible to provide a more specific response.

“We did a lot of research, we looked into it, and people who e-mail or write us are more satisfied with our responses,” she said.

Phone reservations agents in Chicago and Honolulu will be cross-trained to respond to written customer feedback, too. That will keep 165 jobs in those two centers, she said. No changes are planned at United’s third reservation center, in Detroit, which will continue to take phone calls (including after-flight responses) from United’s largest customers.

Urbanski said the rise of Internet booking means it now makes sense to have reservation agents also handle after-flight calls from customers. She said the new arrangement would be “cost-neutral” versus having the calls answered in India.

Shares of United parent UAL Corp. fell 60 cents, or 6.8 percent, to $8.29 on Tuesday on a day when share prices for all the U.S. carriers dropped with the broader market.