By Ellen Roseman | 2012/11/30 18:00:00
Jeremy Cooperstock was a University of Toronto student when he flew to Japan on United Airlines in 1996. After experiencing a few minor problems, he wrote a polite letter to the airline’s head office.
His first letter was ignored. His second attracted a boilerplate reply.
Now a McGill University engineering professor, Cooperstock covers his website costs with advertising links and puts in many hours of unpaid time. This week, he’s raising money to fight another legal battle.
Megan McCarthy, an airline spokeswoman, told Star reporter Vanessa Lu that Untied so closely mimics United’s website that it’s led to confusion with some customers.
“Our request is not that the website be shut down, but that it be modified,” she said.
“We actually approached Mr. Cooperstock several times with this request and tried to resolve it by working directly with him. But he declined and that really left us with no option but to seek relief.”
A redesign last year, he admits, did make his site similar to the airline’s site. To avoid confusion, he’s installed a pop-up message to make visitors check a box to say they understand they’re not at the airline’s website.
“This site exists only because of the airline’s outright hostility toward its passengers and many of its employees,” says the pop-up.
Untied.com has 25,000 complaints from passengers and 200 complaints from employees in its archive.
In one case, a customer filed a lawsuit in a Maryland court against United — but referred to his correspondence with Untied.com in the documents.
The traffic is increasing because the airline’s service is deteriorating after the Continental merger, Cooperstock says. Why isn’t United investing in service instead of hiring lawyers to stifle online criticism?
In 2009, Canadian musician Dave Carroll fought the airline with his YouTube sensation, United Breaks Guitars. He didn’t win compensation, but he won the hearts of frustrated consumers around the world.
United may succeed in court, but its reputation will take another beating.