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Bicyclist uses Facebook to bash United over fee.
Take action. If you are on facebook, join in.
By Hugo Martin, Tribune Newspapers
March 6, 2010
United Airlines' image took a beating last summer when Canadian musician Dave Carroll posted a music video on YouTube.com about how United baggage handlers broke his guitar while he was on a stopover at O'Hare International Airport.
United representatives later met with Carroll to make peace, but the damage was done. The video went viral and has been seen nearly 8 million times.
Now United is getting bashed again on the Internet, this time by Joe Lotus, a Chicago lawyer and bicyclist who launched a Facebook page that blasts the airline for charging $175 one way to check a bicycle, up from $85. Fees have been creeping up as airlines face financial pressure.
Lotus started the site (United Airlines is Ridiculous to Charge $175 Each Way to Travel With a Bike) on Feb. 10. Despite the lengthy name, it already has more than 5,000 members.
In contrast, the Facebook page launched by United Airlines has fewer than 2,000 members.
Lotus, who competes in triathlons, said he created the Facebook page after he realized that taking his bike along would cost him an extra $350 for a round trip on United. Meanwhile, airlines such as Southwest and JetBlue, typically charge only $50 each way to check a bicycle.
But Lotus is not some frustrated economy-class whiner. He is a United Red Carpet Club member who has flown so much on United that he earned the premier executive status four years in a row.
"More often than not, the bike fare costs more than my airfare," he said.
United, Lotus points out, is also a corporate partner of USA Cycling, the official governing body of bicycle racing in the United States.
Andrea Smith, a spokeswoman for USA Cycling, said the partnership meant that group members got a 10 percent discount when they flew on United. But she sympathizes with cyclists who must pay the $175 fee.
"It's outrageous, and we are completely sympathetic to that," she said.
In response to the criticism, United officials said they would review the bike-transporting fee.
"At the end of the day, that is what social media is for — to get feedback," said airline spokeswoman Robin Urbanski.
Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune
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