Tuesday, September 4, 2012

15 Reasons why United Airlines Doesn't Suck.

From time to time I see blog posts that are just ridiculous.  Today I'd like to talk about this one: 15 Reasons Why Flying United Airlines Sucks.  Nomadic Matt (who claims he knows how to travel better, cheaper, and longer) put together a blog that states his opinion.

I recognize that I have had my bad days with United.  And they know about it.  But my bad days take into account the reality of being the world's largest airline.  I accept that United isn't going to be perfect 100% of the time.

 But I would like to reply with 15 (actual) reasons why flying United doesn't suck.

  1. Matt's first reason to not fly United was that "They lose children".  Read the article.  United was faced with something that shouldn't have ever been their fault.  Parents who, for some unknown reason, pay to have their kid shipped off to a camp that half way across the country.  They also pay a whopping $99 to have someone babysit.  The child was never lost.  She was just told to wait.  Read the article, Matt.  She was scared, which could be because her parents might should have accompanied her on her travels.  Here's the facts: Airlines are put in a bad position of being parents on a regular basis because parents aren't willing to be parents.  United was relying on another company to get the girl from point A to point B, but the other company failed.  Sure, could United have had someone take care of the girl?  Yes.  But don't exaggerate the story to get attention.
  2. Matt's second complaint, "They kick service dogs".  Once again, Matt, please read the story.  In both instances the dog startled a United employee.  I'm not sure about you, but my fight or flight instinct would have caused me to react with a kick as well.  Secondly, (and this goes for point #1), when one or two people mess up at a company, you don't blame the whole company, do you?  (I mean, apparently, you do.)  With some 86,000 employees, you might have one or two bad seeds. But what about all of the employees who go the extra mile every day?  How about Rick, from OKC, who takes the time to make sure all of his guests are properly taken care of?  Do you have anything to say about him, Matt?  
  3. Complaint #3, "They break guitars".  First of all, this was a great video.  I laughed a lot.  Secondly, in the video he said, "I should have flown with someone else, or gone by car."  Another airline wouldn't have helped.  But driving would be better.  The part about this video that makes me laugh so much is this: millions of views leads to money on YouTube.  I'd let United break my Taylor guitar and complain a whole bunch to make too.  
  4. Complaint #4 "United is so bad pilots will still tell you that they are a Continental crew. It’s their not-so-subtle way of telling you they aren’t part of this mess."  First thing, he's right.  Some former Continental crews did say that.  But if your job just changed, and your seniority and your routes and everything just changed.  Wouldn't you be a little taken back?  Not everyone can see the immediate good that will come from a change like this, and they fight back.  People don't like change.  However, the crews are really starting to come together.  Don't believe me?  Read about the Traveling Scarves and Ties on their Facebook Page.  United is really Uniting from the inside out.  
  5. Complaint #5 "United doesn’t respond to customer service requests on Twitter."  Alright, I agree.  United's Social Media team isn't as quick to reply as American or Southwest.  I'm not going to defend them here.  You win this round Matt.  
  6. Complaint #6 is about outsourced calls.  United has gotten better about their calls be routed to America.  I do understand the frustration here.  But, don't blame United, when you're too cheap to pay for Americans to do their jobs.
  7. Complaint #7 "Their planes are old and ugly. They keep talking about upgrades but at least American has a date for the arrival of their new planes. United does not."  Read a book, or a blog, or anything... November 4th.  787.  Plus a huge order of 737 MAXs.  
  8. Complaint #8 "They have the worst on-time status of all the airlines."  This statement is correct (since Matt couldn't take the time to back it with evidence: Find it here - This is a link to the Department of Transportation August 2012 Findings), but it lacks fact.  First of all, the DOT report I  referenced is still using data from June.  Just three months after a large change in systems for United.  This caused delays.  United has vastly improved in their systems and processes since June, and I think this is a completely unfair statement.  This also has to do with Airport locations and limitations based on hubs.  EWR, for example, has a number of problems because of a bad design, forcing United to be delayed when it's not their fault.  
  9. Complaint #9 "They lose the most bags."  Just wrong.  Look at page 31 of the same report.  They're actually in the middle of the bracket percentage wise.  And based on actual complaints, Southwest lost more total bags than United.
  10. Complaint #10 was about food.  Read it if you want.  But the reality is that Airlines are being squeezed into cutting corners due to the increased demand for low fares.  Basically, you get what you pay for.
  11. Complaint #11 was because Matt didn't get an upgrade.  Flights this year (for me): 65, upgrades: 45.  Most of the flights I didn't get upgraded on were because they were EMB145s or CRJ200s.  Also, don't expect to get bumped for no good reason on an international flight.  That's just common sense.
  12. Complaint #12 "Their in-flight service sucks and the flight attendants are pretty sour. (My guess? It’s a manifestation of the crappy corporate culture post-merger.)"  Let me start here: culture takes time.  You don't bake a cake by throwing the ingredients in a box and saying "why isn't my cake done?"  No, you have to mix and cook it.  And, if their flight attendants had to deal with Matt all day, I'd be sour too.  He can't seem to find one good thing in any situation.
  13. Reason #13 "Have I mentioned their planes are old and outdated?"  Okay, Matt, let me help you count.  Using the same argument twice, doesn't count as two problems.  But, let me remind that United is working hard to update their fleet, and that planes aren't exactly cheap.  And since you're still not willing pay for a flight, you might not get a new plane (except the new 787s and 737MAXs they ordered).
  14. Reason #14 "They have no Wi-Fi." Incorrect.  They didn't have wifi on your flight.  United has wifi on their P.S. flights, and they are working on adding it to their fleet.  Again, this takes time and money.  
  15. Reason #15 "Their flights cost more than their competitors…but with crappier service!"  You don't know how to search for flights, Matt.  I can usually get a cheaper flight on United than I can on Southwest.  But this goes back to the fact that you're not willing to pay for quality.  You want the world for the cost of jelly bean.  United has great crews and teams who work hard to get you where you're going.  Sure, even I have days when I'm fan of United.  Like when I wrote the post entitled Why I Hate the Airline I Love.  But, Matt, I understand that United is a business, and they're working through growing pains of a merger.  I am also willing to wait out the bad parts, knowing that something better is coming.  

So, Matt, I encourage you to try United again.  But I don't expect you to, and if you do, I don't expect you to go into it with an open mind.  

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?


Nomadic Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nomadic Matt said...


Everyone has an opinion and mine is that I don't like United. Some folks don't like AA but I think AA is less worse than United. AA isn't perfect 100% of the time. Neither is my favorite airline Singapore Airlines. No airline is perfect. I'd much rather fly Virgin America around the US!

But my post is op-ed, as is yours. You can't refute someone's feelings. I have friends who think Apples are bad computers despite evidence to the contrary. People feel how they feel and I feel this way about United.

In regards to your rebuttals, my list was based on my experience flying MANY flights not just one. I'll say that #11 was because I couldn't even PAY to be upgraded. #13 is for literary effect. It's a quite common thing to do on lists. #14 is because I have no been on one wi-fi enabled plane and in the United FB page, United themselves said they were working on getting wi-fi!

I hope United gets better and when they do I will come back to them. I want quality. I actually do not price tickets based on price alone. I hardly ever fly budget airlines.

Anyways, thanks for the civil response. It's good to know that some people out on the interwebs can actually write a peaceful and thoughtful rebuttal. Most of the times it is just trolls!

Happy flying!

Nomadic Matt

Mike_J_Morgan said...


Thanks for the reply! I am with you, I as well hope that United continues to get better! I enjoyed your post as well as the opportunity to banter back. Thanks again!


Anonymous said...

I called United, got straight to customer service about how I'd like to get a special meal & was attended to immediately.

2 minute phone call with Customer Service, response was excellent & reliable, & kind conversations were held.

Great article by the way!

Woof said...

"culture takes time"

I've been waiting for almost 20 years for the culture to improve. I'm not going to wait any longer.

jake jacobs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jake jacobs said...

I would have to agree with Matt. Mike your response to the breaking of the guitar was pathetic. You basically said that since someone was making money from this experience (or so you assume) that they should be happy about it? The same person who sang the song was interviewed about a year later having to fly United out of an area where United was the only option and they lost his luggage although he did report that his guitar was NOT broken this time.
What advice would you give all the others who's items are lost or damaged? And yes it happens on all airlines that wasn't the issue, the issue was the lack of responsibility taken by United and the customer service received. And I'm sorry, but the flight attendants should NEVER be sour with passengers no matter how many annoying people they have to deal with. They are PAID to be there for the passengers and yes I am aware that they are there primarily for safety, but as being a part of the front lines of an airline the flight attendants can definitely make or break an airline. How about having the airlines train their flight crew better on dealing with "annoying" passengers and teaching the crew to keep the attitudes in the crew lounge. More people should speak out against poor customer service. However I have also had good experiences with United but they should invest more on customer service training.

Paul Whishaw said...

I just flew United coming back from Boston and I can verify that flight staff were rude and customer service is solely lacking. I'm Canadian so I don't know if this is standard but who the heck charges $25 for your FIRST checked bag. So now everyone loads as much as they can onto the plane so overheads are full when the plane isn't even half full yet. So what happens to excess baggage? Checked for free. How does that make any sense.

John Kordyback said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
For 45 Minutes said...

I fly to Asia from California about three times per year. I always book my flights on ANA, but as a member of the Star Alliance they code-share with United, so sometimes I wind up on a flight run by United instead.

The difference between the experience of flying ANA and United is extreme.

ANA has polite and helpful flight attendants, while United attendants tend to be surly and snap at the passengers ("I can't hear you! What do you want?"). When I do come across a helpful United attendant, they shine like a diamond in the rough.

In the past year I've seen a clearly drunk United attendant slurring out the meal choices at nobody in particular as she walked the aisle. On another flight, one male attendant pushed the cart too fast and caused the leading attendant to fall into the aisle. They then yelled at each other. Later someone came around and asked if anyone in the compartment would be willing to make a statement about the incident.

ANA planes tend to be new. The seats on trans-Pacific flights have personal monitors with movies, games and other entertainment. The seatbacks offer USB ports to recharge your device or watch your media on the monitor. There is also more leg room (as I believe the new seats are thinner).

The last three trans-Pacific flights on United have been in shabby looking planes with monitors mounted at the front of the compartment and above the aisle. You'll watch what United is showing. Imagine trying to get some sleep while a frenetically edited CGI movie is being shown on a screen six feet in front of your face.

ANA attendants regularly go through the cabin offering specific beverages (bottled water, juice, tea). On United they go through the cabin once with a tray of water that came out of the holding tank and tastes like a chemical factory.

During turbulence, an ANA attendant will politely request that everyone buckle their seatbelts, in Japanese and then English. On United, the PA comes on and someone belts out, "Check your seatbelts." That's it. Then an attendant who speaks Japanese (if that's the origin of the flight) will ask, more politely, for passengers to buckle up.

My feeling, whenever I fly United from Narita to the US on United, is one of embarrassment for the United States. United, as a representative of how we treat customers, comes across like a cattle car, just doing the bare minimum to get people from point A to point B.

My wife flew ANA alone to Japan with our infant daughter two years ago, and talked about how helpful the attendants were. After the return flight on United she was in tears about how rude the attendants were to her as a woman traveling alone with a small child.

Everyone can have an opinion, but my observations are pretty clear cut and empirical. United doesn't have the fleet or the customer service of ANA, so winding up on a code-share flight run by United is the most infuriating experiences I have when traveling overseas.

aquitaineq said...

I loved Continental, United is terrible, every flight I've had with them was terrible. It's like when May Company bought out Macys and then somehow Macys took over and ruined everything good about May Company. Well United ruined everything about continental.

HerobrineDoesMinecraft 123 said...

Your flight attendants are crazy. Mine are more like stiff. They never appear comfortable. :/

Dachshund Lover said...

One more "gotcha" from United [I used to love Continental] that people who travel with dogs should be aware of: (1) each dog has to be in a separate traveling kennel (fair enough); (2) A319 aircraft can only carry one (1) kennel per trip, vs. several for A320s and Boeing 737s (737-700, 800 and 900); (3) nowhere on their website is this limit mentioned; (4) if you make your reservation first, and then try to book your two dogs, you are SOL if your flight is an A319; (5) changing to another flight always costs money, no matter what the reason; (6) if you do change your flight, be aware that the extra money you paid to upgrade to Economy Plus does not follow you to your new reservation. (7) all that being said, their PetSafe program is probably the best in the biz; however, be careful when you try to thread the needle and avoid the A319 aircraft.

Roxygal said...

This article must be written by someone from United. I recently flew with my service dog, and I, same as the one got treated with extremely disturbing service, got harrassed by the manager crew member and another crew member on broad of United. I literally had a panic attack right after because the way they treated me and my dog.

I filed a complaint, and the response was useless. They did not acknowledge at all how they would go through with the investigating process, nor if there is ANY.

I am shocked by how I was treated with uneducated crew members on airline laws along with their lack of willingness to help me, but to make me feel this way. The manager and the crew member both had abused their authorities. I believe they had something personal against me or the dog. They are both black and acted extremely unprofessional really put me in disguise.

I do not recommend this airline.

Matthew Young said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Iain Miller said...

I agree with Matt. Flew from CVG (Cincinnati) to EWR (Newark) on United. Plane, crews, service horrible. Flew United from EWR to TLV (Tel Aviv) - 777 was pretty nice plane. Food was inedible, service was non-existent, cabin crew were sour and unable to smile. Flew back from TLV on Air Canada to YYV (Toronto) - thought I had died and gone to heaven. Food was very good, service was excellent, cabin crew were nice and very attentive -all drinks, alcoholic or not were totally free and available at all times during the flight. As an extremely nervous flier I need my gin and tonics to feel relaxed - you can forget that on United. Then flew from YYV to CVG, again on United - I felt that I was slung back into Purgatory - and they stiffed me 6 bucks for a G&T - after paying them $1800 for the round trip to Tel Aviv! I will never step inside an United plane ever again. I feel sorry for the person who thinks there are 15 reasons TO fly United - he must live in a delusional world of his own. Anybody who reads this DO NOT FLY UNITED - YOU WILL REGRET IT!

Cheap Flight said...

Lovely Post! I am reading your post from the beginning, it was so interesting to read & I feel thanks to you for posting such a good blog, keep updates regularly.
This is really very helpful to book cheap flights. Thank you

recipes said...

this was facebook conversation, they sent an email reply and said they would contact me in 7-10 days, 0% customer service.

‎George Leonard‎ to United

I can book 2 one way tickets, but cannot book a round trip ticket on the website. I call to make a reservation and went through the endless phone tree was on hold for 20 minutes then was hung up on. I was trying to use my mileage plus miles.
is united just greedy and wants me to pay more fees?
It is is hard to believe this is a glitch and not a programed money grab.

United We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. Is there anything we can still assist with on our end? ^RM

George Leonard
George Leonard no, I will just cancel my mileage credit card, and look for an airline that has answers instead of questions. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

United We regret to hear this and hope we will be able to better serve you in the future, should we get the chance. ^RM

Tarun Rajput said...

Nice information that you shared with us.. Can you provide me United Airlines Customer Service Phone Number?