I have been flying on United Airlines for as long as I can remember. We started flying to Europe when I was little to visit my grandparents living in Germany. Family vacations that required more than an 8 hour car ride resulted in flying, usually United. My parents always have a United Milage Plus Card and my dad has been a million miler for several years now.
Over the last few years, I have noticed some changes to United.
1) Merger with Continential. Anyone who flys on a regular basis knew about this merger. Two premier programs were made one, causing anyone who had this status to question how special they really were and over crowded executive lounges. Employees from two very different companies were forced into a new corporate culture and expected to be okay with lower salaries. Flights were delayed all over the world due to confusion about new company policies and cabin crews protested their longer hours. All the while, the United CEO, (INSERT NAME HERE), took a very cushy retirement package and laughed all the way to the bank. It was the summer of 2012, only weeks after the merger. I was getting married in a month, packing up my life and moving across the country and my fiancée was graduating from his master’s program. My mom, grandmother and younger brother were flying from Washington Dulles International Airport to Salt Lake City. They were on a direct flight scheduled to arrive just one day before my wedding dress was to be picked up from the store and just two days before a wedding shower hosted at my fiancée’s aunt’s home. Their flight was delayed two hours while they waited at the gate due to mechanical problems with the plane. Once the plane was fixed, the passengers were boarded and expected for the plane to take off. The plane pulled away from the gate and my mom turned off her phone. A few minutes later I got a phone call from her telling me they were delayed again, but she wasn’t sure why. They sat on the Tarmac for another two hours. They were then to,d by the crew that the crew could no longer fly the plane because they were legally over the number of hours they were allowed to work. The plane was returned to the gate and the flight was delayed. My mom, brother and grandmother were rescheduled to a flight that left the next day. My mom missed my final dress fitting and lost a lot of valuable time before the wedding shower. Not a tragedy but a MAJOR inconvience. I am sure there are other stories out there just like mine and some that are much worse.
2) Flights are constantly delayed. United claims weather and mechanical failures a lot. I understand delaying a flight due to bad weather. however, when other airlines are flying out in the same weather conditions, there is something wrong. I have been told on several occasions that my flight was delayed or cancelled due to weather when there were not bad weather conditions, something I track when j travel. This is United’s way of saying they are pushing your flight due to other reasons they would rather not admit and are not responsible for taking care of your hotel or the change fees for a new flight. Again, wrong on so many levels. Mechanical failures are also understandable. However, when 1 out of 3 airplanes experience mechanical failures, I worry about even boarding your airplane. Get some new planes or make sure your current ones are in good working condition. I fly about once a month. Most of my travel is domestic, when I fly overseas I avoid United like the plague. There are so many better options that I always prefer to spend my money elsewhere. In the last three years, I count on one hand the number of United flights I have been on that have left on time. It is important to note that about half of those flights I was on because I missed a connection due to a flight delay.
3) Food provided on planes. I am in no way suggesting that United bring back those nasty in flight meals they served in the 1990s and early 2000s. On domestic flights, “snacks” can be purchased. I know there are a lot of people that believe they have paid for their airfare so they should get food as well without an extra charge and I am empathetic. However, my gripe is the kind of food offered. I have a pretty severe wheat allergy. There is ONE gluten free food meal option offered on United flights. It is a granola bar. Seriously? I may be a woman and I am fairly thin but I am an eater. A granola bar is going to keep me saciated for about 15 minutes. I didn’t realize that a granola bar constituted as a meal! There are two vegetarian options available and they are full on meals. Yes, it is possible for me to bring gluten free snacks on the plane, and I do. Usually cookies and cupcakes. But if United would catch up with the times and the needs of their customers, I know they would sell plenty of gluten free snacks. Glutino sells a small bag of pretzels that would be perfect for resale on United flights! I know I would throw down $5 for something with more substance than a granola bar, that is actually really gross if I am being honest.
Sadly, living in the US there are very few airlines that fly all over the country and offer rewards points that can be redeemed without blackout dates. While I do have several major problems with United, I will mostly likely continue to use their service. I write this letter to not only draw attention to the terrible service of United to its executives but to also bring it to the attention of several other airlines. I am of the opinion that if other airlines in the US began targeting unhappy United customers, they would become as profitable if not more than United. I have noticed I am not the only one that as noticed these things. My tweets tend to get a lot of attention and there have been several articles in the media, including in the Wall Street Journal, about how terrible United is.
Yesterday I wrote about how I chose the airline I did to travel to Jordan. The issues I have outlined above are a large reason as to why I did not choose to fly United. And I will continue to not fly United as much as possible until they change their practices.