Richter Scale

10 Points: United Airlines — A Weary Frequent Flier’s Lament

Reflections on flying United Airlines.

Credit: IanC66 - Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • Why are so many United airplanes, even on lucrative transoceanic routes, so noisy?
  • Passengers are only tolerated because ticket sales still keep the pension fund afloat.
  • The inflight crew seems to have been with UAL for longer than the average age of its aircraft fleet.

1. Am I the only customer who wonders why UAL’s CEO, Jeff Smisek, shows up in virtually every commercial of the airline shown aboard the aircraft? Is he so vain?

2. Why are so many United airplanes, even on lucrative transoceanic routes, so noisy (and so old)?

3. Why is the first impression one gets almost every time one boards a United airplane that one has stepped into a refrigerator? (It takes hours for that “cool” feeling to subside — if it does.)

4. The inflight crew: Oh my! Many of them have seem to have been with the airline for much longer than the already very high average age of UAL’s aircraft fleet. At least the old fleet performs better than some of the crew.

5. That would not be a problem at all if the cabin crew could at least still fake doing a good service — instead of frowning upon the imposition that there are customers aboard. This is paradoxically especially true in business class.

6. The first “gesture” toward passengers even in business class is to serve a welcome drink — but in a plastic cup. That’s service?

7. Later, when you ask, say, for a tomato juice, with a little ice and lemon, it turns essentially into self-serve. Why? Because the can is plonked down in front of you and you realize there is no lemon. “Oh, I didn’t hear that.”

8. Then, after the food service has begun, one all of a sudden experiences bouts of hyperactivity, which is quite disturbing. While you are still eating, you get repeated questions from the flight attendant about whether (s)he can remove this or that plate. Even before the question is fully posed, the fingers are already on my plate. Not so appetizing.

9. At a minimum, the airline has a severe staff training and morale problem. Too often on board, one has the sense that passengers are only tolerated because ticket sales still keep the pension fund afloat.

10. The people who are actually nice at United Airlines are the ones staffing the Frequent Flyer operations. They still cling to the “old soul” of United. But that’s a very thin base to build upon.

Editor’s Note: This reflection is based on many United flights, including some upgrades to business.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

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