Thanks for nothing, United Airlines

Thanks to a mechanical failure, the added failure of United Airlines employees to inform us of the real situation (“plane is being serviced”) and general lack of customer service, I would have missed my connection in Amsterdam. I had to rebook on Lufthansa via Munich. Instead of getting a cushy United Economy Plus seat on the aisle with extra legroom, I’m now on a full flight and sitting in the middle–a nightmare that I’ve successfully avoided for decades.

United said they’d help with getting a good seat on Lufthansa, but never contacted me again.  What a way to run a railroad—and to lose loyalty built up over the years. Over the past few years, lateness and shoddy service have eroded that loyalty.

I’m just blowing off steam, but I’d think twice before flying this airline again.

Wish me luck.




  1. Posted October 11, 2018 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Wishing you at least a grope-free journey, PCC(E).

  2. Posted October 11, 2018 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Good luck, PCC(E)!


  3. Posted October 11, 2018 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, it’s not just UAL. Most airlines seem loath to give you a straight answer as to the cause of delays. Frontier charges you extra for virtually everything but going to the restroom; Southwest is akin to herding cats; and so on.

  4. Posted October 11, 2018 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    A few year ago I flew to Montgomery, Alabama. One of the attendants was an older gentleman. We landed and he grabbed the mic and told the passengers that when he stepped off the plane he was retired. The biggest change he saw the industry, he said, was that we now pay a lot more for a lot less. I’ve never forgotten what he said an see as an apt model for most modern business.

    • Posted October 12, 2018 at 4:11 am | Permalink

      Here in Europe, you don’t pay more for less. When I was young, thirty years ago, air travel was much more pleasant. There was complimentary hot food and drinks. Free hold baggage and so on, but even a short flight would cost you an arm and a leg.

      Now the whole experience is like the bus trip from hell, but tickets are cheaper now than then, even not taking into account inflation.

      • Mike
        Posted October 12, 2018 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        One Airline that is exactly like that is Ryanair, I haven’t met anyone with a good word for the: I have travelled with them once, and now I would walk it before getting on another Ryanair Flight.

  5. James Walker
    Posted October 11, 2018 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I have had so many bad experiences with US carriers over the years that I avoid them like the plague.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted October 12, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I have had (nearly) only good experiences with airlines: KLM, Sabena* (now defunct), Singapore, Royal Orchid, Cathay, Air France, BA, Kulula, SAA, Nationwide (now defunct) were great (and approximately in that order), Iberia and Olympic were a bit less (overbookings), as was Lufthansa (rude personnel). I disliked Egyptian, no wine allowed, and my worst experience was with the Nepalese airlines, very nice personnel, but I somehow felt lucky to come out alive: drunk pilot I guess.
      *Sabena once overbooked me too, but offered an overnight in a luxury hotel and a first class seat the next day.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted October 12, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        Oh yes, I forgot Tarom, they served real food, like fresh bread cut where you were, real feta cheese, etc. nothing pre-packed. For the rest a bit cramped and a long wait at uninviting Bukarest Airport.

      • James Walker
        Posted October 12, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        When I lived in Toronto, KLM was my preferred airline for flying to Europe. I often took advantage of their “free” stopover to explore a different Dutch city.

        Across the Pacific, I prefer Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand or Qantas. In a pinch I’ll take Air Canada and I refuse to take any US carriers.

  6. Robert Hamilton
    Posted October 11, 2018 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    United Airlines has learned that their customers will put up with a certain amount of low-level abuse, and still come back.

    It’s filtering. Over time, most of their customers will willingly endure higher and higher levels of abuse. This suits them just fine.

    • Diane G
      Posted October 11, 2018 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

      Frequently, it’s not like we have much of a choice! Trying to get a certain flight on a certain day to a certain destination…I, for one, don’t “willingly endure” today’s “friendly skies.”

      Have read recently that down-sizing seats and cramming in as many rows as possible probably violates government standards for how swiftly passengers have to be able to deplane in an emergency. No duh.

      • Jonathan Dore
        Posted October 12, 2018 at 3:19 am | Permalink

        I’ve never understood why the CAA, FAA etc. aren’t able to mandate minimum legroom requirements. After all, average height (and therefore leg-length) is growing each decade, not shrinking.

        • Diane G
          Posted October 13, 2018 at 12:36 am | Permalink

          That makes two of us! And of course there are those who struggle with weight. Doesn’t seem like they need to be extra embarrassed just because the seats are designed for pygmies.

  7. Posted October 11, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    In the 1980s, my sister and a friend, both from Iowa, tried to arrange to fly from Las Vegas to Flagstaff where I lived, planning to meet up with family members driving to Flag from California.  They were told all the flights were booked, so they figured there would be cancellations enabling them to try later since they weren’t fussy about a time, but they ended up coming by bus because the Flagstaff airport was completely closed for repairs.  Accurate information is crucial.

  8. Mark Joseph
    Posted October 11, 2018 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Good luck, Jerry.

    But, it could be (lots) worse–you could be flying Delta!

    • Diane G
      Posted October 11, 2018 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

      Or worse yet, United. (Actually, Delta is usually my first choice of the big 3.)

    • Posted October 12, 2018 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      I vowed never again to fly Delta after a couple of bad experiences with them. And I have kept to that vow.

  9. Posted October 11, 2018 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I recall when President Carter deregulated the airlines. I though it was a bad idea. Flying experience has gone nowhere but downhill since.

    I hate the middle seat. Sitting like a smashed tuna in a long, over packed tin can is bad enough in the aisle seat.

    Hope the rest of the trip goes better.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted October 12, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      I always try to book a window seat, well behind or in front of the wing*, not only you can sometimes have some great worthwhile views, but when you fall asleep nobody wakes you up because they have to go to the toilet.
      *with airplanes like the Fokker Friendship this was not a problem since the wings were up above the windows.

  10. Tom Czarny
    Posted October 11, 2018 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if this might be of use to you, Jerry, but since you had an international flight to a country that is part of the EU you may be able to file a grievance with United Airlines citing EU Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004. This regulation is “a regulation in EU law establishing common rules on compensating passengers in the event of denial of boarding, flight cancellation, or long delays of flights.” Last October I was scheduled to fly on United to my hometown of Traverse City, Mi from Florence via Rome to O’Hare then on to TC. I received a text on the morning of my departure from Florence from United that my flight from Rome to Chicago was to be delayed 7 hours due to “equipment malfunction,” meaning they had to wrangle another aircraft for that leg of my flight. No problem for me. Hell, I just jumped on a train when I got to Rome and had lunch in the Campo de’Fiori. My eventual flight to Chicago was half full, I had an entire row to stretch out on and the food and drinks flowed. Upon my return home I filed a grievance against United citing EU 261/2004, and after 2 months of back and forth with United received a check for $756.00 for my “inconvenience.” I am happy to be inconvenienced this way any ol’ time.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 11, 2018 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      It may well work on railways too.

      (“What a way to run a railroad”
      Please. That phrase makes me cringe. My experience of railways (in Europe at least) has been much better.)

      I was booked on the Strizh (Swift) overnight from Moscow to Berlin, then with DB (Deutsche Bahn) on to Paris. Since I always book the cheapest tickets mine clearly said ‘non-refundable’ but I had an hour to make the connection. However, somewhere in Poland in the middle of the night, I woke to find we were travelling slowly backwards – something Talgo trains do not normally do. Some sort of diversion. As we were approaching Berlin, 2 1/2 hours late, there was an announcement (which my fellow passengers translated for me) to go to the dining car, where the train manager wrote something in Russian on the back of my ticket.

      So in Berlin I went to the Deutsche Bahn booking office, showed my inscribed Rzd ticket to them, the girl (who spoke perfect English) cheerfully re-booked me on the next available connection – cross-country to Frankfurt, change to a French TGV there – no charge. She advised me to keep the old tickets, since I might wish to make a claim, I said why, since she hadn’t charged me anything for re-booking, she said ‘For the lateness’. Seriously?

      A few days later, my TGV from Paris was 20 minutes late into Irun, just missing the time for the connecting Trenhotel express to Lisbon; but a uniformed RENFE employee gathered up the onward passengers and led us to a local train that threaded its way through extensive maintenance works to San Sebastian, where the Trenhotel was waiting for us.

      In neither case did I have an official through booking, I had booked direct with each railway – Rzd, Deutsche Bahn, SNCF and RENFE – to get the cheapest discounted non-refundable tickets, and in both cases the railways looked after their customers, viz, me.


  11. Posted October 11, 2018 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Flying is such fun.

  12. Posted October 11, 2018 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    At least you didn’t have your pet dog killed, on United. Or get dragged down the aisle bleeding, on United. Or get bumped for a Congress critter, on United.

    • Mark R.
      Posted October 11, 2018 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I’m not united with United. Hate that airline…made me and my father sick as dogs and after letter? “No one else gave us a letter so, suckit.” screw them

  13. Liz
    Posted October 11, 2018 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    “What a way to run a railroad. . .” Classy, classic, and ungettable.

  14. Posted October 12, 2018 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    I am unfortunate to have been flying since the 60s. It used to be pretty nice. Now it sucks.

  15. Posted October 12, 2018 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    I’ve had a few bad experiences with UAL over the years. Still better than what ducks have to put up with when migrating, I suspect. May the rest of your travels be pleasant and uneventful.

  16. Posted October 12, 2018 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    I’ve had consistently bad experiences with Untied.


    PS. However, they did fully compensate me for the clothes I had to buy when my luggage was delayed. Which was a win, since I now have two nice shirts.

  17. Posted October 12, 2018 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Oh com’on.
    If I know you were in Amsterdam I will have traveled there to meet you 🙂
    Maybe next time

  18. dogugotw
    Posted October 12, 2018 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Airlines merge. Routes choices are limited. The number of seats increases (and passenger space decreases). Planes are now full on nearly every flight. Your loyalty means nothing since you have fewer choices for any given route and even if you hate , you’ll likely have to fly them again.

  19. David Harper
    Posted October 12, 2018 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    My wife and I used to fly United, but after they took our money for Economy Plus seats on a London to Chicago round trip, then downgraded us to regular economy and refused to refund the extra we’d paid, we vowed never to fly with them again. Twelve years and counting, and not missing United in the least.

  20. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 12, 2018 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    For my experience United Airlines is the worst. They never cared about their people and that is past on to the customer. I fortunately did not have to fly that joke much.

    • Diane G
      Posted October 12, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      This must be the airline run by amateurs.

      (I hope someone remembers the ad campaign I allude to.)

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