Flying United – A terrible experience

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I recently returned from a trip via Europe and flew United Airlines on both legs to and from there. I can honestly say that it was one of my worst experiences flying an American carrier. Over the last year I have flown on a number of American and non-American airlines and it is unfortunate to say that I have found American based airlines to be the worst relative to their international peers. What’s more is that they seeming to be getting worse – both in terms of service and price.


I booked my trip quite late so the cheapest and most convenient option for where I wanted to go was with United. I had flown United to Australia (a 24 hr flight!) a few months ago and had vowed never to fly them again – even though I had premier frequent flyer status. However with no alternative choices in the price range I was looking for, I went with United convincing myself that the transatlantic sector has more competition and so United should be a “better” in this sector. How wrong I was. Here are some examples of my poor experience just on the latest flight I took:

1. The staff, both before you board and on the plane, seem disinterested when it comes to customer service. I know the last few years have seen a lot of layoffs and even wage cuts, but it clearly looks like the staff are unhappy in their jobs and this was clearly reflected in their service and attitude. I even heard this first hand from some crew members who openly discussed the poor work conditions they have.

2. On board their audio-visual equipment is terrible and far behind their competitors. They have small TV screens and provide headphones used in the 80’s. In fact I had to use my iPod headphone to get decent sound quality. I recommend you bring your own entertainment if you fly the friendly skies with them.

3. Food is mediocre and in both flights they ran out of food options, so if you were at the back of the plane you had no food choices. On my return sector, they even ran out of plastic cups, so everyone had to reuse theirs. Great for the environment but it is annoying to have coke, orange juice and water in the same glass over a 9 hour flight.


4. The bathrooms were in terrible condition and even though passengers complained, nothing was done.

5. The seats are tiny and legroom is designed for a person around five and a half feet tall. I know they have old planes, but they pack ’em in like sardines in a can.

I know that the American aviation industry is going through some very tough times, primarily due to high oil, but they really are falling way behind the global competition. United and other American airlines can still compete on price with other global airlines, but with recent baggage fees and other fare increases they are losing on that front as well. It is sad to say, but the American aviation industry is going the way our automobile industry is, in that consumers will choose the non-American option when ever possible to get a lower price and better flying experience. The next time I fly, I rather pay a few extra dollars, and avoid United whenever I can.

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