Topic of the Week: Are You Still Unhappy with United?


By most accounts, United is starting to get a handle on its phone hold times … two months after the system switch. But clearly some people aren’t happy as evidenced by this hi-larious sign that my friend saw this past weekend at a United gate in New Orleans.

Somebody in New Orleans Hates United

Let’s be honest, I was just looking for a topic that would let me post this photo. But what the heck; let your United complaints fly below …. It feels good to vent, right?

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43 comments on “Topic of the Week: Are You Still Unhappy with United?

  1. Once you get on a plane, it doesn’t seem to suck so bad, but everything else still sucks and on Aug 28, the schedule changes from 4x OGG-SFO 763s to 2x OGG-SFO 753s without E+ etc. (Smisek says all planes will have E+ by the end of the year, but there’s no schedule yet for 753s.) Now, before you say Hawaii is a money losing route for the airlines, I just booked a $930 S/V fare between OGG-SFO for mid-June. (AA, was $20 cheaper, connecting flights, HA, etc were more expensive).

  2. Arf..I don’t like the idea of a free-for-all complaint thread, and as a UAL employee it stings a bit. I am one of those airline geek/flight attendants that still loves what I do and really try to go out of my way to make every flight a good one for my customers and other crew members. If I had one major complaint about the merger, it would be that there are SO many changes both procedurally and culturally that none of us from both the UA side or the CO side have been adequately trained to understand how the other group does it. Computer based training may be economical but there is no assurance that as a group we are “getting” what type of culture Jeff wants to create other than doing as much for as little as possible.

    1. Of course you don’t like the idea, you work for the airline! When you work for a publicly known company, you have to be able to take a bit of criticism. That’s the nature of the beast.

    2. Joe, I’ve flown with FAs like you. Please know how much your passengers appreciate a professional FA who really tries to rise above it all, especially the current whirlpool. I’m aware that many of your peers are often not very interested in doing their jobs, so the pros like you really stand out. It’s beyond me why management doesn’t grasp that passengers are really only cognizant of the gate people and the FAs, so those two categories of employee should be given as much support as they need. In 3 weeks I’m looking forward to my first UA/CO flight since the merger.

    3. Hear hear Joe. FA’s like you are under-rated and much, much appreciated. I for one use my compliments vouchers I get from AA and Delta to give to “above-and-beyond” FA’s and Gate Agents. Have not seen these from the old or new United, but accept this virtual one :-)

  3. No complaints here… Flew them two weeks ago, everything went smooth with the booking, with check-in, with connections, with my AC points getting credited and with the flights. The 757 was a bit worn, and my “window seat” on th E70 didn’t exactly match up with a window, but what can you do. I found the ground staff friendly enough, and the service in the air was fine. I am not feeling withdrawl from flying them, but everything was just fine.

  4. Last week, the following happened on the “new” United:
    1) the first plane had a mechanical and they flew in a new airplane, which arrived two hours after the original departure time. we had all rebooked our connections waiting for the replacement plane.
    2) the replacement plane itself had a mechanical and could only be ferried back without passengers to a base for repair. they figured this out after a hour and having boarded about half the airplane. at that point, they cancelled the flight.
    3) we all formed a “long” line for rebooking. i called the 800 number and got a guy in india who had to continually put me on hold. after several times of this, and another five minutes of being on hold, i hung up. i called back and got a very helpful lady who rebooked me onto another airline (and who didn’t have to put me on hold).
    4) i walked over to the “other airline” and the agent said “they shouldn’t have put you on flight X because you won’t make your connection”. she rebooked me onto a different flight leaving earlier and i made my connection fine.
    in all of this, the local gate agents were doing a good job, but seemed to have no information. i arrived at my airport at 11am EDT and at my destination airport at 1:20am PDT. it should have been a simple X->ord->sfo flight but wasn’t. in the past, i would have gotten a “doh, we messed up” letter by now but my email and snail mail have been very quiet.

    1. Well, at least they figured out the second plane had an issue before takeoff. My wife got to experience an engine self-destruction on takeoff while flying a Delta DC-9-50 last month. Thankfully the pilot greased the landing and everything was fine, but still…

      As for my UA experience I have had one round trip in the past 6 months on them. Things ran fine, but given it was DEN-SFO at least I rarely fear a long mechanical delay or a wait on a new plane. In fact, that trip was so uneventful I’ve been trying to remember anything about it at all.

  5. That photo is awesome.

    I primarily fly US Airways, but in the past have generally flown UA a half dozen times in a year when schedules are better, since I can credit those miles to US. However, I’ve purposely avoided booking anything on UA since the 3/3 integration. I’m probably going to wait a few more months before I tentatively wade back into the waters there…so maybe things are perfectly smooth, but the stories I’m hearing are definitely making me not book with them right now.

  6. I just experienced the long wait times. My trip was SAN-DEN-MSY one-way. The inbound plane (PHL-SFO-SAN) was late. I got the notice 6 hours before the trip (wonderful!) and called reservations when I saw the delay getting bigger. After a 5 minute wait the agent put me on hold about 3 times while he was getting help. I told him exactly what I wanted (SAN-SFO-MSY) but that didn’t seemed possible as he was looking at other possibilities. That went on for 20 minutes and then we got disconnected just as he got back on the line again. I didn’t get a call back so I called again. The expected wait time was suddenly over 30 minutes so I rushed to the airport. The phone was answered after 55 minutes, just as I started talking to the gate agent. I hung up. The gate agent got me on SAN-SFO-MSY and saved the day.

  7. I’m guessing it’s not too great since I’ve seen UA employees start referring to Smisek as “Smilton,” merging his name with universally loathed former UA CEO Glenn Tilton. I’m sure opinions of him will change now that his comp has been upped to $13.4 million.

    Longtime biz travel columnist Joe Brancatelli thinks its pretty bad too, giving them his “Worst Airline Ever… Again” award (with all due apologies to our own Cranky who gives a similar award):

  8. I’ve been flying for 6 years for work (computer consultant) and I got sick of dealing w/ delays thru ORD (I live in a smaller city and everything is a connection thru ORD) and switched to Continental and loved Continental. 2 great parts for me, the customer service at Continental was always amazing and I didn’t have to fly thru ORD, I spent a lot of time in CLE (going places). CLE is a great airport and great for connecting thru, especially since I seemed to fly CRJ’s almost the entire time up and down the East coast (BWI, PHI, DC, etc) and the quick walk thru Concourse D was always easy to do.

    I was a bit disappointed (upset?) about the merger but I haven’t had a hard time or been overly upset about things since the merger. The one time I called to figure out things I didn’t have an on-hold time at all (I’m only Silver w/ United, nothing special).

    I can still tell when I get a Continental Crew vs. a United crew and I think the company needs to work that out. I mentioned in passing how it was nice to be going home on a friday and it being payday as I boarded and heard some response about how payday isn’t that good for him since the bankruptcy of United. SRSLY how long ago was that?

    Anyways no real complaint except the flight attendants need to somehow get better at being friendly even to those that fly in steerage.

    1. Well the Continental crews always felt different if they were from Texas or New York based on when I used to fly DEN to EWR (New York) or COS to IAH to LGA (Houston-based)

  9. My biggest complaint is that United/Continental shorted me on miles for flights on Asiana, another Star Alliance airline. I pointed the discrepancy out to them, they agreed to update my mileage, and then never did. This all happened in October.

    1. I had a similar experience with them on a flight with ANA. I ended up getting it resolved by calling a friend who called a friend, but not everyone has that option. Interestingly, I sent the original email about the issue in February. Just last week (May 8) I got a response email telling me I hadn’t included the proper information, even though I had included everything (details of flights, ticket #s, copies of boarding passes, copy of receipt/invoice, etc.). Funny thing, the email didn’t even tell me what was missing. Oh so helpful.

  10. Isn’t it funny that so many people love to pick on airlines, including me, and I’ve worked for one. But when you think about it, look at what the genre must do everyday. Move thousands of people in hundreds of airplanes every single day of the week in good weather and bad.

    Some people freak out if they have to get one kid to soccer pratice and another to a music lesson at the same time. Try running an airline and see how you would freak out.

    But with the airlines business just to go from point A to point B you must come in contact with a number of workers who may not all be the nicest, or know how to do their job, and that is what causes a lot of issues if something goes wrong.

  11. ……’s the FRONTLINE employees who bear the brunt of MIS-management mistakes! Mergers always have their issues and the employees share the frustration of policy changes and new systems to work under. It literally takes months to years to feel like you’re comfortable doing your job again. Putting to different cultures together takes alot of patience and time, unfortunately, the passenger is caught in the middle.

  12. My real concern is the United web site. When you search for fares, your first leg comes up with a fare quote such as “from $734”. You select your outbound leg, are taken to a new screen, where you can select your return flight. Separate fare groups are listed next to each flight. These fares are what you will be paying. It’s quite possible that your fare will be closer to $1300, making the first screen, listing your fare “from $734” quite meaningless.

  13. I’m flying UA today for the first time since the Reservations changeover. An crossing my fingers that it all goes well. It’s only SFO->PDX with no checked bags, so there’s not really anything they can mess up. Still, I have a smidge of apprehension.

  14. Also…the United E-175’s first class has a lot to be desired when you compare it to Delta’s. A Delta E-175 has a real first class meal plus snacks. A United E-175 has a snack box, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t considered a snack box to be “first class” since I was in 3rd grade. Plus, the Delta E-175’s have GoGo WiFi…that’s huge.

  15. Wouldn’t know. Haven’t flown UA since I got stranded at ORD several years ago and they were, well, less than helpful. Since then I’ve avoided UA and ORD and haven’t missed them one bit. To get me to come back they would have to offer some really cheap fares through ORD, which I don’t see happening. DL and AA have been just fine for me domestically.

  16. The DL/NW merger suffered some of the same problems and are just now intergrating DL/NW flight attendents on trips; it was easy to tell the difference between them, DL more attentive, friendly NW, with one exceptional f/a on a DTW/PDX leg, were disinterested and sullen for the most part. I booked an award trip to KUL on Qatar with UA miles on line recently and found the old CO website easy to navigate, much better than AA’s; problems when I tried to change two segments from A330 with slippery 160 degree recline J seats to 777 with full 180 recline and had to call res to make the change which ment talking to India, long hold times agent unsure and miss connected on one segment which ment another long hold but a lucky break when a real agent in the states answered, problem solved quickly. I plan to burn the rest of my miles on foriegn flags, QR if possible or LH or SQ.

  17. A UA regular, I love to complain about UA but, I must give the new company some kudus for their services thus fare.

    The new web site and booking tools are a great improvement over the old UA site.

    I don’t care much for flying on a CO plane where there used to be a UA craft. Just something doesn’t feel quite right, but probably little more than the unfamiliarity. Put in a regional jet and, of course, I’m not a happy trooper.

    I don’t think I can really tell the difference between a UA and a CO crew. Sometimes that’s good; other’s not. But, not too bad. Honestly, turn on Channel 9 and make sure I have a window with a view and you’ve won half the battle.

    Ultimately for us travelers, what makes the sale is how the company treats its customers. The airlines in general have sunk to such a low in customer service, it’ll be hard, regardless how they’re organized, to make us feel like we think we should be treated. But, thus far, UA/CO, you’re not doing too badly.

  18. Decade-long UA flyer. Have flown 5 roundtrips since the merger, including a couple connecting through ORD and DEN on spring afternoons (=thunderstorm delay potential). No problems. On one trip had to call to get my wife moved into E+ with me since we’d had to book separate tickets to redeem vouchers. Waited 5 minutes for an agent after an auto message said it would be much longer, and it was sorted in a couple of minutes by a pleasant agent. No doubt there are others with problems, but personally I haven’t had any.

    The new/old website looks way uglier than the old UA website design, loses some functionality (see outbound and inbound schedule options on same page, that was helpful) but gains other functions.

    It’s a wash.

  19. I agree with the photo, they still suck donkey balls, as does any airline that charges bag fees.

    Bag fees: hate them, always will

    1. Yet it’s interesting that Southwest is dragging its feet on combining with AirTran. Maybe it’s because Southwest likes the bag fees while it touts “bags fly free.”

      Living in Phoenix, I get to compare between US Airways and Southwest quite a bit. The fares are comparable even when you account for the fees. Southwest compensates by charging a bit more and obfuscating this by not being quite as transparent as other carriers. It’s a competitive industry. That provides a certain level of pricing discipline.

      Overall, I find one airline is pretty much like another. You have good days and bad days. You have competent people and less competent people. It’s no different than any other business. I expect transportation and little else. That way, I’m rarely disappointed.

  20. I fly UAL quite a bit, and a few times since the merger (although it’s been mostly on ex-CO metal). I haven’t noticed a drop-off in service and just a couple of minor hiccups, one of which I received an airfare credit for. I used to be based in ORD but now fly out of EWR a lot so I’ve noticed the subtle differences amongst crews. Generally CO crews tend to be a bit “sunnier” than the UA folk. I flew during the “black weekend” of the CRS changeover. No issues for me.

    I keep reading online about how this airline has become terrible since the merger and CO is now going down the crapper (half the time by people who don’t even fly on it) but I’ve yet to encounter anything really negative. Relative to domestic flying on other US airlines, it’s par for the course.

  21. To be honest, I flew United in March — Ottawa-Newark-LA-Sydney (Australia) return. The entire trip was seamless. Upon check-in in Ottawa, I received all my boarding passes — whereas, pre-merger, I had to collect new boarding passes in the United States — and both the ground crew staff and the onboard staff were extremely pleasant. This was in stark contrast to a similar trip at the end of 2011… I found it greatly improved from a service point of view…

  22. I’ve flown almost two million miles on UA pre-merger. Post-merger my travel agent cannot get straight answers from UA. I requested a co-pay upgrade SFO-FRA and my travel agent was told by two different UA agents that the $300 co-pay each way would be held as a pending charge on my credit card, not charged until the actual upgrade was confirmed. Not true, as I have been charged $600 while my upgrades are still waitlisted–even though business class is totally empty at the moment. Same problem with trying to use regional upgrades and straight answers. Once on a flight through, the flight attendants and flight deck are as professional as always.

  23. Already done an LHR-EWR/JFK-LAX-SLO-LAX-LHR earlier in the year, and soon to do two LHR-IAH-LHR over the next 4 weeks – I still hate the ‘new’ website, but the onboard service (whether on old UA or old CO metal) has been good. Chatting to both sets of cabin crew, it’s clear that it’s not an easy time for them either. But i’ve got no complaints:)

  24. Good thread CF… made this SFO-based 1K/MM really think why I’m considering / agonizing switching to AA (the only other airline that makes sense given my travel patterns). While there is some good at the new UA (M-up and B-up for 1ks, direct TV, more LATAM destinations, E+, channel 9, end of StarNet blocking, etc.) for me, my move to AA comes down to the following elements…

    – limited Wifi
    – PNR-splitting
    – inconsistent companion upgrade policy
    – increasingly limited upgrade opportunities (yes even for 1k, lots of airbii and RJs, selling of upgrades, messed up system, etc.)
    – premium seats on PS flights being reduced (further limiting upgrade opportunities with SWUs/CR1s)

  25. Haven’t flown with them yet, but I did make a CO award booking for December back before the cutover. My seat assignments mysteriously disappeared, and I can no longer view the seat map on the Copa leg for some reason, but at least the reservation is still there.

  26. ORD is the closest airport to where I live and I’ve been flying UA for a long time; I just got awarded 2 million mile privileges due to CO’s more lenient policy on crediting mile bonuses toward lifetime status. This has a big perk for me, in that it makes both me AND MY WIFE permanent 75K premium flyers, a huge perk for when we get older and for her when I ascend to aviation heaven.
    I’ve come to appreciate many improvements in the cutover to the new res system. You can hover your cursor over the “fare class box” and see the actual availabilities by fare bucket, and once you learn the arcane codes for various types of upgrades, you can predict in advance whether you can upgrade on a given flight with an “instrument” (e-certs or miles). The flight status system is a vast improvement, with flight tracking and the ability to see the seat map in both classes both before and after the flight.
    Based on recent flights in F ORD-BOS and ORD-DCA, the food has descended to the lowest common denominator of whatever was the least expensive option before. About flight cancellations, UA completion factor (percentage of flights NOT cancelled) has been comparable to AA at ORD and LAX, where they have similar operations. UA is still hugely behind AA and esp. DL on availability of wi-fi and also F-class service on RJs.
    Bob Gordon (Northwestern professor)

  27. Having to chase them down for credit on thousands of dollars worth of flights for almost two months was ridiculous. Worse was the ZERO communication from the airline. Smisek on the preflight video talking about how great everything was made me sick. It took less than 60 days for me to accept AA’s offer for a status match and escape.

  28. Based in Australia, United was the cheaper option to Qantas for North America, but flying in clapped out planes with overhead screens for in-flight entertainment, perpetuating the perception of US airlines. Since Delta has started flying from SYD, thankfully that doesn’t hold as much any more.

  29. I just spent 20 minutes typing about the worst UA experience ever- and when I hit enter, it was all lost because I didn’t fill in the e-mail. Damm it!!

  30. Flew Qatar last week and they said that they can’t access the United system to award miles. Given that it’s taken UA about 7-8 weeks to respond to my emails, I decided to just bank to US Airways. Ugh.

  31. I fly UA almost every week and have flown several times since the merger. Generally, things have been okay and I find it disturbing, at times, to see how crazy people can get over inevitable glitches during a complex merger such as this.

    I do have to say that I’ve heard CO crews on more than one occasion note to passengers that they don’t know what UA does because they are “Continental” and one time, even, when an FA got rather rude with an F passenger about Channel 9 being a “United thing.” CO inflight crews seem to have a chip on their shoulders (I’m generalizing here, I know), but I’ve seen CO ground crew be very helpful to UA ground crew who honestly seem to be trying their best.

    Oddly, the thing that irks me the most is Skywest regional service on UA. Gate monitors at my home airport for Skywest still don’t display flight data, post-merger, and Skywest has four paint schemes now for UA, I believe (Skywest colors, grey UA (so beat up now, too), blue/white UA, and new UA). I’m running the risk of sounding like one of those people I mentioned before, getting upset over inevitable merger stuff … so I’ll stop.

  32. Im not sure what is going on with Continental crews but they have to be the worse!! I flew to Hawaii and back and unfortunately had CO crews both ways and now I know I will avoid at all costs flying with a CO crew again! United needs to retrain them or Fire them. What a disappointment when u spend extra and use miles to upgrade and receive the absolute worst First Class EVER!! :(

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