United’s Operation is a Mess and It’s Not Improving

Operations, United

If you saw the latest Department of Transportation report card for June travel, you would have seen a lot of good news. There has been plenty of reporting about how on time performance is up, mishandled bags are down, and things are just generally running quite smoothly. But there is an exception, and it’s United. The June report shows United really struggling to run a good operation. And though it has taken steps since then to fix the problem, things aren’t getting any better.

United and Its Delays

During June, the reporting airlines averaged just over 80 percent of flights arriving on time. United was in dead last with 70.1 percent. That kept United in last place for the full quarter with a steadily decreasing on time performance.

Maybe it just flew into airports where the weather was worse, right? That doesn’t explain everything. In Denver, it lagged Frontier by more than 4 points (and Frontier had the second worst on time performance for the month). Southwest was three points better than that. In Chicago, American ran a full 10 points better than United. LA was even more surprising with United running an incredible 15 points behind American. Sure, Newark and San Francisco were terrible, but that doesn’t explain why United lagged everywhere else. More likely, it’s United not doing a great job of merging two different operations and everyone else has to suffer.

Looking deeper, nearly 10 percent of all United’s flights were delayed due to an “Air Carrier Delay” with another 10 percent due to “Late Arriving Aircraft.” Something clearly isn’t going right, and the rest of the operation is suffering. As you would expect when an airline is running a bad operation, mishandled bag reports increased significantly, by about 15 percent. And for the second quarter, involuntary denied boardings about tripled compared to the same time last year. What a mess.

United Knows There’s a Problem
There’s another reason we know that this isn’t just a weather issue. United has admitted as such. In fact, the airline sent out an bulletin to employees in early July explaining what it was changing to get things back on track. In the note, it was said United would add more spare airplanes, dedicate more mechanics to working on preventative maintenance, put more slack in crew schedules, and increase scheduled flight times in order to get back on track.

Those are all good moves to help make sure people get to their destinations on time, but is it working? No. At least, not yet.

Though the official government data beyond June has yet to come out, there are other sources. Looking at masFlight data, we can see up to just a day or two ago. In July, 66.3 percent of United flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule (the government definition of “on time”). Southwest and American were the next lowest of the big guys with 77.8 and 78 percent respectively.

But with the improvements announced in only early July, maybe that wasn’t enough time. Unfortunately, looking at the beginning of August (through the 12th), things aren’t any better. United is still far behind. It ran on time just 69 percent of the time while the others were in the high 70s at least.

Usually, regional airlines show worse performance than the mainline carrier, but that’s not the case with United these days. For example, in those first twelve days of August, including regional airlines improved United’s performance from 69 percent to 71.7 percent. And in July, it went from 66.3 percent to 68.5 percent. While that means that the regional carriers are doing better than United, the mainline operation is still dragging everyone down with it. The result is a lot of angry United fliers regardless of whether the flight is operated by United or a regional partner.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has flown United lately. We were supporting a conference with Cranky Concierge this week and several of our customers were delayed for non-weather reasons on United. Some of the delays were seemingly inexplicable with multiple aircraft swaps and crew delays. There were a lot of unhappy travelers.

What I can’t figure out is why this is still happening. United’s move in early July to fix the problem seemed to be the right steps, but here we are a month later and it’s still not having an impact. I know it can take some time to right the ship, but for United’s sake I really hope it happens sooner rather than later. I’ve started to see some clients ask to book away from the airline.

I don’t blame them.

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74 comments on “United’s Operation is a Mess and It’s Not Improving

  1. CF – do you have contacts within United (e.g. PR people) and were they able to make any comment either on or off the record as to why the changes in July haven’t helped ?

    1. David – I know people within United but nobody has really offered any suggestion on why this isn’t getting better. Maybe they just need more time, but you would think there would have been some improvement by now.

  2. There’s an obvious explanation (of course not for every delay/cancel but for some). The events of summer 2000 and summer 2008 repeated themselves to some extent in 2012 (no it’s not about this being a leap year) .

    1. Ivan – Do you have any proof that this is the case? I have no reason to suspect labor action here, and I think that’s proven by the fact that the pilots now have a tentative agreement (almost) and it hasn’t gotten any better.

    2. Nothing is “proven by the fact that the pilots now have a tentative agreement (almost) and it hasn?t gotten any better” because there’s no operational data quoted for after ALPA agreement in principle happened, and neither a TA nor a new contract exist yet.

      2¢ here that things will improve. Let’s wait a couple of months for DOT to release August data and monitor releases beyond. August is more crucial because it’s still a summer month with as much stress on the system as June and July but with (somewhat) happier labor.

      1. Not true, Ivan. The government hasn’t released operational data but it’s available, and I posted it here. Just to give you some more data to work with, the agreement was announced on August 3. Looking at August 4 through August 15, United ran a 69.7 percent on time operation. It’s just as bad as it has been.

        I would hope that the pilots at United so stupid to play games like that, especially not after there has been such progress in a new agreement. US Airways pilots tried it and were immediately smacked down by the judge. The day that happened, the operation miraculously returned to normal.

        I don’t see anything that points toward labor disruption here.

  3. The new UA follows the CO philosophy of less VDB and more IDB. In terms of operations, wow. So even ASA had a better on time record? That’s pathetic.

    Technically how does this work? Are these problems cause they’re moving around pmUA A319’s for thinner CO routes and pmCO 738’s for high traffic routes out of Chicago. One would think if pmCO and pmUA were working properly before the merger, then running them side by side shouldn’t be an issue. Would love to know more about this.

    1. Sanjeev – Hard to break out ASA since they’re merged with ExpressJet now. But in July, the combined entity had 66.8 percent vs 66.3 percent for United. For the first 12 days of August, it was 72.5 percent for EV vs 69 percent for United.

  4. I might be wrong, but it would appear that the steps UA needs to take to fix the problem take some time to implement. As you know, schedules are set months in advance. I’m sure they can’t add block time from one day to the next and instantly improve on time performance. Also, adding spare aircraft requires either acquiring new aircraft or extending leases on aircraft that are scheduled to leave the fleet at some time in the future. Spare aircraft counts will not increase overnight.

    UA has admitted that it is having challenges and is working on fixing them. I think your analysis as to whether the changes are working is 3-4 months premature.

    1. Call me Crazy – Sure, a complete recovery wouldn’t happen that quickly but you should at least see progress. Here are some of the steps that should have had an immediate impact.

      *In mid July, they added a 777 spare
      *Added 500 hours of tech time per day to focus on preventative maintenance
      *Added 15 to 30 minutes to connection times in the pilot and flight attendant lines for August schedules

      This should at least have some impact.

  5. It would be interesting if they could break it down even more to see if problems happen more on the old UA side or the old CO side.

    Just because they say there are going to do certain things to fix the problem, doesn’t mean the problem goes away over night. While their summer schedule is in effect now, the fix may not be seen until their fall schedule starts.

  6. Two out of three of my early morning SEASFO flights cancelled last month. Flying through IAH last month was a chorus of “Your crew is coming from another airplane”…also, just love how the CAL flight crews in IAH are saying “Although it says United on the Plane – this is a CONTINENTAL crew proudly flying a CONTINENTAL plane” which resulted in chuckles in First Class and comments like..”They just cant give it up”

      1. I just got back from GSP, flying United from EWR. Heard the Continental crew line on the way back – a flight which was delayed 4.5 hours, first for weather, than for mechanical issues, then for weather again – though the East Coast was absent bad weather today.

      2. Heard that today as well – This is United flight # operated by legacy Continental flight and cabin crew… welcome aboard.

        Seemed strange to me that this late into the merger there still isn’t a single corporate identity and that doesn’t bode well for a smooth operation, methinks.

  7. “United would…increase scheduled flight times in order to get back on track.”

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED that one solution is to simply add padding to its already-bloated schedules.

  8. Cranky, it’s SHARES. The United agents despise it, still don’t know it well, and can’t get an airplane out on time for it. Many say that it requires more steps to accomplish less work than the old system, and even when they are proficient at it they just can’t process passengers nearly as quickly. IRROPs is the worst. SHARES makes it very time consuming to rebook and reroute passengers. Short delays inevitably turn in to long ones because of it, and that cascades down the system. I know agents who have quit because SHARES made work life too stressful. How the CAL agents did it I don’t know.

    The regional on time numbers are certainly not helped by the continued termination of contracts with experienced ground handling companies and their replacement by other companies which hire noobs off the street.

    1. I heard united agent say the same thing a few months ago when I was on an international flight. The checkin systems were a disaster.

      1. SHARES is an easy copou for the pmUA agents…but if SHARES was such a disaster, how did CO get along for all those years with great ontime and customer service numbers? Bottom line is that SHARES is not the problem. From my experience, the pmUA agents seem to love to complain about things rather than adapt everywhere I’ve flown. Just watch for it…you can pretty easily pick out a pmUA agent or a pmCO agent by their uniform. Lighter blue for CO, darker blue for UA. Go to a CO agent and they’ll get your needs taken care of in seconds flat, or go to a UA agent and they’ll usually bitch and moan about how impossible it is to do anything on the new system, throw their new coworkers under the bus, ask others around them for assistance (taking them away from other customers in the process) and eventually call for more help via phone. Months later, you would expect them to be getting the hang of these things that CO agents sem to have no problem with, but mysteriously they don’t seem to be learning anything at all. That appears to me as an unwillingness to adapt to a new system rather than just a bad computer system.

    2. I’m with Charles. It can’t be SHARES, because Continental ran a good operation with SHARES. It is, however, possible that poor planning and training of pre-merger United agents combined with SHARES is a problem.

      1. Charles details all the reasons why SHARES is failing. Whether the fault is software or human there is a fault, and it rears its ugly head most on oversold flights during IRROPS for pmua agents.

        Also, the United pilots in my jumpseat are of late taking about multiple canceled flights due to inadequate pilot staffing. That sort of event leads to rolling delays for “aircraft availability” or whatnot.

        1. Eric, I don’t follow. A problem with SHARES and a problem with pmUA staff adapting to SHARES are two very different issues. If you’re lumping them together, yes, I suppose “SHARES” is the catalyst here, but it’s not an inherent failure of the software… it’s a failure of implimentation (whether it’s stubborn agents, inadequate training, whatever).

          Let’s also recall that, most recently, NW/DL went through this same integration… and while there were certainly hiccups, plenty of stubborn employees, and lots of griping about how some felt they went with the “inferior” PSS for the combined carrier, we (at DTW) didn’t see the level of dysfunction, and for as long after the integration began, as is reportedly happening across the “new UA” system.

  9. The biggest issue is lack of communication back from UA when there is a problem. I was flying MKE-ORD-SFO last month. The ORD-SFO canceled due to mechanical but only after I was in the air for the short (68 mile) MKE-ORD. (I live in Milwaukee area, and will either drive to ORD or fly depending on airfare–often the airfare is cheaper when I start in MKE). Now stuck in ORD at 11:30a, and UA wouldn’t offer me anything confirmed until the next morning. It looked pretty hopeless & I would miss my next morning meetings in SF. I took the bus home & asked UA for refund. They then shorted me on the refund about $105 presumably as I had flown MKE-ORD (no explanation was given). But I had wasted 8 hours going nowhere & they were still charging me. I wrote to UA customer service. Two to three weeks have elapsed since I wrote UA customer service but no reply. I am not going to waste any more time on this with UA. I’ve already booked two subsequent trips with DL & am in an elite match challenge with DL. If UA can’t handle the traffic, I’ll help them out by shifting my business.

    1. I second the comment about lack of communication. I was on a ORD-IAH flight last week and we sat on the aircraft with the boarding door closed for 30 minutes before any announcement was made. And at the 30 minute point, the lead FA informed us that they had no idea why we hadn’t left yet and they couldn’t reach anyone at the gate to find out why. The issue was the baggage sorting problem at ORD that particular day, which we didn’t find out about until 45 minutes after the door was closed, and we ended up sitting on the ground for about an hour and 15 minutes after the door was closed before we pushed.

      Granted I was pretty aggravated at the time, but my impression was that the gate agents just wanted everyone on the plane so that they could be done with the flight. And at no point did I ever see anyone dealing with the luggage situation demonstrate any sense of urgency while trying to get the baggage loaded.

      On that particular trip I had three segments and all three were delayed with only one delay due to weather (I ended up being re-booked on AA from CMH to ORD, and then back to UA from ORD to IAH).

  10. This is really costing UA and in the long run it is going to open the door for their competition to siphon off passengers. My company has offices in Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco (corporate) and we continuously have people flying back and forth. A year ago most of our people flew UA, but with the merger and the drop in service and on-time performance we have moved to F9 and AK for most of our travel. Our outlying, and less travel heavy, offices in Boston and Dallas have also switched to Delta and American/Southwest respectively. I’d hazard UA has lost nearly 200 round trips a quarter. Only our Australian office still uses UA, more out of convenience than anything else.

  11. United is my “only fly as a last resort” airline. Many of the above comments are typical as to why. They have stranded me several times-even though as an American flyer, they never stranded me. In similar situations, AA tries to help when UA turns its back.

  12. From a crew standpoint, this cross fleeting has been messy. LCAL and LUAL metal flying city pairs where there is no legacy crew bases and limited L skd support makes things complicated. Second issue is many trips built just shy of max hard fly/duty day rigs (in ideal conditions). One inbound EWR 20 min racetrack hold over ABE. runway reconfig at ORD or tstorm dvx into IAH and folks time out all over the place.; usually at a base for the other side.

    I have several friends who jumped at the chance to move into ‘cushy’ scheduling,zone and dispatch positions this spring….they are regretting that decision today.

  13. One other thing that is driving passengers mad (both elite and not) is the E+ seating. I work for a ground handling company and we do contract UA work, both above and below wing. One thing that is driving our passengers mad is the endless battle over the E+ seats on the aircraft. Elites can of course book themselves in an E+ seat for no charge at the time of the reservation. Regular paying passengers can then purchase those seats at several points (reservation, check-in, etc) and it apparently lets them pick from seats that other passengers (the elites) are already in and effectively boot them out of their seat.

    So Mr. Joe Elite goes on and kicks the other person right back out of the seat they just purchased, and now all of a sudden they are coming up to me at the counter, telling me “I had purchased a seat with extra leg room, and now it’s saying I’m not in that seat”. United has made no effort to explain to their agents what to say in this situation or what to say to either passenger. Nor have they made an effort to rectify the situation and disallow either elites having their seats purchased from under them, or disallowing elites from then taking those seats back from a passenger who just paid for them.

    There’s not a shift that goes by where I work our UA counter where I don’t see this at least once…

    Sam

  14. It’s the old computer system that CO has brought over to the UA side that is also making a mess of there operations. They went from the “Jetsons” to the “Flintstones”

  15. My last flight on UA (DEN-IAD) was actually a CO 737-900 with an entirely CO crew. Talk about unhappy-I was talking with the lead Flight attendant and she said she just hates this merger. I get the same thing with UA crews. When your workers aren’t happy-the company suffers. I really don’t blame the workers-they’re in a situation they don’t like-but it tends to make the trip misreable in more ways than one. My last three trips have been DL-while their staff at the gates are less than stellar-the Flight Crews have been terrific. Despite being Elite on UA-I’m staying with DL in the future, even with having to make connections.

  16. Cranky, with all due respect, I find this post ludicrous. After the March 3 merger, you were part of the bleating masses of bloggers who took United’s spoonfed word that things were going great. Your coverage of United up until now has been laughable. If anyone wanted the truth about how bad it is at United, they couldn’t have learned it from you. In fact, the only place they COULD learn about how bad it’s bene to fly United has been at JoeSentMe.com. They warned about the troubles that were coming BEFORE it happened, warned people to book away and have continued to hold United’s corporate feet to the fire about their awful operations and even worse response to the issues. Your Cranky Come Lately admission that United is screwed up is far too little and far too late.

    1. WillyG – Is this you, Brancatelli? ;)

      I couldn’t disagree with this more. I absolutely still think that the technological transition went well. I fail to see how you connect that with what’s happening today. This has nothing to do with technology.

      For the record, United had a respectable (if not still the back of the pack) 77.4 percent on time rate in March when it made the transition. April was up to 81.6 percent. So this problem has been largely a summer issue. You can be as angry as you want, but I don’t see any connection.

      1. I think the difference is pretty much as CF sees it. The actual cutover to the new combined SHARES system went pretty well and the airline kept going without too much disruption as the new system was brought online. The meltdown happened after, as people settled into the new system and discovered the shortcomings and limitations in SHARES, the training, or where ever the problem is.

        I flew United a couple of times last month, and didn’t run into too many issues. But those were LAX-HNL runs, pretty well isolated from any weather problems elsewhere in the country. The 753 fleet in particular seems to just hop back and forth between LAX and HNL. Only once did I hear mention of Continental, and that was on the Captain’s end of flight “thanks for flying Continental” announcement; it sounded more like a slip up old habit, nothing that sounded like he was trying to emphasis that this was a pmCO plane and crew rather than a pmUA plane.

        The only delay on the trips was on a LAX-CLD flight where the Brasilia was late arriving, and then had to wait several minutes for the previous departure from the gate, a CRJ-700, to push back, and it was running late too. Ended up being an hour late for a 25 minute flight. I’ve had worse delay:flight length ratios.

  17. This is what you wrote the first weekend after the computer shift in March: ‘I think my favorite headline was ?United?s computer chaos? from The Economist?s Gulliver blog. Seriously, guys? A little dramatic, no?”

    Anytime you want to apologize to the Economist and JoeSentMe.com, from where the Economist got the data, we’re all listening. Or maybe you should just give yourself a Cranky Jackass Award for running United’s pap instead of listening to JoeSentme.com, the Economist and the places running the truth.

  18. Cranky,
    How about looking into the mess at Pinnacle airlines? My unofficial observations are that cancellations and delays are way up since bankruptcy and it’s hurting Delta’s performance in the upper midwest.

  19. As a 1 K on UA; I have observed over the past year numerous problems, including 2 passengers being booked for the same seat. Elite always win over
    none -elite passengers… On Time… They just add 35 min to each flight schedule to make up for all the problems. Have it from reliable UA employees that Another
    New Computer system goes into effect Oct/Nov 2012… We will have to wait and see what new problems arise from the new system. UA use to have 5 or 6 spare planes at each major Hub… Now if you are lucky there is only 1 spare.

  20. As a very close to million mile UA loyal flier, My most recent (and probably last) flight IAD-SFO in First Class was a total disaster. Crew spent the flight bitching about UA. Couldnt care less about the passengers. Add to that: No table cloth. No menu. No asking if we wanted wine. No interest and a very filthy plane and I decided it was time to think elsewhere. Heading back SFO-IAD-SFO on AA in 1st class. We’ll see how that works out.

  21. In my 16 – years of flying with United, I feel that the last three months have been making up for the past years, as my travel (between flights) has been terrible with cancelled flights, delays, you name it. I have found the ground crews on both sides of the isle, to be pleasant and making a good effort to get things to work (never shoot the messenger). I trust that they get this squared away soon, as even I, with my an inordinate amount of patience will start to migrate elsewhere.
    Nick

  22. This United 1K took the status match to Exec Plat on AA and haven’t looked back, despite less-than-convenient flights out of my home airports.

    After United got me too late to my client to get any work done on Mondays three weeks in a row (all non-wx delays) I’ve given up on them. I can’t afford the loss of an entire work day to travel. United was costing me serious money.

  23. I’m thinking the CO senior-management are forgetting all the effort that Bethune and Co had to go through to get their airline functioning nice and smoothly and just kindof expected it from the UA folks.

  24. If you talk to continental legacy pilots off the record, they will share the following info:
    1) The United Planes have not been maintained well
    2) The new executive suite is willing to sacrifice passenger happiness for financial gain
    3) The new executive suite does not believe in sharing honest info with the cockpit
    Bottom line, United feels passengers are a necessary evil, but not important!

  25. It’s gotten really bad — I just tried to fly home Saturday 8/13 to San Francisco from a business trip in Boston with United, and haven’t seen such a mess in years. There was a 6 AM flight canceled due to “weather” (their supply of airplanes in Boston couldn’t deal with a storm the day before), then the 9:30 AM flight was oversold by 20 seats, and they were offering huge vouchers; then the noon flight was also oversold by 20 seats, but everyone boarded it…and unboarded an hour later due to a maintenance problem. They officially canceled that flight at 2 PM, and told everyone they had no seats to get people home until Tuesday, yes three days later.

    (The 3:30 PM and 6 PM flights were of course also oversold).

    Personally, I bought a ticket at really high rates on Virgin for that evening, and got home same-day, but there were a lot of vacations ruined and business travelers really angry. And I have no clue when the refund of my ticket will go through — their customer service staff was overworked, frazzled, and uncommunicative throughout the whole process.

    I’m done with them.

  26. I agree with the SHARES problems. Lots of old UA agents have trouble near gate time because it’s an older system and there’s a large learning curve. Things get even messier with standbys at the last minute because the system is tough. I’ve seen a number of flights departing late because agents are having trouble closing out a flight. A few weeks ago they put three people in occupied seats that the system showed open. Recently at LGA they’ve started staffing up to four agents on a flight to help sort things out, normally it’s two or three.

    Another problem is United is running out of flight numbers. You’ll notice more flights sharing numbers, but not aircraft and that complicates things further. Last week a family happened to fly DEN-ORD-ALB on two separate flights with the same number, but different aircraft. The system got very confused at seats and deleted them. Th.e agent had to use some backdoor process to seat them.

    Personally, I’ve also had problems with refunds…still waiting on two from weeks ago when it used to be two or three business days.

    Hopefully this gets resolved soon. There’s a lot of division among the crews, but they unify around hating Smisek. I’ve seen plenty of eye rolling during his intro to safety videos during the mainlines.

  27. I copied this from a UAL pilots website. It pretty much sums everything up “I was coming out to PDX last night on a 737-900 from ORD. The airplane was over at the ORD hangar, and the mechanics finally got around to getting to the gate about a half hour after departure time. Nobody cared, not the CSRs, FAs, pilots, and certainly not the mechanics. Employee morale and simple enthusiasm to get the job done right is just non-existent at this airline. It’s been completely destroyed by an upper management that has spent years making it as clear as possible that they don’t care about any employee on this property. The employees have responded in kind – nobody cares. We’re all the honey badgers of the airline industry. And employee attitude here has been so thoroughly shattered that not even a new, rich contract will change anything. So long as this management is still running the show, nobody is ever going to lift a finger to help. I’ll give a new management team a chance, but never this one, no matter how good a contract they give me.”

  28. Why is this still happening ?
    As a friend of an employee, I feel the root cause of this “disaster” is because they were changed from FASTAIR (UA’s) computer to SHARES (CO). This has been discussed at length in the media and various websites and certainly is known by just about everyone.
    There are many analogies and metaphors that UA employees have used —-

    You can’t take a 24/7 operation (UA) and cram it into 9 to 5 (CO).
    Using SHARES is like being given the keys to a Ford Pinto after handing in your keys to the Mercedes.
    United’s operation was huge compare to CO’s. Tens of thousands more passengers and hundreds more cities to be flown with an inferior computer system to do it ??
    An example of irregular operations whereby a person is flying on a nonstop that was cancelled and the only thing available is a double connection cannot be easily “exchanged” in the ticket world of CO’s SHARES. What was done in just a few seconds and few keystrokes at United (FASTAIR), now takes manual, long, string command entries or a call to a third party help desk where employees are at the mercy of someone else typing away or “checking” with yet another person if something can or cannot be done. My friend tells me that “permission” is either granted or denied, necessitating hanging up and calling again, always hoping to get a more knowlegable person or one with common sense. He has stated that CO agents do not “think out of the box”;….every answer is a negative answer — “can’t be done”, “you can’t do that”; says rarely does he hear them offer apologies or a simple “Let me see what we can do to help you”.

    His decades of experience with United is now a graveyard with little or no ability to make common sense decisions because of an extremely inferior computer system with many glitches and inability to get the job done. This obviously adds to the delay and poor service to customers who have to wait interminably for all the typing of string commands and phones calls to a third party help desk to get anything done. Horrendous.

    1. I couldn’t disagree more. Prior to the merger, Continental was consistently ranked higher than United for customer satisfaction. I have had many experiences with Continental where, due to weather challenges, my flights were cancelled, and they always worked with me to get to my destination. My experiences with United were one of, “oh, that’s too bad!. We can’t get you there in time” In fact, I had totally stopped flying United due to their lack of customer service. Again, that is not just my opinion, that is why they were consistently at the bottom of the the JD Power customer service rankings.

      1. You’re entitled to disagree…..however, are you not getting it that United was much larger than CO, had a much larger “elite” customer base, including Global Services, that CO only “wished” they could have matched?

        Are you not seeing that United, even with it’s faults, could handle irregular ops much better than anyone now using SHARES could do – attested by hundreds, if not thousands, on FlyerTalk.com ? My buddy is telling me on a daily basis how many 1K, Global and Million Mile fliers with UA are leaving in droves. He told me just today that the supervisors said they are “concerned” and that they totally know this for a fact.

        Again, if the ship is being run by lawyers and accountants, TOP HEAVY IF NOT A MONOPOLY OF CONTINENTAL PEOPLE, what would this tell us ???? That something is radically wrong with the way things have turned out in 5-6 months. Stop defending CO, it’s a hillbilly airline run by hicks in Houston !!

      2. Feel free to disagree all you want, however – AGAIN, if the top-heavy management (if not monopoly) running this ship are CONTINENTAL people (accountants and lawyers) and the result has been horrible after 5-6 months, wouldn’t that tell people the whole story ?? Apparently “seasoned” airline executives and CEO’s no longer exist.
        United definitely had it’s faults but from my buddy’s experience and exposure on a daily basis at ticket counters and gates, he says it’s a mess. Agents can’t even come close to what they could do in FASTAIR versus SHARES. They call it the hillbilly airline headquartered in Houston. They don’t get it and they can’t handle it (the size and scope of United). It’s CO dba UA. Period end of story.

  29. This is why THIS consumer repeats that mergers normally are NOT a good thing for Consumers. Service, price competition and dependability often suffer. Certain individuals on this blog were very pleased to see this merger happen. Well, the party is over and reality is now here.

    I hope that AA is not forced into a “shot gun” wedding with US Air. It could be a travelers nightmare.

    1. Mike, one airline merger does not make a trend. I could argue that the Delta/Northwest merger has been excellent for customers. They’ve improved their product, increased their network, and overall area better airline now.

      I’d argue that US Airways, (I won’t gripe about the fact you’re too lazy to type “ways” we already went through that.) is uniquely positioned to execute a merger as they have much of the same management from the US Airways and America West merger. While that merger had its issues, the management definitely has learned from them and will not be repeating them.

      On the other hand United and Continental haven’t had merger experience. From what I can find United last had a merger in 1961! (if you exclude them taking over PanAm’s Pacific network.) Continental hasn’t had a merger since it went through the Texas Air debacle.

      A good corollary here: the banks that are best at mergers are the ones that do it a lot, they actually have best practices around how to execute mergers. US Airways probably has one of most experienced management teams (along with Delta) when it comes to mergers.

      1. Nick, your view on the Delta/NW merger has some merit. However, at the time a good portion of the NW system was a captive audience and their service could go no where but up. Delta pricing has been less than Consumer friendly and their FF program is more of a bait N’ switch (especially for use overseas). In general, their Customer Service is anything but.

        Since the UA/Continental United has consistently been the airline which tries to raise rates first. Obviously, as pointed out by Cranky, their air service across the boad has and is suffering. Consumers note these things.

        Your claim regarding putting a positive spin on the America West/US Air merger is not entirely true. Many AW customers were not and still are not happy with that merger for various reasons. The principal issue that, I believe, remains unresolved after all these years is the civil war between the pilots unions. How in the world can you claim that management has learned their lesson??? That kind of wishful thinking is usually saved for Wall Street and banks. AND you state that they “will not be repeating them”. Unless you have a fool proof crystal ball or intend to become the CEO soon that is a very dangerous prediction.

        Finally, using banks as an example of being best at mergers is a red flag to most Consumers. their “best practices” are now legendary as screwing most Consumers on every level of that industry. Many in and out of government are considering breaking up these preditary mergers. Experience is no guarantee that Consumers will not come out on the short end of the stick. US Air and Delta are not good examples of Customer Service or competitive companies, in my opinion.

        1. Consumer Mike – I’ll jump in on this conversation as well. I wouldn’t say that Delta pricing has been less consumer friendly than others. I mean, it’s not as consumer friendly as, say Spirit, if you’re just talking about price, but Delta isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. It’s also not making outsize profits.

          As for the pilots, that is a non-issue in any future merger. Federal law now requires them to go to binding arbitration if they can’t come to a seniority agreement on their own. That is a law that went into place after the America West/US Airways merger was completed.

          Though we can’t use a crystal ball for this, I would hazard a guess that America West wouldn’t be around today if not for that merger with US Airways. So people may not be happy with it, but it’s better than the alternative of an extinct airline. I personally think Phoenix travelers are better off because they’re better connected into the global network.

          1. I’d be interested to hear if “Consumer” Mike thinks that Spirit is consumer friendly.

            (You derisively refer to US Airways as US Air, so I’m derisively putting the first part of your name in quotes)

          2. I agree that calling Spirit Consumer friendly would be a strech of the imagination. Their version of Bait N’ Switch can be financially painful to an unsuspecting traveler. Personally, I don’t intend to fly Spirit, no matter what the advertised price is. I normally do not do business with any type of merchant that operates with “flexible” pricing. You are absolutely correct in saying that Delta is not doing anything out of the ordinary in selling a product. In this case seats for travel. It is up to the Consumer to hunt and compare service/pricing/schedule and reputation or flying record.

            Regarding the pilot issue, I only mentioned it as an important issue that has dragged on for years. It was not a management inspired problem that was expected to drag on forever. East V. West, so to speak.

            I really liked AW and I bet you enjoyed working for them. I recall the difficult times they were going through at the end. As I recall, I believe the bad economy and fuel prices were the final straw. The merger was a lifeline I believe. Chances were that AW would not have survived alone. Sad.

          3. Consumer Mike – I’m not aware of any sort of bait of switch with Spirit when you book directly. If you have an example, please let me know. I find Spirit to be far more upfront that others. You will definitely not purchase your ticket on Spiritair.com without knowing everything that is and isn’t included.

    2. Mike, that is a very interesting comment. When the merger was announced, it seems the United fliers were very happy, and the Continental fliers were very, very upset.

      1. Stu, Continental was a very well run airline that was known for good Customer Service and Consumer friendly. Those customers are seeing a much different level of service after the merger with United as decribed by Cranky.

        A very disappointing , but not surprising, outcome of another airline merger for Consumers.

        1. Mike, i absolutely agree with you. I used to be a HUGE fan of continental and would go out of my way to fly on continental. Now i look for opportunities to fly Delta, which is very hard to do when flying out of Newark. I keep hoping that things will get better, but after to talking to a number of Continental legacy pilots, I have very little hope. Smilek is more concerned with dollars than customers. He seems to feel we are a captive lot and will fly United because we have to, not because we want to. It really is too bad.

  30. Last night at Ohare, my United flight 949 to Seattle was delayed 2 hours. We were told the co pilot had not passed the breath test, and they were waiting for another co pilot.
    WTF?

  31. BW, for you and Nick, who seem to get worked up over my using US Air rather than US Airways, it seems rather a petty issue. Instead of using Nick should one use Nicolas or rather than BA, use British Airways? Be realistic and reasonable. I’m confident you two can think of better issues and matters to exchange opinions about. Grow up.

    Regarding your question about my opinion of Spirit, their marketing is very deceptive. Bait N” Switch. I do not do business with firms like that – no matter the product. Spirit is an airline that Consumers should think about twice before booking. Recently, I understand, the FAA has jumped on them for this reason. CAVEAT EMPTOR

    1. Mike, it is simply a sign of respect for those whom you are communicating with that you use the proper and current name. What if I started calling you Mikey? (As perhaps your friends did when you were young.) Its derogatory in the sense that you’re implicitly saying that US Airways hasn’t changed since those days. In the same way that calling you Mikey is calling you a child.

  32. CF,

    My memory is not as good as it once was, but I seem to recall issues with Spirit about carry on luggage fees, with the FAA regarding “Club” pricing for flights and I believe that there were a couple of other fees that unexpectly popped up when travelers arrived to check in. Please correct me if I am wrong. It would be unfair to state incorrect things about any airline. Thanks, Brett

    1. Consumer Mike – The carry on fees are up front before you purchase. There is a $9 Fare Club that you can join that will give lower pricing but that’s not really misleading. And when you’re in the booking process, it’s pretty clearly shown. I would suggest walking through the booking process on spiritair.com – just don’t purchase a ticket.

  33. Why would anyone keep defending CO’s old ways and “what a great airline” they are/were ?? Is it just a coincidence that United has never been worse since it was taken over and run (monopolized) by CONTINENTAL LAWYERS AND ACCOUNTANTS ?? Wouldn’t that tell the whole story to any intelligent person who reads FlyerTalk.com and just about any media article about this “takeover” and all the negative results particularly since 3/3/12 ??
    Hillbilly airline headquartered in Houston – They don’t get it – They can’t handle it. Period end of story.

  34. From the passenger perspective (I am not at all in the industry), any discontent that I have felt since the merger has been predicated on the same discontent-causing factors as before the merger: namely, poorly-trained, unhappy, unpleasant, uninterested employees with whom I have to deal in any context in the course of taking a flight.

    I don’t usually care if the plane is late, though of course it is a bother, but I do care if the agent who tells me or informs us about this or other “bothers” could give a s*** and shows no empathy or understanding for the passenger nor posseses any personable way of even communicating with the customers. Some of the merged airline workers are fantastic and some are pretty much a liability to their new merged employer.

    CO used to have a postage-paid feedback card in the back of their onboard magazine. Over the years (maybe 25 years), I probably used over a 100 of those cards to communicate with “Houston” about employees who were peerless and about those who clearly did not give a s***. The card was victim of one of the first changes evident after the merger…the new UA did NOT include these cards in their magazine, so there was no way to gripe about or praise anyone.

    I know change is difficult, and transformation even more difficult. But for me, it all starts on and depends on the individual employee’s abilities/dedication/knowledge/human kindness.

    All I feel able to do is hope for the best…sort of like buying a lottery ticket.

  35. Sorry – been on vacation (Monarch Airlines – surprisingly good!) and am too lazy to read all comments….

    The only United flights I’ve had a problem with this year (and I’ve taken 8 transatlantic ones) were those operated on Continental metal; all of these have been late, all of these have had surly cabin crew. I’m sure I’ve missed a comment that states the exact opposite of my experience….

    Can’t wait for the next trip in two weeks time – at least that’ll be on old UA metal.

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