Blaming United’s Problems on Continental (or Vice Versa) is Exactly the Problem

The talk of the US airline industry these days is all about one thing… what’s wrong with United? The airline is underperforming financially and operationally, without question, and has not been able to take advantage of all the benefits that should have come in the merger with Continental. So what is wrong with the airline? Many people think they know, including executives at the airline, but the reality is that it’s a whole lot of things, and it’s not an easy fix. I certainly don’t know all the answers either, but I’d start with the hardest and most important thing to fix: the culture. That’s no quick payoff on that one, but it’ll pay the biggest dividends in the long run.

United's Executive Fix

One favorite pastime for United employees in this merger is to blame Continental. If you listened to many pre-merger United employees, you’d think that United was the greatest airline of all time until Continental came in and ruined it. Talk about seeing the world with rose (er, uh, tulip?)-colored glasses. Let’s be realistic here.

United was a mess for a full decade or, arguably, more leading up to the merger. Awful management, bad labor relations, and a lack of interest in preparing the airline for long term success led United to the bottom of the industry several times. Had things gotten better in the last couple of years before the merger? Sure. But that’s because they couldn’t get any worse. Besides, previous management was so hell-bent on finding a merger partner that they had to improve things so their own shareholders could make money on any combination.

Despite this brief improvement, United was still an airline that had dramatically under-invested in itself. Planes weren’t well-maintained (not unsafe, but they weren’t reliable) and sub-par onboard products ruled the day. Anyone who thinks United was a truly great airline is smoking something. It hadn’t been great since the last century.

Continental, on the other hand, was closer to being a premier airline, but it was a premier regional airline. You had a carrier that was strong only in the eastern half of the country with a good Transatlantic network and a great presence in Mexico. In the rest of the country, South America, and in the Pacific (save for the isolated Micronesia network), Continental was largely an afterthought. This was not a global airline.

But give credit where credit is due. Continental had been left for dead in the early 1990s and its turnaround was nothing short of remarkable. The fact that it maintained that status for so many years after the turnaround is a testament to the people there.

When it comes time for a merger, however, you don’t need people who can maintain a great culture. You need people who can build a new one from the legacies of two existing ones. That still hasn’t happened at United. At this point, what United needs is another turnaround. You might think Continental would be up for another one, but there’s one problem. The people who led Continental through the last turnaround are no longer there. That’s not to say people on this management team haven’t participated in a turnaround. It’s that they haven’t led one. That’s a big difference.

There are several tactical and strategic errors we can point to along the way. A favorite one to point to is the decision to go with the SHARES passenger service system over United’s Apollo system. That has resulted in all kinds of frustrations for passengers and front-line employees alike. But that was just a byproduct of a bigger decision, one to try to pick and choose the best of each airline. That was a big mistake and it only creates a bigger wedge between the two sides. That’s probably one reason why we’ve seen American and US Airways choose a different strategy in their merger.

United and Continental pitched this as a merger of equals, even though the Continental management team was effectively, but not entirely, taking over. They said it would bring the best from both sides. But you know what that does? It gets both sides thinking they’re the best, and then they fight each other to prove they’re right.

This creates deep divisions which don’t disappear once a decision is made. Instead it creates fiefdoms which are hard to penetrate. It’s made even more difficult when physical barriers are put up. In stark contrast to the open layout at Hawaiian’s headquarters, United’s is chopped up across 20+ floors, and you are sometimes require to take connecting elevators to get between them. It’s not conducive to teamwork if even a team wanted to come together.

So what did US Airways/American learn from this? Though US Airways was the acquiring carrier over American from a transactional perspective, US Airways management has quickly come in and said that they would keep the systems that were already in place almost across the board. Once the transition is done, then the team can jointly decide if future changes should be made. This helps to avoid infighting from day one, and it also helps maintain operational integrity.

At American, it’s far too early to say you have one team working together, but at least they’re on the runway. United seems to be sitting in the penalty box, waiting for a departure slot. Of course, building a unified culture is not easy. It takes a big strategy and then a million little pieces of solid execution to get things to start to gel. There is no switch to flip. But it’s the little things can have a big impact.

For example, American just recently announced its new operations center would be named after the legendary and much-admired Bob Baker. Bob oversaw operations at American from 1985 until the turn of the century. American would probably look a lot different today had Bob Baker succeeded Bob Crandall running the airline, but sadly he was taken by cancer. He’s a man who deserves his name on the side of American’s ops center. Legacy American employees can take pride that their tradition is being respected while legacy US Airways employees can be proud to be joining an airline that has such a rich history. (Of course, they need to make sure the US Airways legacy has a place as well.)

At United, you hear a lot of talk but you don’t see this kind of action. The executive team is too busy putting together reasons why the airline is underperforming for Wall Street instead of building a culture. These excuses always seem like a scramble and they don’t often make sense. They blamed the revenue management team a few months ago for revenue underperformance, but the excuses didn’t really seem to add up. On the cost side, United brought in both McKinsey and BCG, two expensive consulting groups with mixed results (that’s being generous) in the airline industry, to create a plan. This is the kind of stuff that’s core to the business. You shouldn’t need a consultant to tell you how to run your airline.

If United really wants to cut its costs, the best thing it could do is to start running a better operation. After all, year-to-date, including regional partners, United has canceled more than 5 percent of its flights. That’s more than American, Delta, Southwest, or US Airways. It also had more than a quarter of its flights delayed with a 72.9 percent on time performance. That barely beat Southwest, an airline with its own real operational issues, and fell far behind industry leaders Delta and US Airways. This isn’t an isolated performance. United hasn’t been a operational leader in recent memory.

Running a bad operation is incredibly expensive, and it creates ill will with your customers. Sure, there are a bunch of technical ways you can look into fixing the operation, but one that impacts it from every angle is the culture. If you have a group of people all working together toward the same goal, things have a way of fixing themselves. Of course, you need to provide those people with the tools to do their jobs to even have a shot at success. See, it’s a lot of little things that add up quickly.

So how do we fix this? I don’t know the full answer. Of course, I don’t work there and I certainly don’t know where the bodies are buried. But the real problem is that management doesn’t seem to know how to fix it either. What I do know is that as long as people are publicly blaming the Continental side or the United side, United is going to struggle.

Working on the culture may not be the top bullet point on the first page of that McKinsey Powerpoint deck, but it’s certainly where I’d start.

[Original engine maintenance photo via Shutterstock]

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242 Responses to Blaming United’s Problems on Continental (or Vice Versa) is Exactly the Problem

  1. Neil S. says:

    How did Delta handle its merger to get a different result?

    I know we all love bashing Delta for its frequent flier program, but as someone who flies them almost exclusively due to an unshakable corporate contract, the crews are almost always friendly and fun, the pilots seem happy when they visit us before the flight, and the gate agents also seem to be in a good mood.

    I know I shouldn’t jinx myself, but until this past weekend, I’d never had a mechanical issue in over three years of flying. (But that’s not a culture thing.)

    Striking to see how different it seems to be at United.

    • Matt says:

      Neil,

      I have been a frequent traveller on pre-merger Continental(US-Asia/Europe) and the same on a post-merger United and I think that Brett hit the nail perfectly as Nick has stated, and i have unfortunately witnessed.

      I have had the opportunity on many a flight to sit next to FA’s from both carriers, and I always a simple question, cannot say it the same each time, but i always ask sort of what is their opinion of the other, have they integrated, what is their perception of United, etc.. from the conversations I have gleaned a few points..

      1. They all agree that leadership sucks, both sides hate Smisek, the pmCO employees yearn for Bethune and the pmUA employees hate smisek and seem to yearn for a mission…
      2. pmCO FA’s yearn for a better product(food, service culture), citing a lower quality of food and service from pmUA food service provider(which post merger UA took on), in this area i agree, UA food is far inferior to pmCO, but that is an opinion. pmCO employees do constantly try to one up pmUA employees, I have witnessed on no less than 5 international flights post merger(EWR-PEK-EWR route) a statement by the purser “we are a continental crew”.
      3. pmUA FA’s hate pmCO equipment and complain non-stop that they do not want to work on those planes, and that they are better at providing service, nicer, and as a relatively frequent business-class traveller(not all trips, but quite a few 10+ times on pmCO and post-merger United(both versions of lie-flat) they also try to compete on what seats are better etc. IMO how a pmUA FA could possibly think that a 2-4-2 seat that is narrower, with less storage space than a 2-2-2 seat, is more comfortable is beyond me.
      4. They are both in agreement that they do not know what is going to happen, or when their labor contracts may merge, etc, but they are both afraid of that date.

      From this, Brett has it perfect, intra-employee competition has created such a negative working environment that it has poured over into customer service and to the culture. I will be honest, I had the first positive-customer service conversation a few days ago when changing a ticket(paid-BF), that might have been it, but even with a paid bf ticket, i have had horrible phone service, where the agents are unhelpful, lazy or just downright rude.

      They need to get it together, because for me United has a more convenient route network in case of timing and destination. One thing is for sure, United should not be receiving any rewards for service, business or first class cabins or performance, because it all sucks, and whenever i have seen a “win” in the past few years, it always reeks of buying a review, because you are not getting what you pay for.

      • Arcanum says:

        I generally believe the Continental service and product were superior, but I am absolutely shocked that the pmCO crews continue to make announcements like this. If I were in management at the new UA, this kind of behaviour would warrant discipline.

        As far as I’m concerned, you keep your internal disputes/dirty laundry behind closed doors. All the customer should see is smiles and one big fake-happy family.

        Of course, the service culture in America is nearly dead anyways, so I’m probably asking for the moon. I’m waiting to see which airline is the first to put a tip jar out in the galley.

      • bayareascott says:

        Flight attendants from each side do not work on the other’s sides equipment, since they do not have a combined contract. So whatever comments you might be hearing, they do not have to do with working on the “other” equipment.

        • Charles says:

          YES> Thank you for clarifying that. Sub-co planes are newer, and have the touch screens mostly for entertainment.

        • Matt says:

          They do not have a combined contract, but that does not mean that FA’s from CO are not flying on UA equipment to get to site, esp on international routes. The comments I hear is that they do not want to work on the “other” equipment” and I do believe that is pretty clear in the statement above…

          A combined contract is a matter of time, it should have happened already, and that is part of the problem…

          As a frequent flier and a customer, i totally agree that one should not have to witness dirty baggage and horrible service, esp. in premium classes…or even econ for that matter…

          Lets just hope that there is an improvement, though i think that most of the commentaries here have hit that there needs to be a leadership change which is true…Imo,

    • Ryan says:

      While it is true that current United Management is penny wise, pound foolish(started by Kellner)! The biggest problem is that basically everything at legacy United was wong! It was an airline whose last decent decision, was buying Pan Ams Heathrow routes, before that Pan Ams Pacific routes and SFO hub and essentially nothing since! It looks good on paper only. All the aircraft are wrong: from 777’s, and 757’s that have the wrong range and engines! The 747’s are old and of little use to a US based airline’s business model! All the hubs face either low cost competition, legacy competition or both!
      ORD, DEN and LAX are obvious, IAD is not prefered to DCA for domestic traffic and Southwest’s BWI hub is actually closer to DC! SFO maybe its only asset and does face competition from Virgin America (little), and now Southwest has moved almost all its OAK flying there! However SFO is possibly its only asset, and with Asian routes that were once restricted, now open to anyone, its value becomes less each day!
      Its an airline that has been shrinking for 20 years, the majority of all employees are maxed out on pay and aren’t going anywhere due to a loss of pension and employee stock ownership (little savings)!
      Continental should have let it merge with US Airways and go the way of Pan Am! And
      piece-mealed itself, like it did in ’87, with Alaska, Hawaiian, Frontier and Air Tran, Continental built its European and Asian network from scratch anyway! But instead now it too will eventually fade away! There is no fixing United!

    • cnovak says:

      The difference with Delta..is that is wasn’t a merger. It was an acquisition, which changed the rules of compliance where it came to what system to follow, what direction to take the company, etc.

      • Juan says:

        They should have just used the United systems. I was burned during the switchover to the new CO based reservation system. I purchased a ticket for relatives using FF miles. The system took the reservation but didn’t issue a ticket number of book the actual flight. I spent 2 hours arguing with them with relatives sitting at the desk at the airport. We battled because CO system required a PIN to purchase tickets with FF miles. You could login with a password but the PIN was needed for FF purchases. United didn’t have a pin system and one was never provided.

        I just got made again :(.

    • IO says:

      IMO, a couple of things made the results different for DL

      – The DL ceo had been the ceo at NW so he knew the culture and probably had a lot of the group leaders’ buy-in to influence the rest of employees. Also knew the financial, operational, and marketing ways of NW.
      – Both DL & NW were bankrupt, so they had the similar experiences and probably expectations.

  2. Nick says:

    You didn’t hit the nail on the head…but took a sledgehammer to the nail…I lobe this article

  3. John says:

    I don’t understand why they cannot fire Jeff. How many quarters of terrible results does it take. Plus a reset at the very top by bringing in someone not from CO or Ua would show the employee that management is ready for a change.
    Something other than cut backs and devaluations need to happen!

    • TomF says:

      Smisek is also chairman of the Board of Directors, and the BOD is mainly lapdogs with little experience in the airline industry, so the chances of a BOD insurrection are very slim until we get another few quarters of laggard performance racked up.

  4. matt weber says:

    I cannot speak to the staffing issues, but I have to assume they have been managed about as well as United equipment purchases in the same period.

    United has a long history of failing to plan for the future, along with being severely allergic to spending money on capital improvements. In the current narrow bodies, I don’t think United ever bought anywhere near the maximum available Takeoff weight. So while other carriers very successfully deployed the 757 on relatively long thin routes, United’s 757 had neither the engines or the MGTOW available to fly these missions. Both could have been obtained by simply writing checks to Boeing and Pratt & Whitney. CO on the other hand bought pretty much maximum MGTOW, and the big RR engines. They were able to fly those long thin missions.and continue to do so today.

    United decided to take a pass on the A321, which is now probably the most attractive member of the A320 family. US has a flock of them. The A320’s product they bought lacked MGTOW and engines to make them capable of some of today’s more attractive missions (like Transcon). Once again those issues could have been addressed, but it would have meant writing checks to Airbus an International Aero Engines.

    On the 777, United went for less than the max available MGTOW, but the choice of engines is what really put them behind the proverbial 8 ball. The bought the 90,000 pound PW4000, which is a dead end. CO bought GE90’s, which in the 777-200 family runs up to 94,000 pounds thrust to support higher MGTOW’s, better High/Hot performance (think Denver), and better fuel economy as well as longer range. A few years ago I calculated that difference between BA’s Trent 896’s and United PW4000 translated to almost 40,000 pounds in Takeoff weight on a warm day in Denver.in a 777-200ER. That is a lot of business to walk away from.

    My point is simple, United for a very long time only bought the capability they needed at the time they bought it. There was little thought about the possibility that in the future they might need more then what they bought. Since United was positively allergic to spending money to address those issues, CO has inherited the consequences of those decisions.. The aircraft involved are now so old that it probably doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money of them. What you have today is the end result of 20+ years of extremely short sight planning at United.

    My thoughts anyway,

    • PHLLAX says:

      Matt,

      A couple of things you should consider – the UA 777 fleet are some of the oldest frames produced and 22 of the 52 from the sUA side are the 777-200 “A” market airplanes, while the all from the from the sCO side are the 777-200ER. Twins were only being flown trans-Atlantic at that point as well, nobody flew them trans-Pacific. In addition, the Trent was not even launched when they first placed the order. While newer engines are available and they can always increase thrust with a software update and a check, it is difficult and complicated to switch from one manufacturer to another.

      With regards to the 757 fleet, I swear I read somewhere once that after 9/11, United’s insurance company stipulated that they could not be flown trans-Atlantic, and that they had to remain stateside or in the Caribbean.

      With regards to the Airbus order, they only went with Airbus because the 737-400 couldn’t fly transcon or hold 150, but the 320 could. As a result Beoing launched the NG program. Remember that fuel was also dirt cheap, and they still had plenty of 767 domestic service in addition to the monster 757 fleet.

    • Muqhtar says:

      A bunch of UA’s decisions regarding motors stems from the UA232 Sioux City crash in 1987. It was determined that a defective disk in the GE motor shattered into many pieces, severing the DC-10’s hydraulics and causing the crash. This defect was later determined to be a nitrogen bubble that got caught in the part during the foundry process 18 yrs prior. GE subcontracted the manufacture of this particular part to Alcoa. An ultrasound, X-ray or other quality inspection should have found this and caused the part to be scrapped. United sued GE for this. GE then countered that United’s maintenance procedures were not up to par and that they should have found it themselves during regular maintenance. I don’t remember the exact outcome of the lawsuit but I don’t think that United prevailed. United decided a that point that they never wanted to own another GE product every again, not even a lightbulb. You will notice that they went with any aircraft option they could find that didn’t involve a GE motor. The A320 was initially offered with GE CFM56 motors but somehow the IAE consortium showed up and made a competing motor option. The PW4000 at the time was not the optimal motor for the 777 but UA went with it anyways rather than the GE90. It’s only now after the UA/CO merger (CO is a big GE shop) that they are really even considering GE motors on any new aircraft.

      • matt weber says:

        Several comments. First the NTSB found dye in the alpha inclusion in the failed disk from UA 232. That means the flaw was visible in at least one maintenance inspection, and quite possibly several.

        The A320’s as purchased by United are incapable of transcon operation with a commercially viable load. They never bought either enough weight, or enough engine. Even with the full MGTOW and big engines, B6 had to install Aux tanks in their A320’s to give them transcon range, and apparently in very unfavorable wind conditions, they still have trouble. Thats one of the reasons B6 was interest in what they called an A320.5. A320 fuselage with closer to A321 MGTOW.

        The GE90 was not a viable option at the time United ordered, or received its first 777-200’s. As it stands the first GE90 777’s went to British Airways, and they were more than a year late because of certification problems with the GE90. In fact the first several 777’s that were delivered to BA came with 7 figure checks as compensation for the late delivery. Interestingly enough BA had these aircraft in service flying to the Middle East literally within days of delivery. However RR was a viable option, and had United chosen it, by spending some money, they could have ended up with far more capable 777-200ER’s than they have today.

        Many carriers who bought 777-200 (non-ER) took them on relatively short term operating leases. Once those leases ended, these aircraft left the fleet in favor of 777-200ER’s. You will find very few non-ER’s (if any) in service at British Airways for example. Once again, United didn’t do a good job of planning for future needs. If they had, they would have obtained the 777-200’s on relatively short term (5-10 year) operating leases. That unfortunately requires spending money, and United has been positively allergic to doing so for a very long time.

    • ExUA says:

      Matt – You are spot on. I worked at UA for 4 years. Worst 4 years of my 25 year aviation career mind you, for all the points that Brett put forth in the article, and some others, but with culture and inept front and center. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Brett too was employed there. But I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. But back to aircraft choices. I was part of a team that decided the most recent 737NG purchases. Also in the mix was the A321Neo. In those discussions, not once was any of the points regarding engines or MGTOW ever discussed. It was all about the here and now, and the replacement of aging AC. Never about the future, or where we might be able to deploy the different AC in the future if we went with different options. There is no long term planning at UA. It’s all about putting out daily fires. Even in Tech Ops, almost all parts planning is done looking in the rear view mirror and taking what happened in the past and extrapolating it to the future. Without any regard for how the future would be or was going to change. And leadership is too concerned about holding onto their own jobs, to ever do the right thing (not that they know what that would be). If they keep the status quo, then they won’t be kicked to the curb for making changes that might not necessarily solve all the problems. So instead, nothing changes, and no problems ever get solved, and UA continues to be the same old crappy airline and place to work that it has always been.

      • CF says:

        ExUA – I did indeed work there. I was at United from 2004 to 2005 when I left. It wasn’t a long stay by any stretch.

  5. haolenate says:

    When people aren’t happy, they don’t want to come to work. And when they ARE at work, they are doing the bare minimums or not really going above and beyond. Then you get new hires, still wet behind the ears, and they see this and start picking up those people’s bad habits. And that’s when you get – United. :P

    I believe that culture is everything right now. I’ve been doing a lot of American/USAirways flying, and some of the staff are still in “former” mode – delivering good service, but they aren’t as perky and upbeat as before. Kinda they seem to be in a “wait and see attitude”. Its like we are 2 minutes into any Anna Nicole reality tv show – they still aren’t sold, they want to be, but not sure they wanna continue watching it.

    Delta, as mentioned, has already been down that path and a HUGE majority of the staff seem happy with the direction and LOVE their jobs. I even had a captain on a Seattle-Juneau flight come out into the First Class cabin and do a 3-4 minute talk about the flight, what we’ll see, etc, and then went to welcome everyone in First on his flight. This reminded me of some United flights over 10 years ago where the Captain sent back his personal business card (well, United card) with a thank you note, with my name & seat number, AND even Mileage Plus status on it. But because of Richard Anderson’s team and their drive, everyone is comfortable and they WANT to do a GREAT job.

    I’m not sure that firing Jeff (as FlyerTalkers seem to want) is as much of the solution as wiping EVERYONE out up top. Coming from Alaska, I can tell you that one thing we will admit that we LIKED about Sarah Palin was that when she was elected governor, she installed brand new commissioners across the board — this wiped out all of the cronies and those deeply imbedded in politics and brought a new face to our state government. Maybe its time United looked at that too….

  6. Meghan says:

    Great post, could you, Brett, or someone here quickly explain the operation issues at Southwest you mentioned? Thanks!

    • CF says:

      Meghan – Southwest has been really struggling at running an on time operation. The biggest issue seems to be that it loses a lot of time when airplanes hit the airline’s focus cities like Chicago, Houston, Denver, etc. So airplanes with tight turn times end up getting delayed early and the problems get worse throughout the day. There’s some thought that the reason is the increased number of checked bags. Also, there’s the issue of more people on each airplane with Southwest’s new seating configuration, but the schedule hasn’t been altered to deal with this. Ultimately, only those inside Southwest know for sure what’s going on. But they need to fix it.

  7. Carl says:

    I think there’s an additional thing going on at United, and I have to believe it starts from the top.

    I don’t think management listens very well. And I think management hasn’t demonstrated truthfulness and candor – everything is always spin.

    I don’t think they like to hear what they don’t want to hear, and as a result I don’t think they hear the truth. People aren’t encouraged to give bad news or reality, they are encouraged to tell management what it wants to hear. So management is making decisions based on false premises.

    It doesn’t feel like they listen to customers, nor to employees. So they keep cutting things that customers see and they don’t give employees the tools to give good customer service. That then gets reflected in lower PRASM. With United’s route system, they should not be earning such lower PRASM than DL, but they are. It’s because customers don’t want to fly them, so they can only fell planes by discounting.

    How much of the operational reliability problems have been due to penny-wise pound foolish decisions? How much have the computer systems cost in lost revenue, increased labor and operating costs, and lower operational reliability. You cannot blame operational reliability on weather when AA & DL have big operations in the NYC area, AA & WN are in Chicago, AA & WN are affected by the same weather as Houston.

    I don’t think either customers or employees or investors trust what management says any more after four years of spin and misleading statements. Just an example was the coffee debacle, when the claim was that the new coffee won a taste test but it tasted like dreck.

    I don’t even believe the “pick the best of both carriers systems” when every single decision seems to have been based purely on what was lowest cost. And I don’t think they ever really considered full cost impact, only directly measurable cost. So if something costs less but requires more labor or delays flights or drives away customers…

    How much of the ongoing UA vs. CO divide was a result of the strategy in labor negotiations? Doesn’t seem like they prioritized unifying the workgroups nearly enough.

    When will management be held accountable?

    • Judy says:

      Carl you are absolutely spot on. They didn’t pick the best of both but the cheepest of both.

    • Realist says:

      Carl I don’t disagree with anything you say really but want to point out that the horrible coffee taste is likely due to using the aircraft water. AA had the same situation: performed a taste test, picked the best coffee but it tasted horrible when they rolled it out on the flights. After investigating they determined the cause of the horrible taste was the water they were using to brew the coffee.

      • Carl says:

        United was using Starbucks prior to that, and it was among the best airline coffees out there. The reason United gave for the change was the Starbucks didn’t want to keep supplying. Almost certainly an untruth, or at best United wouldn’t pay the price that Starbucks wanted. Soon afterward Alaska switched to Starbucks while for 2-3 years United’s coffee was an embarrassment. Even now it isn’t as good as it was.

        It wasn’t the water. And it certainly wasn’t “taking the best of each airline”.

    • Jeff says:

      Carl, I fly here after coming off 5 years military leave and I can unequivocally say you are spot on. Nobody has fun with the passengers; I’ve tried on several occasions to get captains to go back to at least first class and none will..so I do it now! I love talking to the folks, joking about if they are ready to go to Alaska when we’re on a flight to Hawaii, talking with the kiddos (especially UM’s and handing out wings). But, as you say, we have a HUGE management problem as that is all anyone at the top does…manages and he has surrounded himself with yes massah, powerpoint slide building, excel spreadsheet tweaking weenies who if they ever tell him what he doesn’t want to hear, they are canned.

      We need innovation and leadership and the people here will get behind that team and go back to work, but until that happens our morale continues to plummet as well as our service. The other issue is that management has the continued view of stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime because it’s shinier (previously mentioned powerpoint slide excel spreadsheet builders). Our product continues to plummet as fast as can be as “they” think by cutting a couple bucks on food will keep us afloat. Couple that with adding “dark” jets to the fleet with no internet, video on demand, or any other inflight entertainment on a 5 hour LAX-HNL flight where you stare at the seat in front of you…absolutely horrible. People want, good food, comfy seats, and to time warp to their destination…that’s it.

      I will end with what I’m getting more and more better at here and that is..I apologize. If only management could learn this humbling task instead of pulling a Carney and spinning everything…

      • DK Mashino says:

        Jeff, I know this wasn’t your whole point but I’d like to add, I fly on Delta’s “dark” 757s out of HNL 2-3x monthly — literally, old 757s with barcaloungers in first, drop-down screens, and old oven-style overhead bins (and none with wifi) and I happily fly DL over United.

        I guess my point is even in spite of seemingly shabby equipment, the thousands I spend monthly are worth it when I get a smile, a joke now and then, and overall great attitude.

        It’s sad though about United. Happy flying!

      • John says:

        My God! HEAR HEAR!!

      • B6 says:

        great post Jeff!

        as a regular CO flyer I was shocked to fly first class HNL-LAX on an old UA 757 with the 1980’s style drop-down screens (that barely work) and no wifi. I was laughing when the flight attendant dropped the screen down after takeoff. The article was correct united has done nothing to upgrade their aircraft and now these 757s are being fazed out anyway for 737NGs which is a good thing.

        • MD says:

          Another biased Continental fan, hahaha…this site is full of you guys. You say there was nothing being done being done to upgrade United’s aircraft? I was in maintenance at United and I know the aircraft were being upgraded before the merger. This is one of the aircraft that was upgraged with lie flat seats and big video screens in front of you. This is United before it got Con-Taminated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyjKhInVj8Y

          • B6 says:

            right, so that transcon airplane from 2010? so why did I fly the same POS 1980s era 757 a month ago? LMAO – united needs to ditch these antiquated airplanes TODAY and replace with 737NGs with direcTV

            • Well, except the DirecTV signal probably doesn’t cover the off shore areas.. And if it does, the plane might not be able to get it. (DirecTV requires a special equipment in Hawaii..)

            • Carl says:

              I couldn’t care less whether an aircraft has DTV

              Frankly I find the UA seats have (had) better lumbar support than the CO seats. Not sure yet about the slimline seats.

              IFE is not at the top of UA’s issues IMHO

            • MD says:

              You sound like a Continental employee more than a customer. The new 737NG is noo goood….get it, ng for nooo goood…It’s got slimline seats with no cushion so uncomfy as hell and extra row so they can pack you like sardines. Currently, those flying the Hawaii routes have no entertainment system and passengers are calling them boring. It’s all documented in the new United Facebook page. Look it up. The new United is cheapened to death thanks to Continental management.

          • Larry says:

            If, in fact you are United employee, which I seriously doubt, you would know, excepting recently delivered aircraft, Direct-TV is available on all 737-900s – to all destinations, including to/from Hawaii.

            However, “Live” aspect of Direct-TV can be interrupted on lengthy over-water flights – yet, the stored content will be available.

            • MD says:

              I’m no longer an employee and you are absolutely right. Direct TV is installed on most of the 737s according to United’s website. I was just going by what someone said that they flew on 737-900 and it didn’t have a video screen and no entertainment. One of my relative from Honolulu said the same thing that there was no entertainment on the plane they were on but I don’t know what type of aircraft they flew on. She said the flight was boring. Question for you, do you need wifi to get Direct TV and need your own device?

            • Carlc says:

              There have been many, many 739’s put into service without any IFE or power. I’m not sure they are installing DTV any more.

              There are also some 738’s with no DTV.

              But this isn’t the main issue facing UA

          • Needs Work says:

            Nice article. Not sure where to start there are so many issues with United Airlines. Legacy United had deferred lots of maintenance on its entire fleet. For example, after the airlines were merged, many of theLegacy United 757’s, had to have extensive corrosion control on on them to keep them airworthy. For example, I saw thousands of rivets being replaced on the fuselages some of these old United airplanes. And this was done at the Continental maintenance facility at Houston Intercontinental Airport. Many of the old Legacy united 757’s are now parked in various bone yards. The reason for this is because they’re worn out or incapable of being modified to add winglets due to the old main wings spar that could not handle The added stress the winglet’s provide. Don’t even get me started on the old legacy United 757’s that were incapable of flying Lnav or Vnav .approaches. One of the reasons the legacy united 757’s were prohibited from crossing the Atlantic was because they didn’t have GPS capability.
            When the two pilot groups were arbitrating the merger agreement, the United pilots maintained that there 757s were equal to the continental 757s. The average 757 at United was over 20 years older than the average 757 at Continental. Today all the Continental 757s are still in service every day. But many of the United 757s have been retired. You can see them in the boneyard’s. And finally one of my favorite items to come out of the merger at United Continental holdings is that Apollo system that United spent millions of dollars developing. After Jeffrey rejected Apollo in favor of shares, strictly on the basis of cost without taking into consideration the impact on customer service, I understand that Delta has bought it and is going to use it if it isnt already doing so.
            To demonstrate the difference between the share system and the Apollo system is easy. All one has to do is walk up to a United gate agent and ask him to change your reservation. Whereas the Apollo system enables the gate agent to make a quick change and engage the customer, the share system takes any customer interaction away from this transaction. It’s 6 to 7 times harder to for the United gate agent but the crucial issue is that the United gate agent has difficulty interacting with its global services customers. This one decision to use shares versus the Apollo system has crippled united airlines more than any other decision made by United in the past 20 years. Our best customers can no longer get our best attention. They deserve better and they get it at Delta. Today I just heard from one of our senior executives that United wants to be the third-place carrier and they’re very happy being in that position. When asked why he said, “it’s too expensive to be number one.” Can you imagine working for an outfit that doesn’t want to be number one? That doesn’t want to be the best, who’s executives except Third-place as being OK.

  8. TMartin says:

    One of the problems merging UA/CO was integrating two massive CRS systems. Fortunately for AA/US, both were on SABRE, so on that end, it will be a lot smoother transition.

  9. David SF eastbay says:

    For one thing, they should have stayed with Apollo. Also just because CO leaders are running the company doesn’t mean they know what they are doing or knew what they were doing in the first place.

    Everytime the company I work for has had a new owner, things go down hill from common sense to lack of employee training. It’s all about doing thing for less money to matter how bad it makes things. As long as you can keep customers/accounts/etc believing you know what you are doing that’s all companys care about anymore.

    • DH says:

      i didnt think united owned apollo Co owned shares. United sold Apollo obviously for the money and it was too expensive to lease back. also, shares had more room to expand and Apollo did not. you all know you think how an airline should be run. If so why are you not the ones managing it. pmUA had antiquated aircraft. They looked horrible, why would anyone want to board one of those aircraft? they were ugly and shabby. pmCO had NEWER aircraft which looked sharp and clean. pmUA could nt even manage being employee owned because THEY DIDNT WANT TO MAKE THE CHANGES NECESSARY TO SUCCEED!

  10. Chuck says:

    As an employee of the merged airline, I think a lot has to do with management being penny wise and pound foolish. As an example my workgroup just recently got a merged contract after years of negotiations. The UA guys had been working on an expired contract for years. Negotiations didn’t really make progress until the labor relations people were taken out of the process. Having two workgroups created a lot of inefficiency. We are finally now able to work together and ask each other for advice – and this is something that should have taken place before we were all in the same building. Management showed no interest in getting any deals done quickly other than with the pilot group. Several other employee groups including the flight attendants are still in negotiations.

  11. IndustryOutsider says:

    I think the problem was and is a lack of integrity, starting with Bethune. Through his charisma he was able to effectuate the perception that was not true in reality. Now Smisek, a Bethune hire, who does not posses his charisma continues to try to effectuate the same perception without the same results. He continued with the tradition of calling employees ‘co-workers’ but then is found within a year trying to fly larger jets between CAL hubs in violation of the existing cotract. Now, it can be argued that this limit should not be but both parties agreed. He also continues with the tradition of putting the ceo on the welcoming video and promised that the customers would like the changes, one of those being that they have friendly staff. Generally, that is not true and customers see it right away many times over.

    I’d think that as someone who worked through the “worst to first” process in a high position and who possesses the education and talent would be doing well executing the “merger of equals”. The reality is no. I think it is because of the lack of integrity.

    There is a proverb i’d like to repeat here…’whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will be suddenly broken beyond repair.’ For the sake of the people who work at the new United and who now groan I hope that once that happens they find someone who will lead them with integrity, acknowledging and working through the traumas and shortcomings and encouraging the God given talents in both legacy carriers to create a new United.

    By the grace of God there go I.

    • I think you’re wrong about Bethune. I don’t have a lot of time to go dig out the From Worst to First book, but it seems that he delivered on what he said. Is that not integrity?

      • IO says:

        I may be wrong about GB. I remember on one occasion where he denied rumors about his departure only to announce a week later his departure. I rest my case in that cal was not run w integrity in that it did not survive as a stand alone and that a GB hire who he still supports has done this. Look at the annual reports and his book and determine for yourself how much was charismatic spin and how much was truth.

        • Reality Strikes says:

          GB took a struggling continental and reenvisioned it with the customer first, their service was great…

          this is taken from wikipedia
          “Under his leadership Continental’s stock price rose from $2 to over $50 per share. Fortune named Continental among the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for six consecutive years. In his final year piloting the airline Fortune magazine ranked Continental 2004’s No. 1 Most Admired Global Airline, a title it earned again in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.”

          when the merger occured, it was Continental that was the healthier airline, even though it was smaller, it did have some lucrative US-Asia routes that are still hard to get look at the NY-PEK routes(EWR(CO), JFK(Air China/Hainan Airlines(new)) for an example, it really helps to look at the timing of the flights and compare them to pmUA and even American flights, they all leave very early and arrive very late in PEK due to slot restrictions and rules…

          I think that choosing Smisek and team was reflective of the healthier(i will refrain from using better) work environment, but a merged airline is a different beast and as others have correctly pointed out, need a different type of leadership…

          GB did a great job taking a failing airline and restoring it to glory, and i think that attempting to say that charisma alone was his motive is inaccurate, but it does help a CEO be an actual leader if people listen to them, and like what they hear…

          • IO says:

            thank you for responding/providing your thoughts. You are right that CAL was struggling in the early 90s as it came from under Lorenzo and did win various awards while under GB/LK in the mid/late 90s early ’00s. Perhaps i’m too ignorant in expecting that Smisek, who is a GB hire and was part of the turnaround team, is not able to manage the merger.

  12. Pingback: [BLOCKED BY STBV] CrankyFlier: Blaming United's problems on Continental (and v.v.) is the problem - FlyerTalk Forums

  13. Trent880 says:

    I know the common refrain is to “fire Jeff” but honestly, that won’t fix much of anything, because the rot is so much larger and deeper than just Jeff. In fact you listen to Jeff and things make sense and sound good, but as you go down the ladder the message gets contrived and diluted into complicated, paralyzing, expensive inaction. I don’t know what the answer is but “fire Jeff” won’t work unless it involves laying off half of HQ as well.

    • Carl says:

      Fish rots from the head

      You cannot fix the culture of this company without someone at the top who believes and lives and exemplifies the culture

      • Chris says:

        I agree with Carl. If the CEO is not providing the correct vision and leadership, the corporation is heading nowhere fast. He is missing the leadership skills to manage a successful brand.

        For example, on every inflight video, Jeff tells us that we have never had it so good. This creates dissonance in the customer’s mind as it does not match the their personal experience. That’s the quickest way to damage a brand.

        • Trent880 says:

          My point is you don’t need scissors to fix the organizational structure, you need a battle axe and a bulldozer. Best case scenario is UA gets a new leadership team from outside of UA/CO; worst case scenario: internal promotion.

          Re: expectations I think it’s clear that underpromising and overdelivering was WN’s brand. Cheap and on time, and they’ll be nice to you too. CO was similar with clean/safe/reliable, Nail those and anything on top is a bonus. Now UA has “friendly” which it can never deliver on, never mind the basics like reliability, so it disappoints everyone before it even gets out of the gate.

          • TMartin says:

            Trent…but ‘cheap’ ultimately cost WN millions of dollars in the merger. WN made a big deal not charging for checked bags. Do you know why they don’t charge? Their SABRE system they use is so CHEAP it can’t handle surcharges. They realized all the money they were losing out on after they bought AirTran. That’s one of the reasons the merger took so long – they wanted to reap the bag charges from AirTran as long as they could.

            • Trent880 says:

              The WN/FL merger is a whole different story, and arguably more of a mess than UA/CO, but WN’s customer service numbers have been at or near the top for decades, because you could count on them to be affordable and on time, regardless of the abacus underpinning the entire IT network. Regardless of the problems now, that strategy has paid HUGE dividends for decades.

          • Carl says:

            I don’t necessarily think you need a bulldozer nor do I think there’s evidence to condemn the entire organization. Most of the middle management is probably made up of hard-working and well-intentioned people. I don’t think they have been given the right direction and right resources and right culture. Great leadership can get a lot more out of their people. Right now this leadership isn’t honest with itself or its people or its customers and the leadership doesn’t seem to have a vision or strategy. It is time for a change. They’ve had four years. At some point doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity.

          • John says:

            Spot on Trent880.

  14. Greg says:

    First – Cranky – thanks for the most balanced and well-informed post on this topic to date.

    @MattWeber – Fascinating color. Fleet is destiny in this business – didn’t realize it was that hampered on the 777 side.

  15. A says:

    Mergers are difficult to manage at any scale. I’m not particularly a fan of them because the value added is usually quickly lost or squandered. In my own field I’ve seen a number of firms purchased or merged and the result 5-10 years later was an overall weaker company than the individual companies were prior to the marriage.

    In the case of United, Cranky hit the nail on the head that they were a weak company pre-merger. I think United (all airlines for that matter) felt they had to merge to compete post Delta-Northwest tie up. It’s great that Delta is doing well but overall it’s hard to argue that Alaska isn’t the top performer and they haven’t merged. Merging to beat the competition on size isn’t always a path to success as United is painfully finding out. Time will tell with AA.

    • TMartin says:

      A, actually, that’s technically not correct. Alaska has merges! Alaska got it’s start in 1944 as Alaska Star Air Lines (it ultimately goes back to McGee Airways) as a combination of several flying services. However, in recent history, Alaska has had two major mergers – Jet America and Horizon.

      Both were major steps in the history of the airline. Horizon, in 1985 signed a major code share agreement with UA (not UAX, but it probably would have led to UAX agreement at somepoint). However, AS pulled the rug from under UA and purchased Horizon in 1986. We all know how much of a role Horizon plays in the AS network today.

      While the Jet America merger may not seem significant, it gave them the experience (and exposure) of flying outside the West Coast (DFW, STL, ORD, MSP, DCA). Although the that service did not work out, it did give AS experience or east-west flying. I think it was that merger (even though it was unsuccessful) that led to the ultimate success in cautiously growing eastward.

      • J. Morse says:

        Spirit FF: Thanks for refreshing my memory. Alaska’s acquisition of Horizon was strategic and brilliant. The combined Alaska/Horizon appears (at least from the outside) to be a well oiled-finely tuned machine.

  16. Dan says:

    I find this article timely as I’m currently sitting on a United flight that has already had an equipment change for maintenance reasons. And now the second plane has maintenance issues so we’re just sitting at the gate.

  17. Godzilla says:

    I think Brett nailed it as well, though I do differ in one opinion about the choice between SHARES and APOLLO.

    My opinion is that choosing between SHARES and APOLLO for a Passenger Service System (PSS) is similar to choosing between a knife and a gun to commit suicide; the methods are different but the results are identical. The real choice UA needed to make was to move to Amadeus PSS, called Altea. Though Altea has its problems it is new technology and a platform that is much more robust than either SHARES or APOLLO.

    Notwithstanding their choice to dump Amadeus, their only other choice at that point was to stay with APOLLO. This is not because APOLLO is a better PSS than SHARES, but there are a large number of ancillary processes that attach to the PSS on both sides. Migrating these ancillary systems from one PSS to another is complicated. UA choose to migrate their PSS as well as their ancillary systems to SHARES, and that was a disaster.

  18. JayB says:

    It takes a long time to develop a culture, maybe a little less to lose one.

    I’m sure readers of this blog have lots of opinions developed over many years of travelling. I, for one, look back on airline mergers/consolidations/take-overs and wonder, how did anyone think these cultures could ever combine well.

    Thinking of: AA and TWA, DL and NW, UA and CO, and AA and US. Did anyone ever think the cultures of these airline could mesh? If they did, or could, praise be to that management! I think UA and CO could have been the easiest to be successful, but now, little hope.

    I don’t run airlines; I don’t know anything about running an airline. But, I do know what being a customer is. UA, and many airlines, I guess with great consultant help, view customers as idiots, lemmings, and in fact little more than cattle. As long, as they think that, I don’t know how anything will change.

    Managements have come up with some wonderful tools/concepts–Frequent flier/loyalty programs, yield managment/inventory controls, and hubs–which, while great, for me seem to be used to keep customers idiots, lemmings, and cattle. Add in global distribution systems and, well….

    Culture to me starts with putting the customer first. Everything management does should be to show customers they are not idiotics, not lemmings, not cattle. Not through trickery, obfucation, and all the other bad stuff, but:

    “Here, dear customer, this is what we are doing to make your travel experience better and certainly, better than that any of our competitors or even of us in the past. If you have a better idea about our attempts to win your loyalty, about how we route you along are system, how we try to get you the lowest. best fare, and how our distribution system/Web site should should work, please let us know, and maybe we can discuss it. Trust us, you’ll never hear us ever again use terms like inventory buckets, fare classes, capacity-controls. We took the asterisk key off our keyboard.

    Please understand, just because we’ve always done it one way, or because that’s the way everyone else is doing it, that isn’t satisfactory to us–the new (insert airline name), and we mean it. management and our employees are here to serve YOU!”

    [Now back to reinventing the world!]

    • Dabo says:

      You’re spot-on, Jay! Customers are a commodity to the major airlines, to be traded amongst the other major airlines. This is especially true if you live in a major hub city, such as Chicago, Denver, or Houston. UA understands that their hub position creates natural advantage in routes, schedules, etc., and they milk that for all they can. It’s very hard for me to justify flying Delta to New York if I have to connect through Atlanta, when I can get on a direct flight from IAH and save a lot of time. That said, I have been considering it more and more lately just to see if Delta offers a better experience. In the end, busy schedules don’t offer the luxury of an additional 1-2 hours connection time if you can avoid it. Alas.

      Your suggested “customer first” approach is an awesome concept, rarely exercised in corporate America. The stock holders and boards-of-directors simply don’t fly like the common folk, so they don’t really understand the experience difference and how it matters to the average flyer. Again, alas…

      Even admitting to some of your mistakes doesn’t guarantee a better experience. An example of that, taken from the fast food industry, exists with Dominos Pizza. They advertise how they had some “come to Jesus” moments and realized some of their mistakes, so now you should just take their word for it that they are better. Truth is, they still skimp on quality and quantity and raise prices. Maybe they don’t sell “cookie pizza” anymore, but that doesn’t mean much to someone that wants a quality pepperoni / extra cheese experience, and ends up with a few pork freckles and no measurable increase in dairy content for their $15.

      Alas, alas…

    • Needs Work says:

      If the customer comes first then let’s change How they do business.

      At United, they’ve had the same theme song, Rhapsody in blue, for 30 years. This song reminds United ‘s customers constantly,of some previous poor experience. Are you kidding me? No company in the world wants a song to continually remind its customers about a previous bad memory. But United continues to do so. They should start with getting rid of this theme song.

  19. Arcanum says:

    I think the biggest mistake of the UA/CO merger was keeping the United name. I’ve been told it was because United had better name recognition internationally, and while that’s probably true, I’m not sure the association was positive. Al Qaeda and Hitler also have great brand recognition, but I wouldn’t slap either on the side of a plane.

    • TMartin says:

      Funny you say that! I’ve said for years, America West should have kept the name instead of ‘US Airways’. The name was changed from Allegheny Airlines to USAir because too many people used to call it Agony Airlines! In fact, if you pull up flight trackes, US Airways shows at ‘AWE’ and the call sign is still ‘Cactus’ something I hope they will keep even with the AA merger.

      I get all the ‘international stuff’ but fact is, people think of America, they think of the west! America West! Amazing when you think the surviving carriers are Delta, United, and America West!

      • phllax says:

        Keeping the old HP call sign was management’s way of throwing the pilot group a bone.

        And while many think the name was changed to US from Allegheny because of the reputation, it had more to do with the airline growing out of it’s regulation routes after deregulation ended into parts of the country such as Texas, Arizona and Florida.

        • TMartin says:

          Well, I hope AA at least keeps the ‘Cactus’ call sign. After all, the great flag carriers have (or had) unique call signs: British – Speedbird, China Airlines – Dynasty, Pan Am – Clipper, Canadian/CP Air – Empress, Aer Lingus – Shamrock, are just a few.

          • Bick says:

            US Airways is an airline with a heavy east coast presence… America West may have not been the best choice for the post-merged AWA/USA operation.

            Do you believe cactus will survive the American call sign? Is there some way we can bet on this?

            • Denmeister says:

              It has already been established that ‘American’ is to be the surviving brand/call sign/etc.

      • Bick says:

        US Airways is an airline with a heavy east coast presence… America West may have not been the best choice for the post-merged AWA/USA operation.

      • DesertGhost says:

        The “Cactus” call sign was used to avoid confusion between “American” and America West.” Obviously, that conflict no longer exists, so I would expect the “new” call sign to be American.”

        • TMartin says:

          DesertGhost,

          Actually, in 1983, ‘America West’ was the call sign of the original carrier. However, there was a lot of confusion at airports like PHX, LAX, and others with America West, Southwest, Northwest, SkyWest. Pilots and controllers were getting confused with the ‘west’ in the callsigns. Since AW was the new kid on the block, they forced them to change call signs.

    • Carl says:

      The name is the least of United’s problems.

      Run a reliable airline, and be good to customers. That will create the reputation. Worked for the old Continental.

      As a global airline, the name Continental wasn’t really appropriate. It’s also a large tire company in Europe.

    • denita mitchell says:

      They kept the name because United has only filed for bankruptcy once while Continental has reached its max Management wants to file again and void all employee contracts. All employees know this and are just waiting for the axe to fall. Just look at what they are doing. Creating disloyalty among customers and employees. Eastern all over again. Do not buy too many tickets in advance on United. You will be sorry.

      • Ascot says:

        Do you really believe this. I am no fan of the leadership at the current UA, but this is fairly extreme. Care to weigh in on some other great mysteries, JFK, Area 51, the disappearance of MH370?

  20. Bart V says:

    I agree with everything JayB said. The customer comes first……not in UA’s case-third or even lower. The product that UA is selling stinks. Whether it be in economy or Business/First. Everyone connected with UA is unaware that the customer pays their salary. They are not doing you a favor letting you fly UA. It’s the other way around!!!!!!

  21. dotti cahill says:

    we flew united the day of the computer merger …what a mess .we returned one week later –it was still amess.United workers said the continental system they had to use was never taught to them–HARD TO BELIEVE- no orientation to it.. flew them 2 weeks ago still cranky gate agents and FA’S need much more customer service TRAINING

    • BR says:

      Dotti, The UA folks WERE trained. The company brought back retiree’s and paid them on a contractual basis to go to stations to train the UA folks on the system. Time and time again, the UA folks threw their hands up and walked away from the trainers, more or less saying, “this sucks and I refuse to learn it”. I am not sayin ALL were like that, of course, but if they had been more open to recieving good instruction, it would have worked better.

      • Lizzie says:

        I’ve been told the training was so poor and the new system, so primitive and complicated, some United agents ended up in the hospital from stress and lack of sufficient training and support during the “change-over”. Even today, the SHARES system keeps changing weekly and the agents find out about the changes when they come to work. No training. No advance notice. Fend for yourself is the new motto.:/

      • bayareascott says:

        A retiree is a qualified trainer, and that is good enough for you? Let’s get serious here.

      • JoEllen says:

        Are you kidding ?
        The “trainers” that came to our station from IAH and EWR just elbowed us out of the way, talked to us like we were 5-year-olds and were about as helpful as NOTHING. Arrogant, selfish and trying to make us look bad. That pre-SHARES “training” we got in January 2012 was FIVE days – yes 5 days – we were supposed to cram in decades of experience. Nothing about new mileage awards, policies for irrops. Oh, and I forgot the continuous use of the word NO !!

      • Dino says:

        I work as a contractor for a large Federal agency and I see that throwing up of hands with old-timer Federal employees all the time–they just say ‘well, that’s now things were done for years and we did just fine without this new system’…so the irony is that contractors are often hired to carry the water of the organization because it’s so difficult to fire an underperforming Federal employee. As I write this, I do 5x the work of a Federal worker just a few feet away that spends most of her day IM’ing with her grandkids. Based on the interactions I’ve had with CO and UA crews, I can imagine that there are plenty of people who are more than happy to sit on their hands if it’s evident that they are not going to be laid-off easily and coast until retirement.

        +1000 to the statement about pmCO crews trying to find a way to reiterate to pax they are a “Continental” crew and not legacy UA. Every time I’ve heard that going in and out of EWR, I would snicker–but now I don’t blame them.

  22. Dabo says:

    I have been flying United ever since the UA/CO merger. I am one of the perpetrators of “United ruined Continental”. Based on a lot of what I read in the original post and in the comments to follow, there is probably some truth to that statement, but not necessarily whole truth.

    My chief complaints since the merger are (in no particular order):

    1. Lack of a complimentary meal at meal time.

    CO’s microwave sandwiches, while likely to win NO gourmet awards, were at least a way to stem the hunger tide for a while if you were stuck on a flight over the lunch or dinner hour. Now, paying $8-10 for a collection of stuff you could get from a vending machine for half that just seems insulting to my intelligence. That said, due to being hungry and not having time to stop for something else due to a close connection (another problem), I have bought the various snack boxes more than once.

    2. UA Elite Status is pretty meaningless.

    When flying CO, I was likely to get an upgrade on any flight except from IAH to EWR. (I was and still am a Gold-level elite flyer). Now, I’ve been upgraded perhaps twice in the past 6 months. The consolidation with UA means most flights that aren’t connecting through major hubs (IAH / DEN / ORD / EWR / IAD) are on RJ’s with no first class cabin. Flights connecting through major hubs are saturated with high-level elites. I’ve noticed lately that the Premier Group 1 lane has the longest line of all the groups, with Group 2 being a close 2nd. Put another way, having “Elite” status really means very little now, especially with the Chase MileagePlus cards comping a lot of the perks that went with status. It certainly makes me think twice about taking a UA connecting flight if I get no upgrades or special treatment.

    3. RJs have the WORST seats ever!

    RJs have become the regional platform of choice. Period. RJs that were once used only on flights of 500 miles or less are now used for routes three times that long. Unfortunately, that means (in addition to the loss of a first-class cabin, as mentioned earlier) that passengers are subjected to the HORRID seats on an RJ for longer and longer flights. RJ seats have almost no cushion, no thigh support, and no lumbar support. I find that flights of more than an hour on an RJ cause my back and tailbone to ache. I’m constantly shifting in my seat, trying to shift my weight from one side of my gluteus maximus to the other just to minimize the pain. Some of that is advancing years (I’m 49), but those seats do NOT help. I don’t notice the same aches and pains on 737 or larger frames, even in economy.

    4. Cancelled / delayed flights and missed connections.

    It’s already been stated, but UA’s cancellation record has to be the worst I’ve ever experienced. I’ve only been flying with UA for the few years since the UA/CO merger, but I used to live in Dallas and flew AA almost exclusively, and of course, flew CO almost exclusively until UA came along. In my pre-UA experience, I NEVER had a cancelled flight. Sure, there were all manner of delays (weather, mechanical, crew problems) but in the end, I always got on the flight I was scheduled to make, eventually. Contrast that with more recent UA experiences, I have had 3 flights cancelled just this year. That doesn’t include the missed connections due to delays, just the outright cancellations.

    Speaking of missed connections, a recent experience includes a flight I was on from Williston, ND to IAH, connecting through DEN. There was some delay in the Williston flight arriving at that airport, with the corresponding take-off delay going to DEN. Consequently, my connection time shrunk from 90 minutes to 20. Of course, the Williston flight was an RJ, so it arrived in the far end of the Denver B terminal, and my connector to IAH was in the 30-series gates, so I knew I would have to run (literally) to catch my connection. However, when the Williston flight landed in DEN, we sat outside the arrival gate for an additional 7 minutes awaiting the GROUND CREW’s arrival to park the plane! Why? I understand flight delays, but ground crew delays?? There is NO excuse for having to wait for a ground crew! None! That 7 minutes was the difference between barely making my connection and missing it as I saw the door being closed while in a full run trying to make it. If I hadn’t been completely out of breath, someone would have gotten an earful!

    I’m convinced that M&A activity in the airlines is the culprit. Not just UA/CO, but mergers in general. Competition is the key to improvement, and as more and more airlines merge, the competitive motives disappear. This can lead the remaining few carriers to quit caring about “winning” over their competition. If I lived in a non-hub city (I’m in Houston, if you hadn’t guessed), I would exercise as many choices as made sense. Sadly, living in a major hub, you are mostly tied to the carrier serving it. I live on the North side of town, so going to Hobby to get on Southwest isn’t a realistic option unless I can plan on an additional 60-90 minutes of commute time just between my home and the airport.

    Anyway, I’ll stop whining and head for the airport for my next experience. Maybe I’ll have a positive one to share…

    • MilesMath says:

      I agree with your view as an ex-CO flyer. I liked the consistent upgrades as Gold elite, meals in coach and newer Boeing jets. Since the United merger, I’ve seen quality decrease, less pleasant staff and older planes. Meanwhile, JetBlue continues to provide a great flying experience and I’ve recently been impressed by Delta’s performance – better management of delays, friendlier staff (offering comps when delays do happen) and nicer planes.

    • MilesMath says:

      I agree with your view as an ex-CO flyer. I liked the consistent upgrades as Gold elite, meals in coach and newer Boeing jets. Since the United merger, I’ve seen quality decrease, less pleasant staff and older planes. Meanwhile, JetBlue continues to provide a great flying experience and I’ve recently been impressed by Delta’s performance – better management of delays, friendlier staff (offering comps when delays do happen) and nicer planes. Recently a colleague of mine opted for a 10 hour drive back home rather than wait around and see if his United flight was actually going to take off.

    • Jim M says:

      I’m Premier Platinum and rarely get an upgrade. It was much better on pmCO.

  23. KJ says:

    Very well written! They certainly need to clean house, put aside antagonism and move on. It’s been very frustrating from a HVF perspective to see things continually worsen, especially after living through the CO turnaround in the 90s. If they don’t get their act together, there will be no act!

  24. spin says:

    While I think the cultural issues are a real problem, I think its more important to look at where they came from, and what is putting off passengers.

    in 2010, the sUA folks were happy as a clam. They thought they were getting new/better management. Many folks on the sCO side wanted to stay independent, but the smarter ones (some FAs/pilots) saw that the industry was changing and that as Cranky correctly puts it, being a “regional” carrier would not allow them to compete for corporate business with DL and a UA/US merger.

    What needed to be done was to:

    (1) quickly integrate labor groups (as DL did, and Parker has now done at US/AA)
    (2) try to avoid passenger disruption
    (3) focus on gaining revenue and retaining passengers by being a better overall carrier.

    Yet, at every level the merger was not done to create a better airline, instead it was driven by cost/spreadsheet management. Jeff and Co. felt that if they could cut costs, they would keep all of the revenue (as people would not leave them do to consolidation) and make outside profits. Basically they made plans as if the merged carrier was operating out of fortress hubs.

    As others have noted, trying to get savings on work rules, Jeff pitted the sCO and sUA employees against each other. Yet, what he got was not the quick (cheaper) contracts he wanted, but anger and higher expenses and worse operations when workers could not fill in for each other.

    Then rather than trying to avoid passenger disruption, Jeff did a number of things, such as aggressive cross-fleeting (flying planes where there was neither a staff nor maintenance facility at either end, e.g. flying sCO planes out of IAD) and imposing very tight turns and little down time on sUA equipment, that resulted in an operational mess. UAL’s bad OT percentage directly flows form these decisions, and while Delta quickly reversed similar decisions when they did not work out, UAL has stubbornly stuck with them, getting very bad OT %

    Finally, the passenger experience was substantially downgraded. Things like blankets and pillows were cut, and food/beverage quality went to hell. Things like giving the coffee contract to a Houston company whose only prior experience was making vending machine coffee (“Freshbrew”) just tanked the passenger experience. The problem was not that Jeff went with sUA suppliers (the caterer they kept was owned by Continental), but a cost cuts approach to soft product.

    Then I might add, there were major devaluations in the elite experience. Jeff cut off the special phone lines for 1Ks, cut mileage bonuses for mid-level elites, and cut back upgrade rates at they started to give the upgrades to discount corporate accounts and sell them as cheap upgrades to non-elite fliers (what are called “TOD” upgrades; “time of departure” or “Tens of Dollars” ) Even things like United’s GS program (for those spending over $45K/year or more flying United) were subject to cost based cuts to service.

    The result was that when United’s operations cashed, many elite fliers, faced with bad meals, undrinkable coffee, and less Elite benefits, left. Defections of former UA passengers (particularly at LAX, ORD, DEN, SEA, and to a lesser extent SFO and also those not in hubs) badly hurt the revenue side.

    While I agree there has been a lack of leadership from the top re corporate culture, I think the real issue is that Jeff and Co. failed to realize they were in a customer SERVICE business, where they had competition, which could (and did) steal their valuable passengers when they did not treat them well.

    • Realist says:

      Umm, if Parker has integrated labor groups it’s news to me (and most of the labor groups)

    • You Missed the Point says:

      Its sad to see examples in the comments section of THIS article regarding the subject matter of this article. People blaming one side or the other. If you don’t move on you shall never succeed.

  25. MLS in SF says:

    What’s frustrating with United is that they have the capacity to offer good service. I generally like the Economy Plus offering for example. And on a recent trip to Europe out of Newark, I thought that the Business Class offering (767) was very good. The food in particular was top notch. But there is a problem with consistency. Because they can also offer terrible service too. I recently did IAD to SFO on a badly aging A320 in Business Class. The seats were uncomfortable. No entertainment system. The food was disgusting (next time just serve some McD, at least it’s edible). And the flight was delayed because of a problem with the avionics. It was a very long 6 hour flight (especially after already sitting 2 hours on the tarmac for repairs and weather delay). So you never know which United is going to show up when you fly.

  26. Don Beyer says:

    A major problem is United has outsourced so much of the operation. A few facts. In the late 90’s, UA/CO had over 130,000 employees. Today it’s less than 90,000. In 1998 Ohare was 80% United CO mainline, UA Express 20%. Today it’s 30% mainline United, 70% UA Express. Newark was 70% CO/UA mainline, 30% CO Express. Today ir’s about 50-50. Denver was 70% mainline in 1998, today ir’s 30%. Many major city airports are now almost or are 100% United Express when in the late 90s they were 100% Mainline. Cities like Detroit, Atlanta, St; Louis and Kansas City. Call Centers were in the USA not outsourced to countries where English is a second language. Outsourced employees have no personal stake in the success or failure of a business since their job is only as good as the lenth of the contract. When the contract ends, if these current outsoured workers lose out to other contract workers who will work cheaper.
    Also, UA mainline employees still are paid less than they did in 2001 before they were forced to take major pay cuts and lost their pensions.

    • bayareascott says:

      And the outsourcing continues…

      • XJT DX says:

        It is worth noting that many of said outsourced companies used to be wholly owned and part of the airline in the late 90’s (Eagle, Continental Express, etc.), and the employees were all considered internal. When they were spun off, most did not have a choice of staying with the mainline carrier, but had to stay working for the new entity. Smaller aircraft use is more prevalent, but the ‘outsourcing’ has been a result of spin-offs as opposed to the mergers of today.

    • XJT DX says:

      It is worth noting that many of said outsourced companies used to be wholly owned and part of the airline in the late 90’s (Eagle, Continental Express, etc.), and the employees were all considered internal. When they were spun off, most did not have a choice of staying with the mainline carrier, but had to stay working for the new entity. Smaller aircraft use is more prevalent, but the ‘outsourcing’ has been a result of spin-offs as opposed to the mergers of today.

  27. Don Beyer says:

    Just some more thoughts. UA and the others destroyed the Travel Agent. The absurdity of making one pay a fee to buy the service they are selling. The mergers have shut down hubs so now there are dozens of city pairs one could fly in a direct path between that now one has to fly backwards or past the destination to get there. From the moment you call them and througout the trip they have done everything that has been thought of to piss people off. In 1976, One could drive out to KCI, walk up to the TWA or Braniff ticket counter, give them $100 and get on the next plane to Chicago and fly back the next day, bags included and whatever food they served on the flight. That’s about $410 in today’s dollars. Today the fare is $484 [-$22 for taxes not then effect]. They would charge $25 for buying at the ticket counter plus bag fees.

    • Bick says:

      Don, thanks for sharing this information on outsourcing. I personally believe UA is hamstrung by it’s over reliance on regional aircraft.

      The US monitory policy of inflation (which is akin to clipping gold coins in ancient times) may have more to do with ticket price increases since the Braniff & TWA days.

  28. TomF says:

    This is probably the best summation of the UA-CO debacle I have seen. You had better believe Doug Parker at AA is watching this tailspin, popcorn in hand, and knows not to repeat the grievous errors of Team Smisek.

    Besides all the obvious tactical gaffes like SHARES, labor deal foot-dragging, offloading too much lift to unreliable regionals, etc., there is another cultural problem which I don’t think this management is equipped to overcome.

    Team Smisek used to run an OK but minor airline whose whole value proposition was built around two impregnable fortress hubs and a gaggle of unique or freshly cultivated overseas flights (e.g. long, thin 757 runs to places like EDI and BFS). Continental was not a genuinely competitive trunk airline; it was a niche operator that knew how to hold up IAH and EWR. (Bethune, for all his virtues, famously showed his true attitude toward customers when he said, “If you have to go to San Francisco tomorrow and I say it costs $2,300, you’re still going.”)

    A management team that graduated from the University of Continental literally does not know how to compete. And since United Airlines had to compete at almost every hub, Team Smisek literally does not know what it’s doing here.

    They respond to competitive situations by fleeing. They evacuate stations like BKK that are important to the overall network. They cut capacity, cut frequency, cut amenities, cut ability to take care of customers during delays / cahcellations… there is no, zero, zilch sign that they aspire to be as good as DL or AA, let alone foreign competitors. UA looks for markets it can dominate and charge premiums for because customers have no alternative — which is Continental culture all the way. Sadly there are very few such markets left.

    I think Team Smisek rode into town ready to “run this company like a business” (his words) and teach customers who’s boss. The whole strategy was predicated on a business environment with reduced consumer choice, where service levels, loyalty incentives, etc. don’t matter because your captive flyers have nowhere to go. Operational excellence doesn’t matter for the same reason (Smisek set a woeful, mediocre, short-bus goal of 80% on-time performance, which is a laugh; June OT was about 71%, in good spring weather, which is appalling.) It’s a sort of Comcast view of the world: you want ESPN, you got to go through us.

    Of course the real world is proving different. United loyalists are defecting in droves, company PRASM is through the floor, employee and customer morale are both through the floorboards… the negative effects of trying to port Continental monopoly-culture over to the far more challenging work of running a global network airline will persist for years, and take billions to fix once Smisek is gone.

    Tragic to see a great American brand wrecked in this fashion. It’s like seeing Macy’s morph into Big Lots.

  29. morgan says:

    As a 20,yr flight attendant for legacy United, you are all correct. The culture is horrifying. Management has made coming to work petrifying. They have been doling out high levels of discipline for minor infractions. We are consistantly understaffed by several flight attendants on ALL of our international flights. We are spread so thin and given little tools to make our customers comfortable. We are exhausted and they have involuntarily laid off flight attendants who have up to 7,years of seniority on the legacy side, while hiring on the continental side. As of October, they will he involuntarily surplusing flight attendants with up to 14 years of seniority OUT if their current bases and making them fly out of understaffed bases like Newark,, JFK and LA Guardia. This means families will he torn apart,,homes will have to be sold, spouses displaced, and kids separated from their parent. We were given NO options. Now, with 20,years of service I will be 5,yrs from the bottom of our seniority list at one of our major hubs. I’m 45,yrs old and I’m moving backward. Our contract negotiations have taken 2 yrs and will take 1 more we are told. Supervisors and managers bother us about our jewelry, what kind if tag we put on our crew bag, or if our nail polish is regulation. Meanwhile, you fly us to Europe, on a 777, or 767, you will get the absolute minimum staffing. As in 2 flight attendants in Economy with 200 people. Dual aisle. Its virtually impossible to give good or timely service. The food is horrible, yet we are constantly tormented by our supervisors about petty issues,,and frankly hostile attitudes. We love our profession. On the sub United side we have lost so many flight attendants that we can hardly fight the constant beating down we receive daily. These are directly related to management culture to beat us into submission and scare the hell out of us daily, that we could lose our job. Our Union, Association of Flight Attendants is profoundly incompetent. We are left hanging in the wind. This year we were all required to attend a day long customer service training. The entire day was spent telling us to SMILE. I’m not joking. Smile through the tears. Its devastating. We take the brunt of the abuse as we spend the most time with customers. Someone got a bad seat, blame us. Someone got bumped, blame us. We go illegal in our duty day because of weather etc, blame us. Sorry if we can’t work more that 15 hr days. We actually get heckled and booed when we have to leave the flight or gate because we have maxed out of duty or flight time for the day. I’m sorry for all if you, but you must understand. Its our top management down to the supervisor. Everyone is so scared to lose their job they strong arm all below them or come up with ludicrous new policies to justify their job. And this is the truth. All of it. Its ugly. Its daily.

    • Charles says:

      I am on ‘the other side’. But, I have witnessed in the past and present your supervisors doing this to you guys and we think it sucks! Because this attitude is now bleeding throughout our company. It was not this way pre-merge for us, sorry. It really is infuriating.

      • Needs Work says:

        This is pure management by fear and intimidation. This of course is the easiest style of management but the worst style of management.

        At the old Continental airlines this was the excepted style of management under Lorenzo. Then Gordo came along changed it for the most part but a few pilot managers continued with this style. The old Freddy “Krueger ” Abbott, VP of flight ops, used this style to intimidate his pilots. It eventually got him fired because the pilots got together and sued him for harassment as well as Continental airlines. The great thing about this is that Freddy, retired with all his pay and benefits, but left The new United with millions of dollars in legal bills. Some of those that were accused of this harassment, Freddy’s minions, are still working at United airlines. Though the legal department made them move on to other jobs within the corporation.

    • JoEllen says:

      Wow, I feel for you. I only wish your union issues on parity etc. were moving faster than Summer 2015 ???
      We were hung waiting a long time for our IAM contract to be voted on and ratified. Foot dragging was evident because CO dba UA tried everything to discourage the union vote and fought the IAM every inch of the way. Problem for them was WE (UAL employees) way outnumbered CO and voted YES for the IAM – how they (CO) wailed and moaned when they had to join the union. The union is not perfect but certainly saved our collective rear ends by negotiating pretty good work rules, pay scale, wage increases and most importantly about $10,000 take home in back pay for most UAL CSRs owed to us since UA’s bankruptcy days, among other things. I totally lucked out (took the buyout, full retirement package, pension, etc) but truly feel for you guys still working for/at United.

      • Ascot says:

        Morgan, If the culture is so horrifying why aren’t people leaving the job? You are making broad generalizations that diminish your argument. Not every flight is short staffed, didn’t your union negotiate a ‘fence clause’ that keeps the pmCO crew on pmCO planes and same for pmUA? Isn’t pmUA overstaffed with thousands of flight attendants on leaves?

        How can you be petrified to come to work. Overall flight crews are unmanaged. Does your supervisor fly with you every day and are you rated on your performance every day? Most people work in direct contact with their supervisor, you have almost no contact with management.

        Based on the tone of your letter, the issues you’ve identified, your focus only on how this impacts you, I am shocked that United is only sending you to one day of ‘smile’ training. You should be in training on a monthly basis.

    • John G says:

      To the UA flight attendant…I have a simple solution for you. If hate your job so much…quit. Walk away and find something else to do.

      You quit and there will literally be a thousand people standing in line to take your job. At least. And with all of its problems…plus they would do it for less than you.

      Stop bitching.

      This is your job. Do it with a good attitude or take a walk. Because there are a whole lot of people who would love to do it.

      I have criticism of UA and CO management to be sure. But I fly a ton, and I spend time on all the majors…and the UA flight attendants have the worst attitudes. It’s your JOB to smile and be pleasant to the customers, regardless of how tired you are or how staffed the flight might be.

      That’s reality in business. It’s your job. If you hate it quit. I would prefer someone who was happy to have the position instead of some angry person that hated to come to work.

    • flyer says:

      A 767 or 777 with 2 fa’s in economy. Please. Not even legal. Talk about an exaggeration

  30. John K says:

    United is forcing over a thousand flight attendants to relocate. Most of these flight attendants have over fifteen years with the United. They are forcing subsidiary United flight attendants to swap bases with subsidiary Continental flight attendants to “balance the bases.” They can get away with this because the CO flight attendants and UA flight attendants still do not have a joint contract. They are forcing loyal employees into an impossible and unnecessary situation so that they quit and can be replaced by newer cheaper employees. Most of the flight attendants can’t afford to uproot their families so they will have to quit. It’s tragic. It would be great if a story could be done about this.

    • 35yearsanfa says:

      Ok, both sides are being displaced to even out the numbers, I know this because I’m a Flight Attendant for UA. For those of you making comments on here get your fact 100% before posting please.
      I have read all the comments, there’s lots of value here but there’s also some comments made on untruths.
      I as much as anyone wanted this merger to go through smoothly at the moment it is a tough place to be.
      Firstly, we all here want the airline succeed. We see the issues. I work on the front line, I care about my passengers and want them to have a positive time while on board. Most Flight Attendants on both side feel this way. Don’t forget we see each other everyday and we share our thoughts with each other.
      Oh, one more comment.
      We know we can be displaced at any point when taking this job. Do I like of course not but it’s always been there and now it’s happening, again to both sides.

  31. Tom says:

    I am an employee of the merged airline. You hear employee on both side blame the other airline for our problem. However the article seems to put the blame on the sUA side. If you look at the top management team 16 out of the 23 are former sCO. Only 5 are from sUA. So who is flying this airline? Second, two major employee groups are working without a contract and management seems not to care about expediting either. I am not an expert but if an employee is happy at his or her work that translate to a better product. Third, Jeff does not listen to anyone including our customers. We are buying new planes so of course that’s affects our bottom line. Look at Delta, are they buying new planes like United?
    I agree that our frontline employees should act in a more professional manner. Our FA’s should not be stating which sub airline there are from. Our customer doesn’t care of our battle, they care about a good product!

    I do hope our customers keep flying and be patient, we are all working (except our leaders) to make our airline a better one.

    • Realist says:

      Tom, from what I’ve heard (I have several friends in Houston who used to work for CO pre-merger) most of the lower levels of management were sUA because they kept the HQ in Chicago and many sCO managers didn’t want to relocate. Perhaps there’s a disconnect (cultural and otherwise) between the (mostly sCO) Sr. Mgmt and the (mostly sUA) people tasked with carrying out their strategy/plans.

    • Daniel says:

      | Look at Delta, are they buying new planes like United?

      Delta has ordered 100 739s (22 have been delivered), 45 A321s, 10 A333s, and still has 10 B788s on order. And I guess we can’t forget the 88 717s that Southwest is paying for.

  32. Arcanum says:

    @ morgan and John K: I truly do not mean any disrespect, but so what?

    The rest of the world has been relocating for work for years now. Boeing tells an engineer her job is moving from Washington to a new plant in South Carolina. Citibank needs an executive in London instead of New York. A surgeon moves to North Dakota because there are no local hospitals hiring when he finishes training in San Francisco. Relocation is a constant threat in other fields, particularly now with all that “right-to-work” nonsense happening.

    Airline employees have been protected from this because airline hubs are largely fixed. You’re just now starting to experience what the rest of us have been putting up with for ages. At least you have the option of relocating to the understaffed hub in NYC and keeping your job. The auto worker whose plant is moving to Mexico isn’t so lucky!

    BTW, that is ultimately the real danger posed by the big Middle Eastern and Asian carriers – they can hire employees from the Third World who’ll work for peanuts. Salaries being the biggest controllable airline expense, that means foreign carriers will be able to undercut the legacies on price while still delivering a superior product. Australia, with its heavy Asian and Kangaroo Route traffic, is already learning this lesson the hard way. The US and Europe will be next. If US airlines were smart, they’d focus on building a profitable domestic and regional operation, because there’s no way they’ll be able to compete on long-haul in the long term (unless they come up with some underhanded solution like Norwegian has with its Irish subsidiary).

    • Bobber says:

      I think the ket difference is that the engineer from Boeing probably doesn’t get paid utter shit to get abused at work on a daily basis. That’s my guess, anyway.

      • Arcanum says:

        As neither an engineer nor a Boeing employee, I wouldn’t know.

        What I do know is that the engineer is a highly-skilled professional with at least four years of specialized post-secondary education and often one or more graduate degrees who doesn’t work in a customer service field, so it’s a bit of an apples vs. oranges comparison.

        • Bobber says:

          So, perhaps not the best comparison to have made in the first place, then? Someone who ‘is a highly-skilled professional with at least four years of specialized post-secondary education and often one or more graduate degrees’ will probably willingly relocate around the country for their job, as compared with others who merely spend decades of service, for little return.

          Just saying’

          Bottom line, NO US-based carrier is actually very good, at all (sorry Brett, it’s just true); and you know that I’m a UA stalwart. Jeff even probably knows that if you treat people like shit, then they tend to behave like shit. Eventually.

          • Arcanum says:

            No, I think the comparison still stands. I’m not sure the fact that she’s more skilled makes the engineer any more enthusiastic about moving.

            My point was that the engineer is not paid “utter shit” as you put it because she’s a highly-educated and highly-skilled worker, more so than a flight attendant. The engineer also is not in a customer facing role, so she shouldn’t have to deal with unhappy customers on a daily basis.

  33. The two airlines mentality comes from the top, and there is one major artifact of that hanging around: the company name. Its United Continental Holdings. I’m surprised it is still that, I expected a name change a year or two down the line, but we still have it four years later.

    I’m not sure what Delta did when they merged with Northwest, but American and US Airways did this simply on the first day of the merger: American Air Group. No interim holding company name. (Though for those paying attention, the format of the name is a nod to US Airways as they’ve been US Air Group, then US Airways Group for a long time.)

    • Its also interesting that AMR Corp came from American’s stock symbol..

    • Daniel says:

      | I’m not sure what Delta did when they merged with Northwest

      It’s simply Delta Air Lines, Inc.

    • joe says:

      Umm …. united was merged into continental then the company name was changed to united.

    • southbay flier says:

      DL made it very clear to NW employees that this was going to be Delta Air Lines and set the values and expectations of a Delta employee. It might have been a merger on paper and DL did take some ideas from NW, but DL management were very quick to make everything that said NW say DL as quickly as they could.

      • JoEllen says:

        This was fairly easy for Delta as, with their merger with NWA, the IAM unionization of CSRs was voted out. How hard could it be if the company calls all the shots and there is little or no negotiation about wages, work rules, overtime, etc. Not putting down DL, I think they’re a good airline and their employees seem happy, but..

        • southbay flier says:

          There still could have been a lot of resentment and negativity among the former NW employees and while I’m sure that happened, it wasn’t too apparent to me as a mid-level elite customer of DL at the time.

          Also, in the end, I think the merger has turned out fairly well for most employees of the combined company. They are getting decent profit sharing checks quarterly and their customer service reps are treating their customers well.

  34. Realist says:

    Brett, Parker may have stated publicly that he was going to keep AA’s systems in place for the most part, but that’s not what’s happening in reality. Certainly for the primary systems they are adopting/adapting AA’s system or strategy because it would be completely stupid to do otherwise, but they are analyzing trade-offs for most of the secondary systems. The cost is not just the resources required to perform these analyses but also the divisions you describe so well, and the effects may not surface for a long time. Also, none of the labor groups (except the FAs) are very happy at AA/US right now so it might be a little premature for you to take a victory lap on behalf of your boys Parker & Kirby just yet.

  35. Eric C says:

    One of the reasons why Independence Air was so beloved by employees, who were in turn well regarded by their customers, was that they had formerly been United Express and in changing brands they were able to throw off the baggage that comes with working for United. Same people, same job, different culture. Moral of the story: “culture” is something you earn by giving your people the tools they need to do their job well. It’s not an attitude or a motivational poster or a company sponsored barbecue, it’s someone going to work knowing that they can do what they’re best at without undue hindrance. United is an airline tightly wound up in bureaucracy, spending cuts, and blame games. It will say it wants a positive culture with empowered frontline employees, yet punish those same people and contract companies for demonstrating that agency. (Example: helping late connecting passengers is encouraged, but don’t you dare have the boarding door open after 10 minutes prior to departure!) In almost every way possible it puts roadblocks in front of its employees that hurt their performance or morale. And when despite it all a station puts together excellent performance, with happy employees and customers, they’re fired and replaced with GAT or DGS.

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  37. Christine Pincket says:

    I am also a legacy United fa and have been at the company for 29 years. Back then our management wasn’t great either and wanted to turn us into a transportation company to include hotels. Remember Vis’ a Vis’? Customers see the blame game but it may be true that Continental had the superior product as I do remember Worst to First, I just know that there is a REASON you will see blame and that is because this management team is from Continental and largely believing it is best to micromanage their workers instead of TRUSTING them to carry the job out effectively. Continental workers are mostly used to this kind of treatment given many of them came from under Lorenzo’s rule and just think this management style is normal. Of course they long for their beloved Bethune but he is not coming back, nor is the NAME of Continental. Yet, you still see ex-con on their suitcases, etc. Legacy United workers are not used to this kind of management style and for the most part were not as well kept to “tow the line” like the Continental workers. Now 4 years into the merger, the legacy United side sees what matters most such as safety deteriorate. ( remember gates removed from 787) Continental side sees service side deteriorate as cost cuts need to be made. But many of these cost cuts would never have had to be made had money been not wasted in the first place. For example, legacy United had corkscrews that had foil cutters on them. Legacy Continental did not. Both worked to open wine bottles. But management in their myopic way, wanted legacy UA to MATCH so simply threw away the openers that came WITH foil cutters! Employees were told it was so we could be more “in line” with each other. Couldn’t the openers have been left alone? Does it really matter?! Now, as decisions like this come to bleed us, we, as a company are now forced to make big cost cuts. The cost cuts are what the customer sees as what one was USED to have before is no longer such as free wine and beer to Asia. Another thing left out of the media is the treatment of the flight attendants of legacy United. The legacy UA fas were told their numbers were too big even though no hiring was done on that side since 2008. Management offered a tasteless deal. The most junior flight attendants could face lay offs or go to work on the Continental side -at the bottom of the seniority list. Anybody who knows a thing about a crewmember’s job at an airline knows seniority is one of the most important things there. I know. It took me 29 years to now consistently fly Shanghai, China. If I chose to cross over, I would be facing a life of reserve and 8 hr overnights in Boise, Idaho. But some of the more junior members had to take this deal to continue to be able to pay their bills. These members are now JUNIOR to flight attendants with as little as 3 years even though they have at least 5 more years seniority! The latest debacle is now even our flight attendants with at least 18 years are being forced to move out of places such as Los Angeles and Denver. BUT the more junior flight attendants at legacy Continental can stay there even though they have as little as ONE year seniority. The legacy United side wants a contract to prevent things like this from happening but the Continental side does not because they know that more than a sizable amount of their workforce will now be JUNIOR to the legacy United side. Over half of Continental flight attendants were hired after 1990. Over 75 percent of United’s flight attendants were hired BEFORE 1990! Which brings a reality to the forefront- can the operation be truly merged knowing the Continental side has so much seniority to lose?

    • Yep! says:

      So what?

      A route I once enjoyed working at Continental, is now being flown by United flight attendants; with some crew members that are perhaps junior than I.

      A route I once enjoyed working at Continental, is now being flown by United Express flight attendants; with some crew members that are perhaps junior than I.

      A route I once enjoyed working at Continental, is now being flown by a Star Alliance airline; with some crew members that are perhaps junior than I.

      If, it be true, you have 29 years seniority at UA, then you should know routes are here today, yet can disappear by evening. You should also know that within flights assigned to sub-UA at your base, your seniority prevails; a sub-Continental cannot displace you – and vis-versa…

      However, what has occurred, is the reallocation of flying between subsidiaries (UA & Cal), generated overages at certain flight attendants bases, for both. How these overages affect you, is, again, determined by your seniority within your subsidiary. A sub-Continental flight attendant cannot displace you, nor vis-versa – and you know that!

      Yet herein lies the problem; a fierce resistance to change.

      Do you see it?

      • charles says:

        As a sub-CO fa and a former UEX carrier fa…this divide is NOT new. As our little RJ’s served the UA stations were ALWAYS met with hostility by UA ground staff and crew. We were reminded on a DAILY basis, no matter how hard we tried to be on time, no matter how much I cleaned my trashed plane, as the ground staff refused…that we were in fact NOT UA employees and NOT a part of their team. Even their own customers were treated poorly if they so happened to be taking an RJ flight or a (non ua tail number) This arrogance continues today, as I was once again told in SFO on a Maui trip (I am sub-CO) by the gate agents working the flight that we were not the ‘real’ United. I am glad of it! The passengers always ask and smile with relief when we answer…’this is a Continental Crew’. Same shit different day. Their product has been awful for 15+ years. Continental=smiles and made lots of money UA= anger and bankrupt poor ratings…not after this either. Seems pretty simple.

        • Yep! says:

          Fearing my previous post would be too long, I omitted mentioning the anger I perceive sub-UA employees spew, as it would have been too long. I too am a sub-Continental flight attendant – with 23 years seniority.

          “dem some angry folks ober thare,” was my mantra whenever, pre-merger, I was asked how I felt about United and Continental’s pending “merger of equals?”

          Flight attendants resist change, and Jeff has openly stated individuals not adaptable to the new model, should leave. Perhaps Christine’s statement that “75 percent of United’s flight attendants were hired BEFORE 1990!” reveals one of the major underlying problematic factors preventing the new United from integrating the separate flight attendant work groups..

        • Carl says:

          I’m sorry, but 4 years in, from a customer perspective it’s one company. If you think customers care whether you are former CO or former UA, you are delusional. The company must be fixed but fighting between CO vs. UA serves no useful purpose whatsoever.

          • Charles says:

            Yes…they care. We get asked all of the time…..THEY ask US…we don’t shout it out. Trust me. I am there almost EVERY DAY.

            • Carl says:

              I’ll say again: the sCO-sUA divide serves no useful purpose. It’s beyond time to come together. Your livelihood is dependent on the financial health of the company. Internal bickering hurts the company and the customers.

              Sure, some customers have their opinions about which side is better and want to validate it. As someone who flies both sides I can tell you that while there certainly are some differences, neither side is uniformly better than the other, and there is far more variability in the experience delivered within either sub than between the subs.

              I do think the leadership issue needs to come to a head.

        • TMartin says:

          Charles,

          I’ve traveled several times on UEX, but not mainline. I especially enjoy the DFWLAX service operated by SkyWest even though it’s a 3 hour ride on a CRJ700. I told the crew on multiple occasions they over-represent United. The flight attendants (which are old battalacks on UA), are you vivacious, attractive, happy, and friendly, and will do everything including cleaning the lavs during turns.

          I’ll avoid UA Mainline, but I always enjoy SkyWest’s service on the CRJs.

    • southbay flier says:

      I really don’t get the whole s-UA and s-CO thing 4 years after the merger happened. By this time, DL/NW pretty much had their act together and their labor divide was much wider than UA/CO with NW being union and DL not being union.

      I flew UA last September from SFO – KOA and it was a miserable experience in F. I get treated much better flying Y on DL. UA is going nowhere until some serious changers are made.

    • Ascot says:

      Christine, Interesting comments. Isn’t this issue of who flies which routes a result of your union adding a fence to their merger contract? United shrank in 2008 when the 737’s were sold. Most people that are laid off aren’t given an option to continue employment with another division at the same company. They are shown the door.
      It is an amazing statistic that 75% of pmUA crew were hired before 1990. Speaks to the value employees place in their jobs/careers.

  38. Jeremy McMillen says:

    UA and CO both were good alone but for some reason combined they just cant get it right. Ch-9 being an example was on every UA plane now its coming off yet they say they are going to add it on to the rest of the fleet, I know not a lot of people used it but for some it made flying fun and not near North Korea status flying UA is now.

  39. Rabi North says:

    Continental’s past success falls squarely on the shoulders of one Mr. Gordon Bethune. He knew how to lead and to inspire employees. ‘Sorry I didn’t get to work for him. Mr. Smisek is an attorney, not a leader.

    UAL/CAL would be wise to aggressively court Alan Mulally to fix its woes.

  40. CP says:

    As the classic saying goes: culture eats strategy for lunch.

    Great post.

  41. Bundaroo says:

    They didn’t take the best aspects of each airline to make a better one: They took the CHEAPEST aspects. And they seem to wonder why nobody likes the result.

    I’m a Subsidiary United employee and I can assure you we are living in a culture of fear and intimidation. What used to be a rather mean and inflexible management structure at United has now become an openly hostile Continental-led one. Actual insults and damage are continuing to increase even now–this very week–as whole groups are being laid off and S-UA flight attendants forced from their bases against their will (S-CO flight attendants remain happily unaffected).

    It’s entirely unnecessary.

    • Charles says:

      Um…we also are having involuntary displacement. Not as many as sub-UA true…but we are. Check your facts please.

      • Bundaroo says:

        Charles: I just learned yesterday about the displacement on the Continental side. So I do indeed stand corrected.

  42. DesertGhost says:

    Based on my limited observation, it seems the best way to develop a new culture in a merged airline is to motivate and incentivize employees to operate a great airline where they can be proud to work.

    After the America West / US Airways merger, despite all of the “East” versus “West” animosity, the main focus of the management and employees was running a professional, on-time operation where bags arrived safely with the passengers. Even with all of the infighting reported in the media, the employees pulled together and were consummate professionals as they did their jobs.

    In doing so, they laid the groundwork to accomplish the US Airways / American merger, where all of them are benefiting with better pay and a more financially stable airline industry.

  43. JoEllen says:

    Sooooo glad I retired and took that lucrative buyout (November 2013). Really, I wish CrankyFlier and other airline consultants, writers, bloggers, etc. would just interview UAL customer service employees. They will be hard-pressed to find one (premerger UA) employee who will not agree that moving onto SHARES from FASTAIR was the beginning of a huge mess.

  44. NB says:

    From the airline’s perspective, it’s culture and from the passenger’s perspective, it’s inconsistency.

    As a pmUA passenger, I always knew UA’s shortcomings and I worked around them. Yes the planes were somewhat beaten up (as were the FAs) but the seating in E+ was generous and relatively comfortable and the reliability was good. Nowadays, the FAs are just as beaten up, they’ve shrunk the seating, removed the cushioning and killed the reliability. That’s for sure, but they’ve also introduced a level of inconsistency in the service culture. I personally didn’t mind the curt pmUA service (I could put up with it), but I just can’t take the folksy pmCO service, or the hideous interiors of those planes. What should have happened was that the pmCO service becomes more sophisticated and the pmUA more friendly – instead they’ve reverted into, and hardened, their former shortcomings.

    So, where do we go. Like Cranky, I don’t presume to know the answers. But an airline needs a mission and a vision, and from that you can build a culture. I don’t see what the vision is for UA, beyond continuing shrinking. At one stage it wanted to become the premier business airline in the US, but I presume it’s abandoned that one because it’s eliminated the things that business travellers want – reliability and a nice place to relax on the way home. Perhaps it wants to be the premier LCC, but it doesn’t seem to be headed in that direction – it’s costs are way too high and it’s FF programme produces opposite messages. Without laying out a clear direction, you cannot unite the employees to strive for it.

  45. Butch says:

    I have sat here and read ALL the posts of everyone so far, and as a “new United” worker( not saying who I am a “sub” of) I can STILL see the hostility between sub CO and sub UA. After 4 years we are still blaming each other! STOP IT! You are your own person, if you want this to work make it work yourself – spread your GOOD and maybe your good will spread to your co worker. Let;s face it we are not winning passengers over these days but just a simple “Thank You for flying UA” CAN make a difference. It’s not about computer systems, or coffee, or Aircraft (although Reliability does have a BIG part on this), It’s about YOUR ATTITUDE! Yes, we all want Jeff gone and we think that this will HELP our problem, but it’s YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE That will bring the customer back. I have had people tell me “Oh you must have worked for __ before I can see it” even in the worst of situations. YOU ARE THE ONE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Trust me, I too am not proud of the new United, but it is paying my bills. I keep saying If I knew then what I know now I would have taken the buyout too(Nov. 2013). IT IS HARD coming to work every day and after 22 years with the company it’s getting easier to say that..
    Jeff doesn’t listen to his employees and we get that, ( I sent him and email OVER 3 years ago, and haven’t even gotten a thanks for your email in an automated response!) He walks through the terminal like we don’t exist! He has his little CEO exchanges … 45minutes on the dot to address employees and sidesteps your questions. WE all would like things the way they WERE but it’s not happening, and I fear this airline won’t be in existence for more then 2 -3 more years. It will FALL like EASTERN did. It’s sad to say and I don;’t want to see it happen but this is the way things are going……
    WE ARE ALL TO BLAME but it is true”the FISH STARTS TO ROT AT THE TOP” !

    • Carl says:

      Great post. Great attitude.

      The CEO should be reaching out to you and figure out how to spread your attitude and commitment. Of course from how you describe him, he’s too self-absorbed to consider that.

  46. Greg says:

    Thanks for exposing all of this. We learned a lot. It’s all on the record here and being widely read. There is now no excuse for changes not to be made as millions will be holding UA to account based on what we’ve read here – especially the employee grievances, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated you more.

  47. Ron Krueger says:

    I’ve always thought upper management should be treated as though they were pro sports coaches, especially in this type of business where performance is the key and the goal. If you not getting the job done and the team is suffering because the lack of talent at the helm is clearly to blame, then they should be replaced…immediately! They gave it a shot, dropped the ball, and couldn’t recover from their own rediculous decisions, your fired! Next?……i’ve spent 26 years of my precious life with this underachieving airline only to be replaced by a bunch of kids working for a competitor and then having the nerve to put our brand on someone else’s work! A successful company begins with the quality of it’s employee’s not how many dollars you can squeeze out of a particular place. It’s called customer service for a reason, not an assembly line at at General Motors.

  48. Jim M says:

    United’s problems are multiple:

    1) Too many regional carriers. They can’t help each other out — ever. If an ExpressJunk plane breaks (happens all the time now) and a Skywest plane is available, it doesn’t matter… you’re stick. Basically, UA is trying to juggle seven or so airlines that are operationally independent.

    2) Jeff Smisek cares more about Wall Street than those who are paying his bills. He should be forced to sit for 5 hours on one of those exit row seats that were just installed on some A320s. They are absolutely awful.

    3) UA went with shares because CO actually owned it. UA’s was off-the-shelf. As a passenger user of both of those systems (via internet), CO’s was MUCH better. Glad they kept it. It’s the poor training and/or receptivity to training by pmUA personnel that is to blame on this one.

    4) The ex-CON agents are absolutely the best in the business. I can always tell when I’m talking to one over the phone at their Premier desk. They get what you need and know how to get it. The CLE ground personnel are worlds better than those at ORD who often times act like they couldn’t care less about us.

    • JoEllen says:

      Your point #3….Your website use is/was NOT on SHARES. If it was you would truly feel the pain we felt. SHARES is a black DOS screen with no tab stops on fill-ins and the inability to handle irrops as in changing a one segment (cancellation) to a 2-3 segment connection. SHARES was not made to handle that; it can’t be done. SHARES cannot do a through bag tag if a person has two separate reservations on the same day; ie., 1. PHL-ORD and 2. ORD-SFO. We have to call a help desk to cancel one segment, rebook (overbook it on the other record) and somehow patch it together for a few seconds to quickly issue the tag. This is always a wonderful scenario when we have 30 seconds to get it done. RIDICULOUS, don’t you think ? AGAIN, YOU ARE NOT OVERLAYED ON SHARES ON THE UNITED OR FORMER CO WEBSITE.

      • JoEllen says:

        Addendum: Jeff Smiseck’s recent comments about UAL employees not being trained properly (pre-merger) is what our “leader” is saying.
        He tried to retract with a statement to employees that his intention was to tell the Wall Street community that United is investing their capital to provide tools and training for employees because “we value and recognize you and that we are becoming competitive and successful” (to that effect). Twisted lawyer psychobabel at it’s best.
        So we are insulted to the ultimate height (CO CSRs excluded, of course) and everyone wonders why UAL agents have a poor attitude ??? God knows we tried at the beginning to let our concerns and complaints be heard (behind closed doors). We were met with stern reprimands to not speak badly about SHARES and also written up when we made initial mistakes with Continental’s procedures; the same procedures we were told nothing about. With shop stewards in tow we refused to sign pieces of paper acknowleging these errors. Some head airport CEO came in and tried to give us the pep rally, extolling CO’s greatness. When we expressed huge concerns about our premier, elite, high value fliers leaving enmasse and our lack of training on SHARES, he simply waived it off and said we were wrong, that United had gained more elite fliers (this, two weeks after 3/3/12). When the pressure got hot and heavy, he abruptly called an end to the meeting. We guess to go to his golf game as he was not even dressed in business attire. The CO CSRs were mute the entire time except to say how great SHARES etc., etc. We knew then it was futile; most of us simply became self-taught and struggled for many months while passengers groused and complained in our faces. Not one supervisor inquired of our struggles or progress. Disgusting.

  49. Cary says:

    I am someone who does not work in the airline industry, but has had a lifelong fascination with airlines and airplanes. I did interview at Alaska 3 days after I came off active duty military and made it to the final interview but alas it wasn’t meant to be. I never tried again, but still follow it as much as I can.

    As a former Premier Exec and 1K I flew almost exclusively with United through the 90’s and early 00’s and if I didn’t fly UA I flew CO as it fit into most of my travel plans. I am a bit biased towards United as they had been my “hometown” airline for so long.

    I was excited for the merger when it was announced. As much as I was loyal to UA, they were heading downhill in service, quality and reliability. Tilton was on of the worst decisions that the BOD made. He may have been a good manager in the oil industry but it was pretty apparent that the airline industry was not his strong suit.

    My cousin worked at CO for more than 20 years and TI before that. I admired how the company was run. Such as the chance to win a car for perfect attendance, which my cousin did but never won :-( I
    My cousin retired before Smisek took over and did not have the insight into how CO was when Smisek took over.

    I thought the merger would be great for both airlines. Routes that filled in the gaps and had minimal overlapping. Aircraft that complimented each other. All the right ingredients to make a new combined airline that exceeded expectations.

    What was discounted was probably the most important, the human. I have been through 3 mergers in my career in the dot.com and 1 in my new career as a Nurse Practitioner. All the mergers had the business synergy, but inevitably wobbled because of the lack of human synergy. Each side was entrenched in their own way of doing things and very hesitant to change. It wasn’t that either side’s way was the best, just different. In the dot com world it was complimentary software systems that had potential for great things, but the development side of the house never agreed on how to do it and the sales side were kept apart working to sell their respective products. Healthcare as well. And like the airlines, unions are involved with brings another layer of complexity and ego.

    What the military taught me was teamwork. Something that after 4 years, UNITED Airlines is seriously lacking in. In reading all the above comments, there is still way to many “us” vs “them” going on. This is going to be the downfall of UA. I don’t have any bright ideas on how to merge workforces other than join the two and your seniority is your seniority. Yes this means someone that could be be #1 at UA or CO and is now #8 at the combined airline, but really? at this level is that an issue with anything? Yes I know this will be an issue the farther down the line you go. Since my flying is mainly between LAX and EWR, I hear a lot of the “ex cons” talking, but really if you can’t even come to agreements to be called a Purser or Service Coordinator, how the f*** do you think you are ever going to work as a team.

    I know I am using the FA’s as an example, but they are the forward facing part of the company. I rarely interact with anyone other than them. So if they are unhappy and complaining, the customer is listening and taking notes. Who want’s to be stuck in a tin can for 6 hours with unhappy people… I know it’s not an ideal situation to be in and I am not blaming anyone other than Smisek and management for not fostering an environment that allows teamwork to help rebuild a company and a brand.

    I learned through the mergers that I went through is that “it is what it is” no amount of complaining is going to make things go back the way they are. If anything it will lead the the downfall of the company. Be passionate about what you believe will make it a better place but also respect the other views that are presented. You may have never though about that approach, but who knows you might like it.

    P.S. I prefer Purser….. In flight service coordination sounds to mechanical. Come up with a new snazzy name… Or how about “Hi my name is Cary and I am here to make this an enjoyable flight” why do we need titles to stroke our egos?

    • Yep! says:

      Very well written, yet, I do not believe whether using “Purser or Service Coordinator” is as important as to you think. However, in my opinion, you got it right with “human synergy” component.

      Since the merger, sub-Continental flight attendants (FA) have had to adapt to changes too – some good, and some very bad. For example, one of the best change was the opening of new in flight – bases, where we co-exist with sub-United. By far, one of the worst is the elimination of one FA from 757-200 and 737-900. Additionally, a recent notice reads, in the near future, one will be removed from 777 as well. These changes in staffing levels are results of aligning our numbers, with those of sub-United.

      Yet because sub-Continental top wage rate is not only higher, but substantially greater than sub-United, which means the latter has been doing the same job with less personnel, yet at much lesser rate of pay. This awareness, in my estimation, has fuel resentment; antagonism which management has yet to address.

      So, both sides have had unpleasant changes. Yet, I am hopeful – and the least item I am concerned with is a damn corkscrew!

      • Cary says:

        I used Purser and Service Coordinator as an example because I just the FA’s joking about who was the Service Coordinator and being thankful they didn’t have to say Purser.

        In healthcare, our reimbursements are now being tied to patient/family satisfaction….. Wouldn’t it be great if all service industries followed the same model? Not that all passengers are perfect and don’t present any problems….

        • Yep! says:

          At pre-merger Continental front-line employees received a monthly bonus, dependant on on-time performance.

          Post-merger, this program expanded to include other customer satisfaction matrixs.

          So, in response to your question, it is being done…..

          • MD says:

            United employees were rewarded and given bonuses for on time performance way before the merger so it was not just Continental employees that were getting those. In 1994 when the employees of United became employee owners they had free car or cash drawing every six months for those who had perfect attendance for six months until the Employee Ownership Plan expired in 2000. Yes, the long time United employees and retirees of United blame Smisek and the arrogant Continental employees for most of the problems happening at the new United because everything that is being done is the Continental way of doing business. The Continental employees think they were the only good airline pre merger and think the United side were not customer friendly, disgruntled, and angry because they were all beaten down by management because that’s what they heard coming in from the press and their management.

            Continental employees make it seems like they were a flawless airline and were the best in the world when in fact Smisek started to make changes that were making the Continental customers angry and carried that over to United with all kinds of changes that made the loyal customers of United angry and started to go elsewhere. Continental was losing money before the merger while United started to make money.

            Their IT system is really bad and it’s the number one culprit for the flight woes that’s happening at the new United. It was happening way before the merger. Smisek and the employees of Continental have no room to blame the United employees for lack of training because their IT system can’t handle the stuff that’s going on at United as shown on this account by one their passenger pre merger: http://blogs.starcio.com/2008/11/customer-service-trouble-changing.html

            • Yep! says:

              You wrote, “Continental employees think ….the United side were not customer friendly, disgruntled, and angry because they were all beaten down by management.” They were, were they not?

              If not, then I praise sub-United employee, whom, after recent bankruptcy; pay cuts, loss of pension, change(s) in work rules, etc., nevertheless remained, customer friendly, non-disgruntled; happy and at no time did they feel “they were all beaten down by management.”

              Yet, after struggling through Continental’s bankruptcy during early 1990, I easily empathize. During and immediately after that bankruptcy, not only were various work-groups fighting management – they fought amongst themselves too. It was during this time Continental established “Dignity and Respect,” for our customers, and for each other, as one of its core principles. Internally, this principle applies to management as well, and to this day, the policy remains and is sternly enforced.

              So, the reason you perhaps perceive sub-Continental employees think they were better airline may lie, in part, in the manner disagreement are voiced. That is, one argues against the disagreed policy, not with a person – then, things get done!

              It is my opinion, if anything, this cornerstone, laid by G. Bethune, was pillar upon which all of Continental’s successes rested. In other words, much depends on how we talk and relate to each other……firstly!

            • MD says:

              Like I said, you are one stubborn person just like Smisek. I don’t want to blame Continental but they’ve taken over the operation at the new United and there’s no one else to blame for the shitty operation. Just like Cranky, you are biased and a fan of Continental. You and Cranky thought the operation at United was bad and couldn’t get any worse. Well it did, thanks to Continental. Here it is again, SHARES is junk and make the customer agent cranky because they are powerless to correct the problem fast. The same shit that happened here is what’s happening at the new United. Make sure you read and understand it, OK?: http://blogs.starcio.com/2008/11/customer-service-trouble-changing.html

          • MD says:

            Yep, they were beaten up and angry towards the mismanagement of United prior to the merger and that’s why a lot of them were excited to merge and thought Continental was going to be the savior. Even though they were beaten up, they were still very professional and took care of the customers. Today is different, the management of Continental shoved a low tech software system that makes their job harder. United is having all kinds of problems that is causing flight delays and cancellations because the software being used in maintenance and flight management that came from Continental is making things harder. They went from a high tech software to a low tech software that made their job harder and makes it a lot longer to finish their job. The old United invested in a high tech software system in maintenance and flight management but that was taken away since Continental management that is now in charge preferred to use their IT system in maintenance and flight management. That is the reason there are so much delays and cancellations at the new United. The mechanics and the customer service agents of sub United are regretting and feels it was a mistake merging with Continental. Instead seeing improvements, things are going backwards, it is very frustrating for the employees on the United side. It’s very frustrating for the customers of the new United as well and I’ve seen customers yelling at the customer service agents and customers service agent yelling back at the customers. You would be too if you are a family with children and find out when you get to the gate you are seated all over the place separately. The agents are powerless since they can’t do anything to fix it especially if the flight is full. Now you see why things can get heated quickly? Put yourself in their shoes, you still think it’s an easy fix?

            • Yep! says:

              MD,

              First, I’m delighted you acknowledge the state of pre-merger United. Many have commented on it’s “premier” status, and the Continental merger ruined that. Yet, as Cranky’s article reminds us: “Anyone who thinks United was a truly great airline is smoking something. It hadn’t been great since the last century.” Neither was Continental perfect – can any organization make that claim?

              Seems to me such a claim inevitably leads to decline; quickly overtaken by its competition.

              I cannot comment fully on SHARES system – a program I am unfamiliar. What I can do, as outside observer, is to ask whether long-standing United employees have embraced that, at least from management’s point of view, SHARES is best suited for the “New United?”

              One thing I am quite sure is that Jeff knows absolutely nothing about operational SHARES. Instead, he relies on his IT team to assess and present to him best/worse case scenarios and to brief him on their professional recommendations.

              Considering the various; hundreds, if not thousands of other in-house, as well as vendor programs that interface with SHARES, the decision was made – and, I am sure, the IT team not only approved, but also offered the recommendation. I am not a “techie,” so I’d be last person whom second-guess highly skilled and trained professionals; those working within their field of expertise.

              In other words, your view, and my view too, remains mostly confined to our department – while Jeff, on the other hand, focus’ is not as narrow. Instead, the CEO’s vision is much broader; his view takes in, in part, how each part contributes to the the “whole company’s” vision as well as its best interest(s). So, though United’s previous system was great for some departments, it seems, SHAREs was perceived to be better “fit” for use/interface throughout the “entire” company’s network(s).

              Now, with that said, I will provide example, using the scenario you offered. You write: “You would be too if you are a family with children and find out when you get to the gate you are seated all over the place separately. The agents are powerless since they can’t do anything to fix it especially if the flight is full.”

              You suggest, United’s previous system permitted agents to remedy family separation, and to do so even though the flight is full. I do not know if this is true or not, nevertheless this is what I take-away from your post. So, consider the instance when a family is separated, and on flight which is fully booked – using your suggestion.

              Ready?

              Family approaches agent to try get family together, or closer. Despite full flight, agent has tool to seat them all together; take other passengers from original seats and reassign them where family members removed. Now passenger, whom do not know their seats were reassigned, finds seat number on their boarding pass is occupied – and notifies flight attendant. What does flight attendant do?

              Flight attendant notifies agent working the flight of seat duplication. Agent may or may not be the same whom changed seating initially. Agent then prints new boarding pass with “new” seat number, then presents to flight attendant for presentation to customer.

              I won’t even broach subject of how reassigned passenger is now upset because he is now separated from his business partner and how he booked and aisle, yet was somehow changed to window….

              Anyway, if SHARES prevents certain seat reassignments on full flights, that may be a good thing. For, I would think it is more prudent to ask assistance of flight attendants instead of risk alienating other passengers by reassigning them.

              Further, it seems to me your preference appears more labour intensive than one I presented – its too much!

              So, I ask you? Which is “hi-tech” and which is “low-tech?”

              It could be neither is neither, rather, perhaps they are just different?

            • MD says:

              Yep,
              You sound like Jeff Smisek, stubborn and full of excuses. Everything that is being done at the new United is cheapening the airline. That’s Jeff’s mentallity, he is trying to provide the cheapest product and thinks the customers will still fly United. As you can see from the customer’s comments here, they are leaving. The only reason SHARES was chosen was because of the cost. Continental owned it while Apollo FastAir cost money to keep and maintained. I guarantee you, United was a much better airline service wise and had better perks and amenities before the merger especially its international flights. Ask any customers who flew United internationally and they will tell you. I say you sound like Jeff Smisek, his mother says to treat others the way you’d like to be treated and yet he treat others poorly. He says to never tell a lie and yet he testified in front of Congress he needed the merger to save jobs and in order for Continental to survive because it can’t compete globally. He says he’s not afraid of criticism and admit to mistakes and to turn around and do things right and yet he blames others like the employees for his failures. Now you ask which one is low tech? Continental product like SHARES is. This is exactly what is happening when there’s IRROPs and it was happening at Continental and proof that Continental’s customer service was not the best contrary to what Continental employees say: http://blogs.starcio.com/2008/11/customer-service-trouble-changing.html

            • Yep! says:

              MD,

              You wrote: “United was a much better airline service wise and had better perks and amenities before the merger especially its international flights. Ask any customers who flew United internationally and they will tell you…”

              Well, I did! I asked Cranky and he replied: “Anyone who thinks United was a truly great airline is smoking something.”

              But as article’s title suggests, it is the “[b]laming [of] United’s Problems on Continental (or Vice Versa) [which] is Exactly the Problem[,]

              Get it? As I wrote in last post, perhaps systems are just different?

              Though you feel strongly otherwise, keep in mind that one cane be absolutely, positively sure of something – yet still be misinformed and/or wrong.

  50. JoEllen says:

    Retired employee and thoroughly disgusted but at least I’m out of it. After 30+ years it’s hard to fathom that United (once a great airline) has come to this. Smisek, et al and his lawyers need to go back to law practice; they obviously don’t know how (or care) to run an airline.

  51. JoEllen says:

    Sad to keep seeing these commentaries. As a UAL retiree it pains me to think of the once great airline United was until Jeff SmiSick and his lawyer buddies took over. What would lawyers know about running an airline ? Coupled with that are thousands of arrogant, apathetic CO employees who simply refuse to acknowledge or admit the errors that have taken place.

  52. drybean says:

    Some time near the end of the last century United had to abandon their slogan “fly the friendly skies” due to absolutely horrible service. I note they tried to bring the slogan back along with the Rhapsody in Blue music post merger a couple of years ago but as the problems grew they abandon it again. It may never return…at least not any time soon. Bret wrote an excellent piece very much on the money and the insight that has been generated in response is really informative. Do you know, does Jeff Smisek ready Cranky? If not someone who has his e-mail address should forward this…replies included!

  53. Alex says:

    Coming from a son of a pm-CO pilot, current UA employee, I have experienced the amount of stress that has come from this merger… from the first announcement to the present. I remember my father coming home and telling us with a frown on his face that in a year, united and continental would be fully merged. My father started at continental express 20 years ago and moved to Continental Airline 16 years ago. He had tremendous pride for the airline he worked for. He was living the dream. Over the past 4 years, i’ve seen the decline in his attitude and enthusiasm for work. He hates it. His seniority dropped back to where it was 3 years ago. Every time there is an issue(such as gas, maintenance, ground support, etc), he informs his crew and the passengers and of course apologizes for the inconvenience. Issues that could have been easily avoided, he reports to the chief pilots. Pre-merger, he was never ignored. He was always listened to and the problem was addressed. The most recent time that he had a problem, the chief pilot merely said “We’re too big to fail.” What kind of attitude is that? Thats what Pan-Am said and they no longer exist. It’s sad when I go flying on UA and none of the employees look like they enjoy their job. They should. I mean they didn’t go through all the schooling and training to work a job they never liked in the first place. Every time that little pre-flight video comes on about how United is becoming better, I turn it off. Not only because it irritates me, but because they are straight up lying to the passengers. These passengers pay a lot of money to be on a flight to get treated like crap by rude gate agents, FA and pilots. Continental definitely sank with United. I’m not saying that United was crappy before the merger but it had problems, problems that needed to be addressed and fixed before there was thought of a merger. But the executives of BOTH Continental and United were obviously too greedy, power-hungry and selfish to care what this would do to their employees and their passengers. And they still don’t care! Before the merger, everyone at CO was polite, now when there is a nice FA or gate agent, its something I come home and talk about because it is so unusual. I can honestly say that the only things I have enjoyed from this merger are the increase in destinations and hubs. The only hope I have is when my dad goes to work wearing his continental wings. Though it is against uniform and may seem like stubbornness and him refusing to be associated with united, he wears it for the company that he loved, the company that cared for their passengers and that he refuses to allow this crappy situation to affect his quality of work and alter how he treats the customers.

  54. Leslie in Oregon says:

    I have worked with airlines and their unions, as a neutral in labor and employee disputes, since 1970. I also have flown frequently, as a passenger, since 1970. In my experience during that time, the passenger experience United has offered has not been any better than mediocre, even before deregulation. After Frank Lorenzo became CEO of Continental, I did not fly that airline until about ten years ago, so I cannot comment on what it was like for passengers pre-merger. For the last 36 years, I have made a point of flying Alaska (not my employer) whenever possible, especially on my frequent transcontinental trips. I hope that it never merges or consolidates with another airline. For passengers and employees, bigger is not better in the airline world.

  55. Darkwater says:

    As someone who recently moved to Denver and has had to fly UA for work multiple times, I feel unqualified to comment, since my 10,000+ miles in 9 months has all been on UEX equipment.

    I think the real takeaway is that nothing I’ve seen in my -1 year of flying United matches up with the merger having occurred 4 years ago.

  56. MD says:

    Yes, the long time United employees and retirees of United blame Smisek and the arrogant Continental employees for the problems happening at the new United because everything that is being done is the Continental way of doing business. The Continental employees think they were the only good airline pre merger and think the United side were not customer friendly, disgruntled, and angry because they were all beaten down by management because that’s what they heard coming in from the press and their management. They thought they were going to come in and show and how it was done on how to do business the Continental way.

    Continental employees make it seems like they were a flawless airline and were the best in the world when in fact Smisek started to make changes that were making the Continental customers angry and carried that over to United with all kinds of changes that made the loyal customers of United angry and started to go elsewhere. Continental was losing money before the merger while United started to make money.

    Their IT system is really bad and it’s the number one culprit for the flight woes that’s happening at the new United. It was happening way before the merger. Smisek and the employees of Continental have no room to blame the United employees for lack of training or not wanting to learn because their IT system can’t handle the stuff that’s going on at United as shown on this account by one their passenger pre merger: http://blogs.starcio.com/2008/11/customer-service-trouble-changing.html

  57. Positive says:

    I am a United flight attendant. (Doesn’t matter which subsidiary.) It saddens me greatly that there are so many negative feelings and comments about the company. I have 23 years invested.

    Both subsidiary sides have had their ups and downs. That is in the past. We MUST move FORWARD.

    What I have witnessed during the past few years is the cheapening of the airline and its services offered.

    A prior post mentioned corkscrews. Another post made fun of that mention in quite an unnecessary and derogatory way.

    It is funny (not ha-ha funny!) how something so small can create a bigger divide.

    However, it IS in the details! Management… hello?!

    These are just a few of the details that add to customer/employee dissatisfaction:

    * Shares (mentioned in many previous posts)

    * United Express…. speechless. WHY? WHY? Try to save money and lose our most profitable customers. Who wants to get their beautiful suit and designer shoes wet on the tarmac? Wait around for a bag? Sit in a claustrophobic cabin… not to mention the board-hard seat. SHAMEFUL and probably the major cause of losing our premium passengers. Sob.

    * In-flight entertainment. Jeff has informed all of us that our customers are “tech-savvy” and they have their own electronic devices, so there is no need for our complimentary movies, short subject television, and news programs. So, the company took OFF programming on the Airbus 319 and 320. The new 737’s provide no complimentary entertainment. There are no electrical plugs to charge our “tech-savvy” customer’s devices. I’m very sorry. SMILE

    * Wi-fi. Did United go with the cheapest? Someone with more knowledge can pipe in here. It works maybe 50% of the time…. spotty. I do understand the black out areas, but my, oh my, am I fervently resetting the system and apologizing. SMILE

    * Uniforms- the company chose to cancel the designer plans (Cynthia Rowley) and went with Cintas… the cheapest option. I will not degrade Cintas. Wish them the best. However, I have never worn fabric that I am required to wear now. It feels awful and attracts lint and hair like one wouldn’t believe. I carry a large lint roller in my suitcase, and a small one in my tote bag. I would love for Jeff Smisek and all of the upper management working in Willis Tower to wear this fabric for a week, or even a day. It does not make me proud to put on my uniform. It is cheap. The company sure did rush to have all of us in the same uniform though. Tried to make the public believe we are all united.

    * Blankets- We used to provide nice wool blankets. Now, I am embarrassed to hand the thin scrap of fabric to the customer. I try to provide two when possible. It’s more of a thin, cheap scarf. It should not be called a blanket. Sorry. SMILE

    * Food- There is mention of this in many previous posts. I have seen the quality of food decrease domestically quite a bit. The international offering is quite decent. There just has to be an adequate supply. Domestically, there needs to be more thought and investment involved. The menus need to have more variation. The entrees that I served years ago are still similar, but the portions are smaller and the quality seems lacking. SMILE

    * Pretzels! Can you imagine that the company removed the complimentary pretzels served during the beverage service on international flights?! I was at a Smisek CEO talk two weeks after the pretzel decision was made. A flight attendant questioned Mr. Smisek about the decision, informing him of the horrible affect it had on customer’s satisfaction. Mr. Smisek reply was that he did not know about the change, but would forward the information on to the proper department. No change. We still do not offer the pretzels. Customers loved the pretzels. They still ask for something with their drinks. Not to mention all the domestic passengers. I apologize. SMILE

    * Coffee- United had the best onboard coffee imaginable. Starbucks. Okay, maybe not the favorite of everyone, but gosh, what a decent cup of coffee in the sky! Always had second (and third) takers. Never a returned full cup like we do now. What a shame. SMILE

    * Corkscrews- Yes, it is something that affects the customers. With the new, cheap version, there is no foil cutter. Options are to go out in the aisle with a ragged foil top, or try to strip the entire top of the bottle from the decorative foil (risking cutting oneself). I agree that it is a small detail, but, it is NOT quality. I am used to working with quality. I want to offer quality to my quality passengers. Makes me feel good, and I pass that on to others. I love a nice glass of premium wine and love to serve the same to my friends in first class. Just my opinion. SMILE

    * Dry ice. We no longer are provided with any domestically. Exceptions do happen, and when they do, I am so happy! I have real ice cubes to work with and my wine bottles have their labels intact! Wow! SMILE

    I could go on to the cheapening of services that are now prevalent to flight attendants, but this is not the forum.

    My observations make me believe that there are bonuses being paid at Willis to those that can save the company a nickel without looking at the bigger picture.

    The company’s vision is to focus on cost. I understand that to run a company you have to be savvy about spending. In my opinion, the new United is just focusing on the cheapest way to do everything.

    We may as well announce that we are a low-cost carrier IF they continue down this road.

    Hopefully we will balance out and remain the PREMIER carrier that we have always been known for.

    I love what I do, that has not changed. It is my pleasure to come to work, treat all of my passengers and my fellow employees with respect and kindness and have a great day!

    Okay, okay…. I know you are wondering.

    I am a subsidiary United employee. Chose this profession after a B.A. in marketing and working in direct sales for a few years. I always wanted to work as a “stewardess” when I was young because my very first flight was on United Airlines. I was nine years old and was mesmerized by the experience. I thought I would work as a flight attendant for a few years and go back to marketing. Not the case. Fell in love with it. Still am. Still hope I make a difference every day I come to work. My hope is that management hears the woes of the customers and employees and listens.

    Take care and treat each other well. Please. SMILE

  58. Howdy says:

    I’m confused because you wrote, I am saddened “greatly that there are so many negative feelings and comments about the company[,] then publish your negative feelings about the company – and then pen you name as “Positive.” I’n in confusion????

    Btw, I read post about corkscrew and did not find it made “fun” nor “derogatory.” Instead, I read it as though ex-Cal employee’s were/are grappling with reduction of on-board flight attendants, so, at least for that writer, issues about a corkscrew didn’t matter much because of “bigger fish to fry.”
    You see, apparently to match United staffing, apparently they feel cheapened too! I suggest you re-read!

    So, in many ways, both sides feel cheapened by the other – What’s next?

  59. Positive says:

    Hi Howdy,
    Apologize if my points about what I have witnessed came across as putting one side against the other. It is quite the opposite. I have no idea what sub-Continental was. I only know what United is.
    I have witnessed changes to United. These are changes on both sides.
    I believe management has chosen to go the cheapest route. These decisions are not made by front-line employees.
    I am positive in hoping and praying that we all will move forward and work to save this good company. Hopefully it will remain a premier airline.
    Look forward to meeting you one day and working together.
    Take care.

    • Howdy says:

      No problem – venting is totally allowed, and encouraged too! Been known to do it myself….

      If I may touch on one point you mentioned in earlier post – blankets! Can’t hit them all, but to me, this subject can show how we all need to evolve to “Zeitgeist.”

      As you know, most US airlines provided “wool blankets” to first and coach passengers, pillows too! Yet during the SARS viurs (mid-2000s) scare, they were removed from coach class. They were removed because they posed health hazard(s), as they did not undergo cleaning between flights, though they were washed overnight.

      As you are further aware, not every customer wanted a blanket, but due to bulkiness of wool blankets, they occupied several overhead bins. But then, a passenger prefers space for their carry-on luggage over a blanket – which in my opinion is used more-so as “Linus blanket,” than as source for warmth.

      Therefore, out of need to accommodate the “carry-on generation,” something had to give. First, overheads were made larger, then they underwent enlargement again, then again….

      So, from several needs, sanitary and space, blankets were made thinner, and now they are never re-used without cleaning and repackaging – and any excess does not prevent carry-ons.

      Continental employee too were quite upset when “blanket policy” and quality changed. However, in hindsight, I now understand.

      Besides, I have yet to hear of customer complaint about blanket quality – so, if they are happy, I’m happier….

      So, not everything is “cheapened,” but rather just adjusting to the “spirit of the times.”

      • Carl says:

        As a pax, I for one am not happy with the blankets, nor the lack of pillows, particularly on red-eye flights. I wish the blankets were more substantial so that they can be used to provide more effective lumbar support.

        But I don’t complain about them to the flight attendants. Don’t interpret silence as satisfaction.

        • Howdy says:

          Carl,

          I think you missed the gist of my point, that is: wool blankets were great, however, with changes in passenger need for more space for carry-ons, where then are excess blankest stored? Remember, its an airplane, with less excess space than you can ever imagine…..

          In other words, when one item (luggage), increases, another has to be diminished (blankets), regrettably. As I mention in my post, a full compliment of blankets in coach utilize 2 or more overhead bins, depending on aircraft, of course could be more.

          I need not again mention the issue of public health.

          Lastly, I cannot speak about sub-United, but on every sub- Continental transcon red-eye flight, blank is provided on each coach seat. If not, there is nothing inappropriate kindly making a flight attendant aware that you did not receive one.

          So , though you may prefer to check you bag and pay the fee in order to have bin space for blanket service, in my 20+ years of experience, I doubt the majority are with you on this one.

          Why do I write this? Because, by far; one of the major issues flight attendants deal with is finding space for roller boards…..rarely is it about a blanket!

          If you have idea about how to deal with excess wool blankets, the cleanliness, yet still accommodate all roller-boards, coats in winter, etc, I’m all ears….

          • Leslie in Oregon says:

            Well, how about deleting the fees on checked baggage that caused the “changes in passenger need for more space for carry-ons” in the first place? That is, if you really believe that any airline got rid of pillows and blankets because they took away space for carryons… It’s all about money and the airlines’ belief that they have a captive market (as exemplified by the decision-making of the Smisek crew).

  60. Bart V says:

    Leslie: You are so right. But. it’ll never change. We’re a captive audience and all of us will pay the extra $$. Greyhound does a better job of keeping the customer happy than United. Guess, the only way the passenger will be happy is when they can dance on United’s grave…which may be very soonif United keeps going down the wrong path.

  61. Howdy says:

    Wow! You are angry. Take a moment; b r e a t h……

    I am not apologist for my employer, nor their fee structure. Instead, as my original post reads, I was relaying to a co-worker, with similar year of service, doing the same job, of how I reviewed the timeline for blanket removal, a “down-grade,” in both of our opinions, yet came to “understand” managements decision.

    Firstly, you initial assumption is incorrect. Blankets and pillows were removed from coach class when SARS scare erupted, NOT because of need for space for carry-ons. I highly recommend you reread my posts. Its a matter of hygiene; public health as domestically, blankets and pillows were not cleaned between flights – though the were washed over night.

    Now, each passenger can rest assure that each time a blanket is provided, it has been cleaned, or is new and is sealed in plastic.

    With that said, I do not believe I mention pillow in previous post. However, I did mention a full complement of blankets occupy 2 – 3 overhead bins. If you add pillows to the mix, 3-4 extra bin are needed – therefore, seven or more bins would need to be dedicated for pillows and blankets alone, on every flight, every day….

    In my experience, passengers do not want this – rather, they demand you to remove those pillows and blanket so they can place their roller board/backpack/ skateboard/guitar/sewing machine/car fender instead. Then what happens to excess; where do you put them?

    So, I suggest you interpret my post as one flight attendant conversation with another about how ones opinion evolved about pillows and blankets; about ability to accommodating customer’s most often demand – their bags.

    By the way, demand for additional space preceded additional fees for checked bags, by far!

    Best wishes!

  62. Erik says:

    United provides an exceptionally wretched experience for passengers. For investors too, we now see.

    Time to split apart this failure.

    It’s not that we need Continental back, per se. We just need more competition in domestic air travel. More competition yields better service and more innovation.

    In the meantime, I support innovators and upstarts like Virgin America and JetBlue whenever flying domestically, and use foreign carriers when flying internationally.

    • Leslie in Oregon says:

      Yes, Erik, yes, and well put.

    • Bernard Levi says:

      I would bet that you complain at “upstarts” too! Some people should just fly “private.” It has been my experience major Airlines will serve you steak and lobster in coach, but the market place must be willing to pay airline’s price, and do so consistently….but they are not; and I guarantee, you are not!

      As long as they get me safely for A to B, I’m generally happy – sometimes I think this is forgotten. However it seems “A’ personalities cannot accept this; there is always something more……

      And I almost always check my suitcase, fee or not, because, at least to me, it is actually more convenient….

      More importantly, as a consumer, I realize if I want to be pampered, fees and premiums will apply to purchase price – as it is done at your business too.

      So ask yourself as whether price paid consistent with level of service you expect, if not then you should upgrade/pay more or fly private/flight shares, and not only get your outrageous expectations met, but also get your money’s worth!

    • I’m not sure what to do with United, but we need fewer competitors so each can charge enough to have some money to invest in their product. We’re finally at the spot where airlines can do that, and they have been doing that.

      • Carl says:

        No question that having fewer competitors has made the remaining airlines financially healthier and able to raise prices. And even Southwest isn’t really keeping fares low any more.

        However I don’t see that it is leading to much investment in product. At best that investment is to reduce lav size and seat thickness so that they can fit in more seats. Other than lie flat seating in international business class there hasn’t been much investment the improves the customer experience. And the IFE investments are targeted largely at removing the expense and weight of IFE equipment, and at generating revenue from WiFi sales.

        I don’t begrudge airlines their financial health but to spin it as leading to meaningful product investments is a far stretch. Also most of the improvements are driven by suppliers, not the airlines.

      • Carl says:

        The reduction in the number of competitors has certainly improved the financial health of the remaining airlines and allowed them to raise fares.

        I don’t think it has resulted in any meaningful investment by the airlines for the benefit of consumers, beyond perhaps the move to lie flat seats in international business class. Most of the investment is made by suppliers to the airlines, not the airlines themselves. And most of what airlines have rolled out is for their own benefit, not consumer experience. Smaller lavs. Thinner seats, not to improve legroom but to fit in more seats. IFE investments so that they can remove IFE equipment from the planes and move customers to BYOD and WiFi and charge for it.

        DL does seem to be competing by offering a slightly better product, but even DL has had more cuts and take aways than new benefits. The lack of competition means that the airlines can make cost cutting or fee enhancing moves without fear of a competitor undermining them.

        I don’t begrudge the airlines their financial health, but it’s hard to spin this as benefitting customers.

    • Not sure more competition yields more innovation. Now that the airlines have money we see innovations happening, even just basic ones. DL is investing in their hard product and giving FA’s tools on the plane that could handle things like rebooking, etc.

      Hey even poor United is working on innovations in IFE, even if something like that should be well below the water line of things to tackle.

      If there is lots of competition the innovation they focus on is having the lowest price, to the detriment of everything else.

  63. Positive says:

    Bless you Mr. Levi. Hope to have the pleasure of serving you on many United flights. I will bend over backwards for you.
    Peace.

  64. MD says:

    The employees of sub United were beaten up and angry towards the mismanagement of United prior to the merger and that’s why a lot of them were excited to merge and thought Continental was going to be the savior. Even though they were beaten up, they were still very professional and took care of the customers. Today is different, the management of Continental shoved a low tech software system that makes their job harder. United is having all kinds of problems that is causing flight delays and cancellations because the software being used in maintenance and flight management that came from Continental is making things harder. They went from a high tech software to a low tech software that made their job harder and makes it a lot longer to finish their job. The old United invested in a high tech software system in maintenance and flight management but that was taken away since Continental management that is now in charge preferred to use their IT system in maintenance and flight management. That is the reason there are so much delays and cancellations at the new United. The mechanics and the customer service agents of sub United are regretting and feels it was a mistake merging with Continental. Instead seeing improvements, things are going backwards, it is very frustrating for the employees on the United side. It’s very frustrating for the customers of the new United as well and I’ve seen customers yelling at the customer service agents and customers service agent yelling back at the customers. You would be too if you are a family with children and find out when you get to the gate you are seated all over the place separately. The agents are powerless since they can’t do anything to fix it especially if the flight is full. Now you see why things can get heated quickly? Put yourself in their shoes, you still think it’s an easy fix?

    • JoEllen says:

      Your points are completely right. What still amazes me is how CO dba UA still insists on moving away from what United has previously used and now moving onto inferior computer systems to do the job of a much bigger airline than they were.

      Absolutely true about the maintenance and flight management areas being moved to another low tech system. You would think that changing from FASTAIR to SHARES would have taught them the lesson of the century. How can they now do this to thousands more very experienced (decades of experience) United employees in maintenance and flight ops? When does this end and HOW does this end ?

    • JoEllen says:

      The question remains – When will this end and HOW will this end ? I shutter at the thought.
      CO dba UA might as well just send out a memo to all pre-merger UAL employees expressing all the ways THEY DON’T CARE.

  65. DaveInSoCal says:

    As a long-time pmUA 1k (and now almost 3 million-miler) and pmCO Plat. Elite (and 1 million+ miler), who flies internationally and mostly at higher fares, I am FED-UP with this airline. I now go out of my way to find alternatives. I do not think Jeff and his team realize how much they have ticked off their best customers. The company is in a classic financial “death spiral”, and management does not realize it. They have cut costs (rather than invest) to the point where any concept of “value” is not there for the higher margin customers, let alone for the “once a year” crowd.

    The product is inconsistent and mostly pitiful. No Direct TV or IFE on a brand-new 737 on a Transcon or Hawaii 5/6 hr. flight, etc. the list goes on and on. I have no idea what I am going to get when I book a ticket.

    The frequent flier programs (the only reason I flew UA as much as I did in 2013) have been marginalized to the point of “why bother”. From dedicated call centers, to boarding, to not being able to get credit on *A flights, the list goes on and on.

    The aircraft maintenance (or lack thereof) has eroded to the point where the service and product is unreliable. Just like in the pmUA Glen days. A recent example was “zero” audio on the IFE in Business Class on sUA AND sCO metal on 2 of my trans-atlantic flights. Midway diversions are becoming too much of the “norm”. I can “roll” with the middle seat, or minor delays or inconveniences, especially in the name of safety, but when you purchase a $5,000 product, you expect to get what you pay for.

    The service stinks. On-board, CSR’s, UA Club, Res. Ctrs. etc., It is evident “across the board”. I do not blame these front-line employees (other than when they let the “us vs. them” attitude show). I think they really want to do their jobs well, but they are no longer “empowered to take care of the customer”, they no longer have the tools or have incentives. Management needs to do some “team building” and all you FA’s need to can your existing union reps and get some reps who can get a unified contract done.

    Jeff needs to earn my business, and I have seen nothing in his video or presentations that either earn my business or translate to reality on the line. He is blaming his failures to Wall Street on excuses like “not having adequately trained front-line employees”. This is incredibly “lame” imo. Excuses are like “a—-les. Do something! That doesn’t mean panic or hiring consultants. By the time he gets a recommendation from his two high priced consultant, the good customers will be long gone.

    Buh-bye United (and Continental), it was fun….

  66. Uh oh says:

    By the way, many of those at the executive level have life-time entitlements written into their contracts that allow them or any designated ‘guest(s)’ free flights, world wide.

    Who thinks that taking four first class seats out of inventory to LHR or PEK for special friends isn’t affecting our bottom line? These are not leftover, “employee standby” seats that would otherwise go empty, but are confirmed bookings gifted to the many friends of the many top dogs. These ‘perks’ no doubt run into some serious chunks of change as those executives regard our airline as their own personal fleet.

    Interestingly, one has to wonder if they pay imputed income on these ‘gifts’ or, do their guests pay a gift tax on the tens of thousands of dollars in free flights they enjoy? The retail price of a family of four flying first class to SYD, for example, is roughly $40,000. How many of these kinds of flights are made each year on the company’s dime?

    The new “culture” at United is haughty, imperious and has zero respect for the entity that affords us a living, let alone those who actually keep us aloft. They themselves reap the rewards while they pay consultants to do their work, effectively remaining employed while outsourcing the very jobs they were hired to do, while outsourcing the jobs of others.

    What a racket.

  67. Susan says:

    The author of this article is spot on. As someone who traveled >75% of any given year for about 4 years, before and after the merger (on both airlines), this merger was the worst move any company could make.

    I live in Houston and as Continental was a direct flight to just about anywhere in the continental US, that is who I chose to fly when my job required travel. There were the occasions where I had to fly other airlines, including United, because it was not cost effective to fly my chosen airline, though not many. While the author says United improved in the last couple of years prior to the merger, it was still a far less quality of service than any other airline I have been on. The level of service now is so low that you have to wonder just how much worse will it or can it get? Now when I have to fly, I wonder “gee, is my flight going to get cancelled…again?”.

    The morale of the employees from (gate agents and FA’s) was so low that it transmitted in their interactions with customers. How sad is it to smile and thank your flight attendant for something and get no response or a scowl back. How sad it was to walk up to the gate agent with a question and get a look from them that just dares you to ask them a question and interrupt whatever task they were performing.

    I truly understand that it is hard to put on a cheerful welcoming face to the public when there is such dissatisfaction with the company you represent. People come to work because it is a ‘paycheck’, not because they enjoy or take any pride in what they do or who they work for. Continental used to be this way…until Gordon Bethune came in and changed a culture. He took Continental from “Worst to First”. I sometimes wonder if Mr. Smisek ever read the book and if so….did he read it in reverse?

    It seems to me the one common thread among both sides of the new United is that everyone despises Mr. Smisek. I know as a passenger, I get sick of seeing him on the pre-flight video because, to me, he does not convey a sense of trust and concern for the airline as a whole. If he had the ability to rally the combined workforce into working toward a common goal and creating a magnificent airline, don’t you think he would have done that already? How can you rally your workforce when no one has any confidence in your motive or your ability?

    I truly hope to see something good come from this debacle. If Continental can go from the worst airline to a premier airline, I have to believe the same can happen for this “New” United. Hopefully this happens before I have to start travelling again. If it doesn’t, I will take my business to Delta or the newly merged American/US Airways.

  68. Me2 says:

    Problem solving — PreMerger: I had the ability to research and resolve my own issues. PostMerger: Decisions require committee review and approval.

    Technology — PreMerger: I would frequently test and employ new technologies to enhance my job. PostMerger: I’m restricted to approved technologies that are many years behind basic technological standards. Never mind that our vendors are also using cutting-edge technology…

    Customer service — PreMerger: I was pleased to help others. PostMerger: Employees and passengers are now angry and abusive – I hide my name tag and stay out of the way.

    Pay — PreMerger: It was well below industry standard, it was CRAP! I went 10yrs with no raise. PostMerger: I’ve had several meaningful pay raises.

    Benefits — PreMerger: Non-revving was a benefit and we dressed appropriately. PostMerger: Good luck finding a empty seat with downsized aircraft, maintenance cancellations, illegal crew resulting in cancellations, etc… As for the dress code…I’ve seen far to many passengers (ESPECIALLY non-revs) looking like used-up crack whores in need of a bath and clothing that covers one’s sexual organs.

    Communication — PreMerger: Years ago our CEO had a vision – whether it was liked or not – and he conveyed that across the organization. PostMerger: What vision? Our daily communications do little beyond highlighting people for the extraordinary act of performing their jobs – much ado about nothing.

    Outsourcing — PreMerger: Was minimal. PostMerger: This is the new norm.

    Aircraft — PreMerger: Clean, safe and reliable. PostMerger: Exhausted-looking, safe and hope for the best.

  69. IO says:

    Cranky – Have the number of responses, so far 182, set a record for your blog?

  70. Nygard1 says:

    After more than 30 years of heavy-duty international business travel and countless trips on both Continental and United I must admit that I have come to the end with United. My last United trip to Asia included a bunch of flying on United as well as on various Asian airlines and the contrast was stark. The worst non-United flight was better than the best United flight.

    And while many of the comments to this great article seem to focus the ire on “management” or “the other airline”, an awful lot of United employees need to take a good hard look at the face in the mirror. As long as bad attitude is being blamed on anything other than the face in the mirror, United will not improve.

    Just returned from a two-week non-United trip around Asia. Even Air China was better than any recent United flight I have experienced.

  71. MD says:

    CF, you sound like a Continental fan. Who else are you going to blame? Continental has taken over at United. Smisek et al is running United with the Continental way of doing business and it’s failing miserably.This is the culture and IT system he brought over to United: http://blogs.starcio.com/2008/11/customer-service-trouble-changing.html

  72. Henry says:

    One thing that is almost unanimous among pre -merger United and pre-merger Continental employees is their distrust and dislike of Mr Smisek. Getting rid of “jeff” will do nothing unless all of the upper managment ranks go with him and that’s just to start.

    I do agree with the post that said anyone that is named as Smiseks replacement should be someone with no history at either UA or CO.

    I am a pre-merger CO employee, I am not a pilot, flight attendant or mechanic, but again the distrust, contempt and dislikle of “jeff” runs among all employee groups, both UA and CO.

    A first officer did relay to me that he attended a gathering of CO pilots at a service memorial to a local Houston doctor that administered physicals to a lot of the pilots based at Houston and Gordon Bethune was in attendance, a few pilots asked Gordon if he would return to the “new” United and Gordon allegedly said “no, at this stage of my life I am on final approach and besides the guy in the captains seat right now has everything so f**ked up I dont know if anyone could undo it” (again, 2nd hand, I cannot verify that this happened)

    • MD says:

      I admire Gordon. He was smart and a people person unlike Smisek. Larry Kellner was well liked too. Kellner did not pursue the merger because he thought there was too much risk since the two companies were very different from each other.

  73. WesternDC6B says:

    I’ve been riding in airliners since United Air Lines (two words in those days) flew scheduled service from Catalina to Burbank in DC3s. In 1955, hen I was 6, a flight in a DC6B started my love of aviation and airliners. I even learned to fly.

    I am not a road warrior but have done my share of flying over the years. United’s normal way has been rude, surly, and indifferent. There have been exceptions – some have stood out – but my usual experience has kept me away from United unless they were the only ones going where I had to go, when I had to go. UAL, for me, is one step head of Spirit.

    This is for the cabin crews: I know you have a demanding job; that many passengers are unpleasant and expect the impossible. But, you need to cease this UAL vs CAL squabble in front of the customers. The customers are no more interested in hearing it than they are interested in hearing a UCLA grad doing battle with a USC grad about last week’s ball game. In short: it’s tiresome. You are adults so jolly well act like adults. If you insist on carrying on with it, please take it to the crew lounge or the union hall.

    And while I am no friend of labor unions in most cases, you need one that is competent and will represent your interests. From what I have seen described in the comments above, your union(s) is(are) good for one thing: collecting dues.

    For the executives: What can United do, in general, to win customers back? Break the mold. SHATTER IT. How? Do the things the other airlines aren’t doing.

    1) Decent seat pitch in coach/tourist/economy/steerage or whatever you want to call it. Raise the fares a few percentage points by losing two rows, and make your passengers want to come back because YOUR airliners are comfortable. Go to the company archives and pull some magazine ads from the DC-10 days. Look at the seats you used to have in coach/tourist/economy/steerage.

    2) Decent seat width. If, for example, you are tempted to go 10 across in your 777s, or 11 across in 777Xs you may buy, DON’T. We Americans have not just “grown fatter”. We are BIGGER. Many of us are big-shouldered. Give us a break. PLEASE.

    3) Return to the days when at least one checked bag was included in the ticket prices. Or, the old piston-prop era of 20 kilos for coach, 30 for first class. I do not want to hear the whining and sniveling of passengers who say they should not have to pay for something they are not using. That’s too bad. At hotels, I must pay for a pool I do not use, a business center I virtually never use, a fitness center I never use, a shuttle bus I do not ride, and cable television I do not watch. Stop gouging us for the baggage we need to carry. You will find that your planes can be loaded faster and with far less chaos than you have now. Done right, you might even get an extra “turn” per day out of aircraft flown on short routes. A plane in the air makes money. A plane on the ground with passengers doing the Baggage Bin Ballet is a plane not making money.

    4) Put regular airliners back on 3+ hour flights.

  74. Bart V says:

    I wonder if there’s a do over and we can revert to the old CO and UA situation…lol. If not. get rid of Smisek. He’s a cancer that has ruined the UA/CO merger. And while we’re at it, get rid of ALL senior management!!!!!!! Wishful thinking.lol

  75. OutsiderLookingIn says:

    A few times this topic came up….hiring external consultants (expensive ones — McKinsey and BCG). United (pmUA) has been hiring those folks for years. WHY? WHY? WHY?

    Here’s a thought: why not hire the right people from the start so your business isn’t broke and won’t require fixing by some b-school grad to dish out canned graphic-laden and chart-heavy presentations with buzzwords and meaningless fluff? This has been going on for years, why didn’t it stop way before the merger? I would almost go so far as to liken this to an expensive drug habit. [Disclaimer: I applied to work at UA a few times in the past 10 years and was always passed up for internal hires, whom I found out from friends on the inside were less qualified, performed very poorly and were clearly the wrong choices. No, I’m not bitter. Things happen for a reason and I’m grateful to not be inside this mess today.]

    We all know what the problems are and half the people commenting on this thread could probably do a decent job running the combined company today. We know the issues, we know the pain points and we’ve probably all experienced many of them first-hand. Chances are there are a lot of good people on the front lines and in office roles (pmUA and pmCO) below the top management level who know what the problems are and how to fix them, but they’re not in a position to either (a) speak out for fear of retribution/punishment, or (b) get their leader(s) actually listen to them about what’s happening and/or (c) have those leaders actually DO something about the issues.

    Sad to watch this train wreck get worse by the day…. and as a customer who was a loyal 1K for about 8-10 years and flown around 2M miles on UA metal, I’m OK having absolutely ZERO status on UA today and about 500,000 miles still to burn (not on UA of course, I’ll spend them on Star Alliance partners instead)…I take my business elsewhere where my loyalty is actually recognized (or cannot bought “for a day” like at UA). There are so many better options out there and while my heart goes out to the hard working good people from both sides — many of whom have invested years or decades of their lives — I’m sorry that a group of execs has created such a mess that negatively impacts everybody else – yet when these execs’ time is up, they’ll literally be laughing all the way to the bank while the hard workers are left to pick up the pieces.

    • ExUA says:

      It’s amazing throughout this post how people not in the aviation industry, and appear to be nothing more than experienced fliers, can identify on the things that ail UA, and offer remedies. Too bad UA management won’t listen to anyone. OutsiderLookingIn you hit the nail on the head. I was in Tech Ops at UA for 4 years starting with the merger. And myself and 5 other highly educated (Engineering degrees and MBAs), highly analytical (Six Sigma certified, advanced computer skills, and 10+ years experience) were recruited in to bring process improvement and industry best practices to the combined airlines Supply Chain Management (SCM) department. A major problem was the person put in charge of this group had absolutely zero airline experience, and refused to listen to anyone that did. Has did the Director, MD, and SR VP of Tech Ops. Rotated 3 set of top management through in 3 years, and now they have bean counters (Finance geeks) in those positions, who know nothing about SCM. airline maintenance, planning or strategy at all. We were given no autonomy to implement anything. The most autocratic work environment I have ever been exposed to. We had to report the movement of every part system wide twice daily on conference calls to top leadership. And all parts are moved on FedEx, since UA outsourced their Cargo department years ago, and employees refuse to put parts on UA aircraft for fear they will be “lost” before they reach their destination. FedEx rakes in millions from UA moving their parts around the world. And UA is an international airline mind you. Insane. Needless to say we all left, but not before McKinsey came in, and with all their sterling airline aviation consulting expertise (not), and freshly minted MBA consultants who knew nothing, implemented changes that cost the airline millions, and brought no additional reliability at all. Just spent money to stock more parts around the system. And the bean counters bought into it, and so did Jeff and his merry band of minions. And yes, McKinsey produced these nice colored bar charts daily, to show us how much our inventory costs were increasing, with no operational improvement. Hundreds, if not millions of $$ spent for nothing but bar charts! And McKinsey was hired to provide their consulting services for SCM when 3 individuals on staff who had years of experience providing airline/aviation consulting services at GE were never consulted or engaged at all. And management never used their expertise for anything.

      To answer some of the points you made:
      Chances are there are a lot of good people on the front lines and in office roles (pmUA and pmCO) below the top management level who know what the problems are and how to fix them,
      (absolutely – but management will not listen nor engage them in the conversation regarding anything. All decisions come from the top down. Workers no matter what their experience and knowledge are nothing but order takers.)

      but they’re not in a position to either (a) speak out for fear of retribution/punishment,
      (again absolutely – intimidation rules the day, and HR shows anyone the door who dares to question anything management does)

      or (b) get their leader(s) actually listen to them about what’s happening
      (doesn’t happen. Their only concern is their jobs and their bonuses, and self preservation and nothing else)

      and/or (c) have those leaders actually DO something about the issues.
      (They do nothing – Problems never get solved, and the fires burn on a daily basis while the root causes of the problems are never addressed for fear of pointing the finger where the true blame lies, and burning potential bridges for advancement and bonuses in the future. It a political environment just like Washington DC, where nothing gets done, yet everyone pats everyone on the back for a job well done).

      As you can see from their quarterly earnings report and current position in the industry speaks volumes to the job that’s being done at UA. I won airline stock now, given the revenues they currently are experiencing, but I’ll never own UAL as long as this management team is in place. And yes, the entire team has to go, just not SmiSick. Sr VP, MD, Directors, all the way down to useless Sr. Managers and Managers have to go. It’s rotten to the core.

      • OutsiderLookingIn says:

        Thanks for the insider view, ExUA, the situation absolutely does suck and you’ve added a lot more insight into the severity of just how bad the problems are and how risky it was for a good person just to open their mouth.

        One comment I forgot to add, which you actually mentioned, was that UA hired people without airline experience. Here’s something to agitate everyone reading this blog… how about a Manager or Director of a network/fleet/schedule planning group who is a fresh new hire (I think MBA recruit, but can’t recall) who asks his team – in a meeting – “What airport is BOS?”…. oh wait it gets better, this individual responsible for decisions that require some basic knowledge of aircraft types….asks…. (brace yourselves)…. “Why can’t we fly a regional jet to Europe?” Ummmmm….where does someone even begin to answer that question without losing their patience or mind?

        Yep, true story. Can’t disclose more details of this smart individual, but I will say this was well before talks of the UA-CO merger even started….this is when they were all still in Elk Grove Village and HR was on a hiring spree to grab recruits from the top MBA schools — and only top MBA schools — regardless of whether other candidates (with or without MBAs) were better qualified and/or had (any) relevant airline experience.

        Looks like there were some serious problems even before the merger was a thought…

  76. fred says:

    when you shit on your employees you shit on your passengers

    • Arcanum says:

      That’s precisely where you’re wrong. Lots of people in lots of different fields are shit on every day, some much worse than employees at UA. Letting that impact how the customers are treated is a CHOICE that each employee makes for him or herself.

      • DaveInSoCal says:

        Arcanum-
        I disagree, the employees may not really have a choice to take care of the customer. In the current UA environment, they are not empowered and face retribution.

        Fred is right. MGMT 101: Take care of your employees & take care of your customers, then the numbers will work for themselves. New MBAs from McKinsey haven’t learned that yet.

  77. Jet Girl says:

    The solution is simple……..fly a better airline. Even if you live in a hub city, even if you like the route system, fly the competitor; fly the boutique airline; fly the ulcc. every single person on this blog who feels abused has the agency to make a better choice. Shop away from
    United….money talks….and if your company won’t let you fly elsewhere, get a better job.

    • Nygard1 says:

      Well said – and that is exactly what I do. Some of us are old enough to remember when loyalty-programs were indeed two-way programs. Those days are obviously long gone and nowadays companies need to (and do) look at the bigger picture – how do we get the travel services we need at the lowest and most reasonable cost.

  78. Corn says:

    I just want to know when are people going to realize that bigger is not always better. Why did they have to merge in the first place? Now you have an airline that is so big that when it does get in trouble it will be too big to be allowed to fail and then we (the taxpayers) will have to bail it out. I think the regulators should not only have stopped AA-US Airways but also UAL-CAL and Delta-NW mergers.

  79. DaveInSoCal says:

    Arcanum-
    I disagree, the employees may not really have a choice to take care of the customer. In the current UA environment, they are not empowered and face retribution.

    Fred is right. MGMT 101: Take care of your employees & take care of your customers, then the numbers will work for themselves. New MBAs from McKinsey haven’t learned that yet.

  80. RSTexas says:

    “United and Continental pitched this as a merger of equals”…… It was pitched as a merger of equals because that was a clause UA had with Amadeaus…. if they entered into a “merger of equals” that effectively released UA from having to repay 1A for all the money they fronted to UA to look into the possibility of migrating their OS.

  81. stonyb says:

    As a person who flew both CO, and UA, in the 80’s-90’s. UA was far preferable. From the DC8 super 70’s, and DC-10 out of DEN, compared to CO, who lost my luggage 2 times and could care less. Then flying both out of SFO, and having continuous issues with CO. TI was awesome in it’s time before Lorenzo gobbled it up.

    • Arcanum says:

      CO lost his luggage back in the 80’s and he still thinks badly of them. This is exactly why good customer service is important. You can lose a customer in a single interaction but it may take decades to get him back.

  82. MD says:

    United was an awesome airline in the past. Employees and passengers loved United. It was once the biggest airline in the world with over 120,000 employees. It was also the biggest employee owned company at one time. In the year 2000’s after 9/11, the company started to unravel and filed bankruptcy protection. It stopped overhauling its own planes and started farming them out. That is why the planes were not as well maintained in its interior but at least we kept them flying unlike today where you have brand new planes but they are not flying and have no entertainment. I worked in the maintenance department and in order to keep the planes flying, non critical items were deferred in accordance with the FAA minimum equipment list which were not essential for a safe flight and were done on the next maintenance visit. That’s why you see cosmetic items with bandage repairs on some flights. This is the United I used to know and was proud of as an employee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hm-eGqBGqCg&feature=share

  83. ThisIsCrazy says:

    Delta went well due to one person, Richard Anderson. He was CEO of both companies and all of the sr managers knew how to work with him. He knew how to take the best players from each team and create a new team. There was little to no posturing and BS that typically goes with these deals. It’s that simple.

    • Larry says:

      Lack of unions didn’t hurt either. Some aspects of Delta/Northwest merger just cannot be compared to United/Continental’s, as they did not face similar workplace conditions.

  84. As a 25+ year sub CO employee, I may have a biased view on what’s happening to the “new united”. Yes, legacy United workers are right in saying that upper management running (or should i say ruining) the new United is majority sub co. A lot of upper sub CO management left when the merger started and went to our competitors. Can’t say I blame them for leaving, if I were in their position, I would. Sub UA culture in whole is toxic. Total distrust in management, poor customer service, poor reliability, the list can go on. I’m not saying sub CO didn’t have their share of problems, but for the most part, everyone seemed to love their job, coming to work, and most of all, proud where they worked. Now that a lot of top management (who were instrumental in sub CO’s turnaround) left, it left less experienced sub CO management to wade through the merger mess. They’re fighting a losing battle. If you have clear spring water and mix it with murky water what do you end up with? A whole lot of murky water! It’s still water but less appealing. That’s what you end up when you mix the two cultures. Ask sub UA and CO workers prior to the merger how they felt about their job. I for one can say that I loved what I did (technician) and enjoyed coming to work. Can’t say that you would get the same response from a sub UA worker. Everyday I come to work now, dreading what the “new united” will bring. Why don’t I quit? a part of me still hope we can pull out of the nose dive we’re in and make a come back but I know it’s just a dream. We will never jeopardize the safety of our planes (we still have separate contracts and work on our own metal) but now days, it’s just about the paycheck instead of loving the “new united”. So when sub UA workers say that Continental management is ruining the “new united”, they’re right, but they were doomed from the start. Maybe that’s why all the top sub CO management decided to leave before the merger, leaving ill prepared management to drink the murky water!

  85. I would like to throw my hat in the ring and invite any one to ask me any questions and I will answer them as clearly as possible. I am a second generation mechanic…was Continental now United, being second generation allowed me to see things that others could not, let me explain….My father was in the navy on an aicraft carrier which he found his new love and interest in aviation, he worked on aircraft in that generation (60″s) era and when he left the Navy he went to work for Trans Texas Airlines (TTA) soon after the airline was purchased ba Texas International Airlines, the Lorenzo Era, now for those of you who don’t know Frank Lorenzo, you’re probably better off, his name will come up again in comparison later in my statement here. Several years passed, As arlines were competing and evolving Lorenzo wanted to grow, that he did, he merged TI with Continental, in essence TI purchased Continental, at that time there were two seperate unions and two seperate contracts causing terrible backlash from both sides, Lorenzo managed to bust both unions and squeezed his personel for paycuts and layoffs and caused Scabs crossing picket lines because they had to feed their families, A 20 year man would now make the same as a new hire, Lorenzo didn’t care about the people or their loyalty, it was a MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY approach, causing all types of desention amongts two carriers merging and management from both fighting tooth and bail about who was better and who was better than who. Sound Familiar? Fast forward to present day and Lorenzo out but Jeff Smizik in, many say that they are cut from the same cloth, Smizik doesn’t care about his oeople or their loyalty OH! unless they wear a 5,000 dollar Armani suit, I am in the major maintenance area as my father was, we haven’t had a good contract for 11 years, that said Smizik has trimmed, cut, vendored out or outsourced most everything possible,with the exception of Management, at last look there were atleast 40 vice presidents and 50 presidents, ALL making a minimum of 6 figures or more, And Mr. Smizik? well he got 12 million last year, So in short its not either Airlines fault except for the GREEDY people running it, whether they are Ex-Continental ir Present United, I could go much deeper but don’t want to bore anyone but I will be glad to exchange ideas and thought with those interested

  86. Kevin says:

    I just want to read the comments.

  87. Kevin says:

    I just want to read the comments!!!!!!

  88. Kevin says:

    O.K. I’m computer illiterate, so it took me a little while to figure out how to get in here and read all the comments. Forgive me, I’m old….
    I’m NOT going to allude to whom I work for. Lets just call it United, as we should be! There has been more than enough infighting over silly things, like the “tulip” vs. the “meatball”. The management here seems to think that is a major issue, and that insights the “tulip” lovers to do everything they can to bring out the tulip. What I have discovered speaking to my not quite yet co-workers, is United has become a shitty place to work! And for those saying “QUIT”, I have been around too long to do so, and I want my job to be fun again. The guys from “the other side” asked me one day, if this is how it has been for the many years I have been here, and how did you put up with it. I looked at them and said, I wanted to ask you guys the same thing. To make a long story short, It seems as though the present management team, has taken the WORST of both worlds, and combined them. Both sides were thinking they would take the BEST of both worlds, and make this a great place to be. I guess the high $$$ mngmt. types are afraid doing that might cut into their bonuses. We, as employees, need to say to hell with the jackasses perpetuating this inside war, and make things work for US!. I’ll get off the soapbox now.

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