Topic of the Week: The FAA Steps Up Oversight at United

Safety/Security, United

The headline in the Wall Street Journal says “FAA Calls Out ‘Systemic’ Hazard at United.” (You can Google the title to get to the article if you aren’t a subscriber.) The FAA has raised some red flags at the airline, and United has responded saying all is fixed. Does an FAA letter concern you or is this just a paperwork thing that doesn’t matter?

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20 comments on “Topic of the Week: The FAA Steps Up Oversight at United

  1. It’s typical media hysteria, and a total lack of understanding of the actual issues.

    Unless I missed something, the issues were ready resolved and UA is also implementing the same self-disclosure processes that AA and many other airlines have used for decades. That allows pilots, dispatchers, and load controllers to flag safety issues for internal review and correction without the risk of the FAA coming down on them like we’ve seen at other airlines over relatively small potatoes.

    1. From the portion of the article I could read (can never seem yup get the Google trick to work), the recurrence of self-reported incidents over the course of 12 months is what led to the increased oversight.

    1. Cuddles, sounds as if you have sour grapes. Having flown UAL for over 20 years both domestic and international. I can say they are the top carrier and I have flown so many different carriers!!~~~

      1. It’s not really sour grapes. I’m being realistic. I use EWR frequently. UAL has a monopoly at EWR. The customer service is dreadful to non-existent. The inflight service is the pits. I also fly frequently and I try not to fly UAL. I must say that their meal service has gotten so much better in the past few months. Unfortunately, the foreign carriers are light years ahead of UAL as far as customer service is concerned.
        As a layperson, the FAA report (be it true or false) gives me cause for alarm.

        1. Did you ever stop to think the levels of service you’re complaining about are simply a reflection of the region, and not the company you’re dealing with?… I used to be a red coat for a different airline at JFK, and being a Midwesterner, found the standards of service in general to be abysmal, and not just with any one airline or service provider. Having also flown on UA out of EWR, I really don’t find any difference there with what I knew from flying on AA and other airlines out of LGA & JFK.

          1. I appreciate what you have said. But, you’re wrong. Not only am I down on UA, but just reading the reviews on skytrax and flyer talk are in agreement with me. This is throughout the UA system and NOT only on the east coast. What is the saying, “50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong.” In this case the majority of UA passengers no matter where can’t be wrong either.

  2. re: You can Google the title to get to the article if you aren’t a subscriber

    Shhhh. Not sure if the site is supposed to function that way, but it’s how I’ve been reading all the paywall WSJ articles…

    1. AA customers get ready for when USAir employees join you. We waited 35 minutes to check (two hours before desparture time)in in the business class line at SJU. AA staff in SJU is most proffesional and friendly. When I asked the US supervisor to help out, the reply was a very proffesional dear we you have to be patient we’re very busy. That is a United type attitude.

  3. This is further evidence that United is the worst airline in the US. The article states that the FAA believes that United’s self-reporting of 12 violations in 13 months comes “from the same or similar set of circumstances,” which the FAA is calling a “systemic hazard”. This safety issue follows on last month’s news that Nate Silver has statistically concluded that United is the slowest airline in the country at getting passengers between cities. That news came on the heels of the 2014 operating results that showed that United has the lowest profitability margin of any of the big US airlines. The systemic issues with United are very, very deep. I’m convinced that this airline’s fundamental problem is a people problem – there is no regard for people, be they customers, employees or retirees. This lack of respect for people results in corporate operating procedures that produce unintended consequences.

    If there was ever an airline merger that should have been synergistic, it was United and Continental. Combined, the new United has the best hub network in the country. With their route structure connecting the country’s largest high value-add cities, they should be able to generate higher RASMs than the other carriers. But they don’t, in fact they trail the industry average. Their employees are bitter and unhappy because management doesn’t respect them and treats them like crap, which in turn is often reflected in how passengers get treated. Passengers are unhappy with the airline, but the airline doesn’t care.

    I live in SF and travel weekly, so I could easily be 1K if I regularly flew United. In recent years I’ve moved most of my flying under 3 hours to Southwest, which is an airline that I absolutely love because the entire organization truly puts people first. For 2015 I have given up United entirely, which has been incredibly liberating. The tipping point for me was seeing how United treated a retired pilot who gave 35 years of his life to the airline – my grandpa. He was a United pilot from 1955 to 1990 who took great pride in the airline. My grandma passed away last year. I’ll spare the details, but for the year leading up to her death, the United employee benefits bureaucracy refused to accept the professionally drafted medical power of attorney to allow me to act on my grandparents’ behalf. The same medical POA had been accepted by Mayo Clinic and many other organizations, but United consistently refused to process the medical POA, claiming they couldn’t find it (despite sending via certified mail multiple times). Without their acceptance of the medical POA, I was not allowed to speak to my grandparents’ insurance company because they require United’s approval of these things. Further, United refused to show any compassion or sense of urgency, even during the final week of my grandma’s life. Even worse, it took several months after her death to officially process the information with United that she had died. Without a doubt, this is an arrogant organization that has zero regard for people of any sort.

    It’s time for Jeff Smisek and his entire senior team to pack their bags and get out of the Willis Tower. It’s time for management that actually considers how decisions will impact passengers and employees.

    1. Sorry to hear about the issues with your grandparents but that really doesn’t affect airline safety.

      Does this make me think UA planes will be falling out of the sky, nope. Cause for concern? Maybe a little, but I like announcements like this as it keeps the airlines on their toes. IMO, it keeps them safer.

        1. And you can find similar stories at practically every major organization. One anecdote is not indicative of systemic issues. That’s not to say there aren’t significant cultural or operational issues, but one story is not evidence.

          1. If we are going to nitpick: Sure it is, evidence is not necessarily monolithic, it can be cumulative. Losing critical mail numerous times may not be indicative of air worthiness issues directly but it does tend to indicate organizational deficiencies much the same way the ample evidence of their on-time ratings do.

            The story was relevant and personalized such that no rational human being would interpret it as being based on research but clearly as an editorial. So what gives with the put downs….

  4. I consider this, yet again, nothing but complete media drama. What a way to get readers drawn in.. ‘FAA concerned about United Airlines”. Well, that’s their job! Every airline has their own safety inspectors and if they weren’t concerned about their specific carriers safety compliance at all times, then they would be complacent and not doing their jobs. Another thing is this….it seems that every single time there is a union/management dispute…this time it’s the pilots…news items like this pop up. Either the union calls in to the anonymous FAA hotline to report items that they normally would not bother calling about, or the FAA is genuinely checking to see if disgruntled employees might cut corners. But whatever the situation, it is mainly another way to get those airline-haters drawn in to another frenzied controversy. And the answer to your question is no….These audits do not bother me, because of the continued incredibly safety record of US airlines.

  5. I do not know the nature of the ‘latest systemic problems’ at United (and could not find the article), but we know that the FAA cannot do much about cabin service and food unless it has a direct impact of safety. If United’s ‘systemic’ problems continue much longer, they won’t have to worry about the FAA; they simply will not have any PAX for whom to provide a safe environment and flight. Of course, I’m sure that the problems vary from market-to-market. and if United does not get the majority of their ‘soft’ product issues fixed, that simply won’t have enough traffic to warrant close FAA attention. Even before SAFETY became their hot-button issue, I’d given up on them, simply because the service was so horrible – and they made it clear that they Did Not Care. As far as I can tell, UAL still Does Not Care. -C.

    1. And yet, my wife who hasn’t flown anyone else but AA or WN for the past 20 years finally flew on UA last month, and her first reaction was that the UA inflight service was far better than on AA.
      Regardless, it has nothing to do with the safety culture in my opinion. Given what was in PB last week about the state of pilot negotiations, I think I’ll take all of this issue with a huge grain of salt.

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