United Tries to Make Me Regret Picking the 787-9 Dreamliner Flight to Denver (Trip Report)

Trip Reports, United

I love looking for flights in a market like LA to Denver. There are so many airlines flying the route that the options seem endless. Even though I was heading out there for a wedding, I was able to schedule some time with Frontier’s leadership while in town. So naturally I looked to fly Frontier first. But when I looked at fares, I realized that United was about $100, the same price as Frontier before charging for bags and carry-ons. Normally I’d still have gone with Frontier, but that cheap United flight was on a 787-9. This was going to be awesome, I thought. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

United 787 Over the Rockies

I just assumed that this 787-9 was the airplane that was used for the LA to Melbourne flight. After all, that one comes in during the morning hours and hangs around all day. This would have been a way to try to use the airplane more. But as I got closer to departure, I realized I was wrong. And I still don’t understand what United is doing with this.

This airplane was less than two weeks old when I flew it. This was its ninth revenue flight, and every single one of those flights was LA to Denver and back. That was the only thing it was doing each day, and it didn’t even operate on Tuesday or Wednesday. So my Thursday flight? That was the first time it had flown since Monday.

I took public transit up to the airport and got into the terminal area around 1130a. I haven’t flown United from LAX in a long time, but I remember you used to be able to access security from Terminal 6. They’ve changed things. Now, it’s cordoned off, but one of the line-minders let me cut through. I felt like a salmon swimming upstream. Next time, I’ll go straight to Terminal 7.

United Check-In Lobby LAX

Renovations appear to have begun, and that’s good. This place looks tired. Once I got through security, I saw a lot of boarded up walls toward the entrance to the concourse. So I kept pressing through to find a place to eat.

I chose “breakfast lunch and dinner” in the Food Connection area in the rotunda. I remember when they served cafeteria-style food at this place, but now it’s a bunch of trendier spots. The problem is that once you order, you have to wait for food to be ready. There’s not much room to do that, so it is tough to navigate even when it’s not that crowded. I had a great jerk chicken sandwich though, and then wandered over to my gate, 77.

breakfast lunch dinner LAX Terminal 7

Up until this point, all was going swimmingly, but when I got to the gate at 1217p, I saw there was another 787 there going to Houston as flight 1509. This one was scheduled for 1145a but now showed a 1215p departure time. We were already passed that time and people were still waiting to board.

Next to us was flight 198 to Shanghai, another 787. This one showed on-time, but it made for a very crowded gate area. Our gate agents barked that this was the Houston flight, not the Denver flight, and they asked people to get out of line if they were going to Denver. We were next.

Time kept ticking and boarding was slow. Meanwhile, the gate next to us announced that they were late getting the airplane towed from the hangar, so Shanghai was going to be late, probably about 15 minutes or so. Shortly after that, I got an alert from our internal Cranky Concierge tool saying we were delayed a full hour. The United app didn’t reflect that for awhile, but either way, it seemed crazy. Surely they could turn us more quickly than that?

On the app, United did have a little alert saying I could change my flight because of the delay. I didn’t want to give up the 787, but I was curious to see my options. They weren’t good. I could take flight 1169 which was supposed to go at 1110a but was on a long mechanical delay (it ended up being nearly 4 hours late and left after 3p) or I could go later that night. No thanks.

As Houston boarding finished up, the gate agents again told the Denver people to get out of the way, but I don’t remember them ever announcing our delay, let alone apologize for it. The Houston flight finally pushed back at 1247p. Our airplane took another 15 minutes to saddle up to the gate. Meanwhile, the Shanghai airplane had finally shown up but it hadn’t been catered, so they kept waiting.

We finally started boarding at 113p (or at least, that’s when I tweeted we had started, it could have been a couple minutes earlier). The different boarding groups had merged together and there was a fair bit of confusion. But mercifully, I was finally onboard.


October 8, 2015
United 1405 Lv Los Angeles 1p Arr Denver 419p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 77, Runway 25R, Depart 1h11m Late
Denver (DEN): Gate B32, Runway 34R, Arrive 1h26m Late
N27959, Boeing 787-9, Continental Globe colors, ~95% Full
Seat 32L, Coach
Flight Time 2h1m

This airplane looked brand new… because it was. I walked past Business and then through Economy Plus before finding my seat. The seats were all clean and attractive. I put my bag up in the bin (no problem finding space) and grabbed my seat on the window. There, I was treated to the view of the wing. I love that wing.

United 787-9 Wing

People seemed to board pretty quickly, but then we sat. There were a bunch of announcements made, but we never seemed to be getting anywhere. Finally, I remembered that the IFE works on the ground for United. I flipped on a movie. After a while, I realized that I was pretty far into it and we still hadn’t moved.

United 787 IFE

I saw out the window that the Shanghai flight had finally pushed back at 153p, a good 48 minutes late. I hoped we were next.

By 2p, they were on the airplane calling people by name, presumably to give out upgrades. There were at least 3 announcements about this and it just wasted our time. We were late, yet nobody seemed to be in a hurry and that was more aggravating than anything.

Finally, after an hour of boarding, we left. Yes, an hour. Things did get better from here, starting with this sweet video of the wing (along with all kinds of great airplanes at the Bradley Terminal) on takeoff. Yes, the window was slightly tinted. Check out how the trailing edge of the wing adjusts as it detects changes in airflow. I assume this is part of Boeing’s turbulence reduction system.

I kept watching my movie and looking out the window. I had a great view of the massive Ivanpah solar facility. Then it was just beautiful southwestern scenery as we cruised above the high, thin clouds at 41,000 feet.

Ivanpah Solar Facility

I found the seat width to be perfectly fine for me, and the legroom was good. The only complaint is that the cushion was stiff on my hamstrings, but I believe that is supposed to improve once the cushions have been worn in a bit more. The IFE system was excellent and it was easy to toggle back and forth between movies and maps.

United 787-9 Seat

My movie finished up with an hour still left in the flight since we had sat on the ground so long, so I flipped on an episode of Veep. Then the announcements started. When there’s a built-in IFE system, announcements are much more disturbing because they stop your video. So you would hope that they would be used sparingly. That wasn’t the case on this flight.

There were no fewer than 4 different announcements about connecting gates. Two of the announcements were identical; they just felt like repeating the information. Apparently United provides connecting gate info using airport codes, but the airline doesn’t require flight attendants to actually know them. This was how one announcement went.

Hmm, this airport code is CVG. I believe that’s Cincinnati at gate xx. The airport code on this one is HDN, I think it’s Herndon at gate xx. And the airport code on this one is SAF, I don’t know what airport that is, but you’re at gate xx.

One of the pilots came on to tell us we were finally descending (we actually had a headwind on this eastbound flight and our flight time was much longer than usual). First he apologized for the delay. Unbelievably, that was the only time that I heard anyone apologize for being late. So thank you, pilots, for that. Then he said there was a bit of confusion and we’d either be at gate B32 or B47, he didn’t know. (It was B32, which was what had been posted previously.) Lastly he said it was going to get bumpy so he asked the flight attendants to clean up early.

At this point, a flight attendant made the announcement saying they were coming through the cabin, and then not a couple minutes later made the exact same announcement. You could see people getting annoyed as they tried to finish their movies; this guy would not stop talking.

We came through a cloud layer that did have some bumps in it, but once below it was a smooth ride the rest of the way in. The flight attendant again came on the PA and asked people to let connecting passengers come up front first. He said they’d be using two jet bridges so that would help get people moving.

By the time I got off the airplane, it was close to 6p, and I was late for my dinner. The 787? Awesome. The IFE? Great. The seat? Ok. But the way United handled this whole thing? Pretty poor.

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78 comments on “United Tries to Make Me Regret Picking the 787-9 Dreamliner Flight to Denver (Trip Report)

  1. You never whined about how late you actually were. Boarding a hour on a large aircraft is normally 45 minutes, hence that whine has no feet.
    At LAX due to airport design, you cannot push more that one aircraft into the alley
    and often that is delayed due to ATC inbound aircraft. Another whine debunked.
    If you had the keys to the castle, which aircraft would you push first, Lax slightly delayed or Shanghai, hours late and pushing crew legality?? 3rd whine crushed for common sense.
    Maybe you should get hired as a gate agent, work your way up to CEO and fix the airline, FAA, ATC, and LAX airport……..
    Delays happen, if you fly a lot, you should know this. Due to bad planning on your part does not make the flight bad. Next time leave earlier and add a little buffer.

        1. My wife and I are American executive platinum fliers and never fly UAL unless absolutely necessary. I made UAL million miler years ago and dropped them like a hot potato because of abdominal service. Earlier this year, we had to fly UAL from Beijing to SFO as this is what the cruise line had contracted UAL for. We bought the first class upgrade. While on the plane, it was cancelled. As we walked to the terminal, I conversed with this guy who said this was the third time it’s happened to him in less than a year on this very same flight. I asked why he flew UAL and it was because his company had a contract with UAL. We were rebooked on Air China and it was one of the very best first class flights we have ever had! When we pre-boarded Air China, all first and business class fliers had their own dedicated line. At UAL, first and business class fliers are made to stand in line with all the other UAL frequent fliers, so the line is the longest of their four lines and stretches to Timbuktu. We never fly UAL.

            1. I love Robert’s reply to my spelling error of “abdominal” service. Next time I will refer to UAL’s service as gut-wrenching. Thanks Robert.

          1. I had the same experience on the PEK-SFO route. 4 out of my 9 flights this year were canceled and I received 25,000 miles compensation each time. Almost more miles than through the regular flight ! At some point I started booking my return flights Thursday’s in full expectation I would not leave until Friday anyway. Just did not want to get stuck there until Saturday… The reason was always a fairly serious mechanical issue, like damages on the wheels. These 747s are really old and on their last leg

    1. “Delays happen, if you fly a lot, you should know this. Due to bad planning on your part does not make the flight bad. Next time leave earlier and add a little buffer.”
      What was planned badly and what would leaving earlier do?

      I sense a troll, and a pretty bad one at that.

      1. Troll??
        No, not on your life. Understanding. Does YOUR company do everything perfect? I honestly find it amazing that if you aren’t complaining, there must be something wrong with you.
        This guy gave himself zero tolerance while flying to dinner…..
        Really? Ever heard of weather?? ATC flow control?
        He should have taken an earlier flight. BTW twice recently my Frontier flights were cancelled/delayed due to maintenance.
        They all have their worts.

    2. Jay – Lemme guess, you were working gate 77 last week? Can’t understand why you’d take this so personally otherwise.

      Regarding boarding time, if a “large” aircraft takes 45 minutes, then they missed that by a full 33 percent. More importantly, while I can imagine a larger widebody taking that long, this is only 250 seats. You would hope that considering how late they were, they’d be able to hurry the process along and get people boarded more quickly than they did.

      Regarding use of the alley, gate 77 is not on the alley. It’s at the end of the concourse. More importantly, these two flights are scheduled to leave 5 minutes apart (Shanghai at 105p, Denver at 1p), so if they really can’t handle two operations at nearly the same time, they should be scheduling differently.

      If I had the keys to the castle, I’d get the Shanghai flight to the gate on time so it doesn’t have to take a delay at all. I’d also hope that employees would make an effort to hurry the process along, and apologize along the way. Yes delays happen, but some are more avoidable than others. More importantly, there are good and bad ways to handle delays. This was a bad way.

    3. @Smi/JAY

      Every time my UAL flights leave late (I’d say 85% out of ORD), I DO try to plead your suggestion – “Next time leave earlier and add a little buffer.” – After all, I get to the airport 2 hours early… They don’t seem to take kindly to customer feedback.

    4. That was uncalled for. How do you know that he didn’t plan ahead? Let me add more data points. I was delayed outbound SFO to Denver for 2 hours (it was a 2-hour flight) and 30 minutes inbound just 2 weeks ago? 3 Months earlier, United canceled my Denver to SFO flight out right and caused me to arrive 1 AM instead of 3 PM the day before. Should I just chalk it up as “things happen”? Out of my last 10 United flights, only one was on-time. most were delayed more than an hour. United ranked worst among all US carriers in on-time performance last year. This is based on comprehensive real flights data.

    5. Jay – I would like to tell you that a company may not work perfectly all the time, but when it fails to serve the core purpose for which it runs, being getting people from one place to another on time, it needs to be apologetic about it. And when people get delayed, they do have the right to wine about it at the very least. Some people actually value their time, and would mind sitting in a plane for an hour after they have boarded. That is absurd even by international standards. I remember an ANA flight I was on (from MUM-NAR) got cancelled. We were immediately booked on Cathay Pacific and SQ which would cause an overall delay of around 2 hours in toto. That is the way a cancellation/delay should be handled. The crew made special notes and circulated them to the displaced passengers apologising for the delay and the inconvenience. At Narita, there were ANA staff who were standing just to greet us and apologise about the cancellation. The best part – we were flying coach.

  2. My first experience on a 787 was on BA, a 1 month old plane from London to EWR in August of 2014 and let me tell you, the seat was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever traveled on in any plane. As it was explained to me by a FA iss many carriers including BA are choosing to fit in an extra seat in each row to increase profitability. Can’t blame Boeing. I was so excited to be on the 787 and had the pleasure of actually walking on the tarmac to board it. I was MORE than gutted to have it be one of the most uncomfortable flying experiences I’ve ever had. Just my 2 cents. I will do my best to avoid it going forward.

  3. My experience is that when airlines take delivery of new long haul aircraft, they usually have a new crew, fly domestic routes for 2 weeks to train the crew, then deploy them on the long haul routes. I’m sure these were all new crew members who were being trained on the LAX-DEN route.

    1. William – I’m sure that’s it. At first I wondered if it was the first aircraft being operated by pre-merger United crews. (There’s a fence in the pilot contract which gives the first 787s to Continental pilots only.) But I’m told they still haven’t reached that fence, so these are just Continental pilots. Apparently they do just run them locally for a couple of weeks.

  4. About time they start to rebuild their terminal at LAX. One of the few things worse than the C/D Concourse at IAD is United’s Baggage Claim at LAX-Talk about looking tired, worn out.

  5. Sounds like the gates agents in L.A. were overwhelmed and couldn’t or didn’t know how to control what was going on with late flights. Things could have been like that before you got there so there could have been a rolling effect of delays all morning.

    Don’t you hate when you have F/A’s who just like to talk on the PA system, and you just sit there thinking ‘shut up already’.

    1. Reminds me of the credit card speech on US. Will that continue on AA? It wasn’t as bad as UA because US never had any IFE!

  6. Brett – This post nails a lot of what many of a United customer has experienced for a long time and I hope this lands on the CEO’s desk. Your blog tends to be more of the level headed airline blogs that first and foremost knows the airline business is a business of a carefully crafted ballet of safety, logistics, labor, metal, real estate and customer experience.

    You outlined these weaknesses of this particular ballet:

    1. Gate agents overwhelmed with late planes around them and poor communication to passengers.

    2. Mechanics and ground crew moving a plane late to a gate thus holding up catering.

    3. Sometimes overcommunication of things that could be said clearly once or twice but without airport jargon the general public don’t understand.

    4. Only bright spot you received was from the pilot about the delay.

    5. Your flight and others around you delayed which just created an atmosphere of unnecessary stress in being late for your reason to travel but others possibly missing a connection.

    As I’ve shared on a previous post, I bit the bullet and did a business trip from Santa Maria, CA through San Francisco to Newark and back in July on United. It was a better than expected experience other than a few minor annoyances. But while transitioning through San Francisco to Newark on a Sunday morning, my flight was on time. Flight to the right was 3+ hours delayed for mechanical and the one to the left was delayed for lacking a flight attendant. I was humming the song “Stuck In The Middle With You” while feeling sorry for the passengers stuck at the gates. Maybe that will replace “Rhapsody In Blue”.

    United’a new leadership has a lot to work on.

  7. I never fly UAL unless I have to, like once a year. My major dislike for UAL is that their Line 1 stretches to Shanghai at every airport. I buy first and business class tickets and have to get in line with all their other frequent fliers. No other airline does this to their first class and/or business class fliers.

    Love your column!

  8. You summed up why I avoid UA at all costs. While stuff happens such as weather, ATC, maintenance; UA seems to lead the industry in terms of delaying flights due to incompetence. I was delayed once for 45 minutes because they couldn’t find the oven racks for a plane and a second time because it took 20 minutes after everyone boarded to load the luggage. Plus, you don’t see many happy UA employees or ones that actually apologize for these delays.

    1. I was delayed one time by almost two hours because one of the pilot scheduled to fly the aircraft to Canada forgot his passport at home!

  9. So to recap, your flight out was delayed by several hours on a nice day even though the plane had been sitting at the airport for two and a half days???

    I wonder if they were trying to get the kinks out on a short route before sending the plane across the Pacific Ocean…

      1. I remember when I was on a flight and the FA came from pax to pax to tell them their connecting gate and it was done by code. He was telling them their city and their gate. When he came to me he asked me where was BQK.

  10. United typically puts its new 787s on domestic runs typically between hubs. They used to fly to all hubs from IAH for a while then it became IAH-LAX-DEN. It helps with crew training for the 787s and makes sure the kinks are out of the plane before international travel where maintenance or a grounding can be more expensive.

    1. NW did this when the received the new 747-400. I was lucky enough as a kid to be on one of those flights, PHX-MSP. As a 12 year old, I was amazed at the size of the 744, and the flight seemed to be faster than the flight out by a big margin. I am sure it was mostly just my excitement of being on a brand new 747 and being 12 years old. :)

  11. It’s a long way from L.A. To Denver
    It’s a long time to sit at the gate
    It’s a long way to that wedding in Aspen
    Missed my dinner because the flight was late
    Oh, missed my dinner because the flight was late

  12. Hmmmm…. whenever someone is upset about time it takes to issue upgrades is someone who did not get one.

    BTW, what is “a little alert?”

    Seems to me this article speaks for itself.

    1. Hi Howdy – I understand what Cranky is trying to say when he pointed out the upgrade situation and it’s not the typical Flyer Talk “Whaaa I didn’t get an upgrade” rant.

      Due to business I fly on average 1-3 times a month and when I flew United a couple months ago they did their upgrade work after loading in passengers. This caused a total waste of time in getting bags and people moved around. At the main airline I’ve chosen, they have this all handled and wrapped up before they call the zones to board.

      Call me a Delta and Southwest fan boy, but in the last couple of months I’ve flown United to Newark, Delta to Europe, Southwest to Atlanta and Delta again to the Midwest and there’s a difference between the teamwork in getting the planes and baggage out on time.

      1. Say What!

        So! “At the main airline” you fly, all upgrades are done prior to boarding, which can be btwn one hour to 30 prior to departure.

        Does this mean whenever I purchase first class ticket on your “main airline” and arrive at gate 20 minutes prior to departure due to late arriving connection, that I would have to fly in coach – and most likely in middle seat, which is probably what only remains?

        Would you like to share which airline is your “main airline;” that has this policy?

        I stand by my comment: “…whenever someone is upset about time it takes to issue upgrades is someone who did not get one.”

        1. People like me, who fly United quite a bit but have no hope of getting upgraded, get “upset about the time it takes to issue upgrades” when it delays the departure. Back when I did get upgrades, they were always cleared before departure or identified when I scanned my boarding pass to board, but that wasn’t on United.

          1. No!

            Suggest you re-read my comments about HAVOC that would be created if all upgrades are process prior to boarding.

            Btw, I’m quite certain, irrespective of which airline you fly, most, – if not all, “upgrades are always cleared before departure.”

    2. Howdy – I’m not an elite so I definitely won’t be getting an upgrade. But if you have to come on to the aircraft multiple times to handle upgrades, it’s not being handled well.

      As for a “little alert,” there was just a little bar notification in the app showing it.

      1. C’mon Cranky.

        Multiple times may, perhaps be because of last minute confirmed first class misconnect(s) and/or rebooking(s) – for myriad reasons. How you make JUMP that
        “… on to the aircraft multiple times to handle upgrades, it’s not being handled well.” is beyond me.

        I think your article bring to light problems with air travel within US:

        You purchase $100.00 ticket from DEN – LAX on modern aircraft. Yet, you are concerned with not only your flight and how upgrades were managed, but also seemingly consumed with Shanghai flight as well.

        Then, the airline has nerve to seat me next to these type “A” personalities.

        Now, how do you think I feel, and is it the airline’s fault?

        Sorry you didn’t get the upgrade bro!

        1. Somehow DL’s vastly superior systems (and employees) manage to clear upgrades and standbys while everybody else is boarding. In 500k + actual flown miles on every airline possible, I’ve never seen a flight delayed due to clearing upgrades and I can’t imagine anybody trying to defend that.

          Maybe the new CEO can help elevate UA’s standards to the level of its competitors. That is their only hope.

          1. Bill from DC, seems on this one, you’ve definitely missed the point.

            Cranky, and others, wrote AGAINST clearing “upgrades and standbys while everybody else is boarding” – preferring instead they be cleared BEFORE boarding begins.

            So, seems according to you, DL and UA policies are similar.

            1. sorry but you are the point misser here, he wrote about clearing the upgrades on the plane (see below).

              “By 2p, they were on the airplane calling people by name, presumably to give out upgrades. There were at least 3 announcements about this and it just wasted our time. We were late, yet nobody seemed to be in a hurry and that was more aggravating than anything.”

              UA and DL policies are probably similar in this regard as upgrades and standbys are almost always cleared during boarding on nearly every flight i’ve ever been on.

              the difference, as always, is execution. some airlines employees can execute successfully. United employees (though probably for many good reasons, i grant you) act like they are being executed.

            2. Actually, “clearing the upgrades on the plane” is action that takes place during boarding process.

              Do you need it broken down further?

  13. Hey Brett, just a heads up that the email client has a couple of the images upside down for some reason (the first wing shot and the solar array shot). The rest are fine.

    1. AJ – Ok, so this is interesting. Apparently some email programs read the embedded data and display the photo whichever way is right side up. I guess I was holding my phone upside down (don’t even know which way that is) on those two photos.

  14. At CMH, there is one particular United gate agent (an older woman), whom I’ve always observed to be super friendly, super efficient, and super effective. I flew out of CMH this weekend and she was working one of the gates next to mine. After her flight closed, she pulled out a laptop and quickly became frustrated. Turns out she was trying to do United’s “Delivery Friendly” computer-based training and it wasn’t working for her. It was sad to see because a) she clearly doesn’t need the training and b) it doesn’t seem like the sort of training that should be done as CBT.

    1. Obviously written by “one particular United gate agent (an older woman), …super friendly, super efficient, and super effective…out of CMH.

  15. United, luv’ ‘ya! Like living next to Dulles I’m really going to fly someone else?

    When you look at just about any airport departure board for UA flights, how many times can you use the words “Awaiting Aircraft”? An awfully lot, I see!

    Upgrades? I get ’em, usually the LAX to LAS leg of my IAD-LAX-LAS trips when I can’t get the IAD-LAS nonstop. And, I complain!

    I love that 10 pm LAX to LAS connection. It’s one of those “we’re waiting for the 25 late flights to get in before we leave.” Whoever gets stuck working that gate sure must have done something really, really, bad! “Help, I have a couple dozen PAX about to lose it…AGAIN!” That flight must be the least ontime flight UA runs. Of, course, just another flight with no “past performance” record in the Web site listing!

    Then there’s the 2 UA Club. Re-modeled, nice, but so crowded, so I’m never quite sure what I’m in.

    Ah yes, a day without complaining, but we do it because we care, or something like that!

    And really, the last few times into LAX, wasn’t that the place that used to have all the smog. Well, praise be!. Beautiful, at least visually!

  16. I think it was either in March or August I noticed that Premium check-in had been moved back to T7 from T6. I’ve lost track of the number of times that Premium counter has moved back and from between T6 and T7 over the years.

    Hopefully, the Pre-check security lane at the east end of T7 was open for you. The security mess on the west end of T7 is not much fun.

  17. I no longer fly United, and it has little to do with United itself. For a number of years they were my airline of choice. Then as service deteriorated, so did my loyalty. But they hit my no-fly list when they merged with Continental.

    Living in Houston and New York, I flew into/out of two Continental hubs, and the thing that never changed was the terrible customer service, interminable baggage delays and complete disregard for how schedule delays impacted schedules and connecting flights. The clincher was a flight from Houston to Honolulu… a trip I deplored because I admittedly have a limited tolerance for time on board a plane. As I usually did on that route, I upgraded in advance. When I checked my bags, nobody mentioned anything about how they were about to mess with my life. At the gate my name was called and I was told that they had switched aircraft to one with a different seating configuration, that I no longer had my first class seat, and I was shuffled to the back of coach. I protested, since the upgrade had cost me miles and money and they made no effort to refund either. The gate agent shrugged and told me I could go plead my case at a customer service counter, in another terminal. Since I believed I had time to do this, off I went. And when I arrived I discovered the counter was still closed and wouldn’t open for another hour. So, while trotting back to the gate I called Continental on my cell phone. Obligatory long wait on hold. When a rep finally came on the line she told me it was too late to handle it over the phone, and I should have had the gate agent fix it! I got to the gate, found the agent, and asked him why he sent me to a counter that was closed. All I got was a shrug, followed by a bark that if I didn’t get on the plane immediately I would lose my seat.

    I’ll spare you the additional story of how badly United treated a niece traveling long haul with a six-month old baby, and how they screwed up her connection so badly she was forced to exit the concourse, claim her luggage, haul it to another terminal, and check in again.

    So, knowing that Continental could only make a lackluster United even more toxic, I now avoid United at all costs.

  18. Hi Cranky. I believe that one of the reasons that UA is probably flying the newly delivered 787s domestically is that prior to being able to conduct ETOPS flights, the aircraft has to have flown a certain number of domestic flights without any snags prior to being cleared for ETOPs operations. As mentioned above, short domestic hops also provide for crew training in terms of the cockpit crew building up takeoffs and landings prior to being able to conduct ETOPS flights as well. UA is always my airline of last resort – way too many vacations and business trips have been ruined or have had stress/misery added from enduring horrific flights, delays, cancellations and surly employees. The UA safety video is so far removed from reality in that I’ve never seen UA flight attendants go so far as to crack a smile on a flight, while the safety video portrays them to be customer-focused, friendly people – not!

    1. Chris K – I asked about ETOPS and that’s not the case. I feel like it may have been at one point but there’s no rule like that now for sure.

  19. I left UA during the Summer from Hell.

    Took to flying CO out of my “home” airports of SJO/MGA. Really enjoyed the paxex on CO — even tho it meant routing through IAH or EWR, both preferable to AA’s LatAm hub at MIA.

    Quit flying COdbaUA during the MeltDown.

    Flew COdbaUA as a one off — my flight from SJO was delayed 40 minutes even tho the plane RON’d. No explanation, apology, or refill of my empty PDB. Connecting flight at was IAH was delayed 2 hours, first for late equipment, then for late crew.

    Have moved on to DL via ATL — crediting to AS (a REAL fqtv program). Nothing of on-time/early, friendly efficient crew (ground and up in the air) and a sincere thank you for my custom (fly paid “J” fwiw).

    YMMV

    1. GringoLoco,
      You may think you are communicating, but your use of abbreviations makes it impossible to understand your message.

      1. I took it on as a challenge, I only had to look up two of these, one of which I should have figured out on my own but got impatient.

        Airport city codes:
        SJO – San Jose, Costa Rica
        MGA – Managua, Nicaragua
        IAH – Houston Intercontinental
        EWR – Newark Liberty
        MIA – Miami
        ATL – Atlanta

        Airlines:
        UA – United
        CO – Continental
        COdbaUA – Continental doing business as United
        AS – Alaska
        DL – Delta

        Widely used aviation acronyms (and a few he might have just made up):
        Paxex – Passenger Experience
        RON – Remain Overnight (looked this up, bummed because I should have been able to figure it out from context)
        PDB – Predeparture Beverage (my guess)
        Fqtv – Frequent Traveler
        J – Paid Business class
        YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary (had to look this up too)

    2. Never expect refill on PDB.

      This is one of those instances where business extend a courtesy – then, it is abused – then it goes away!

      You’d be surprised at growing numbers expecting full PDB service; multiple drinks as well as growing numbers of coach passengers who want one too.7

      Personally, I think – at least on narrow bodies, this practice is in its last days. International and widebody service – not so much.

      Case in point: Gate checked bag on mainline flight. Remember when bags checked (other than express flights) at main cabin door (MCD) could be reclaimed at MCD, and not automatically sent to baggage claim?

  20. Its all very well making excuses for United but ultimately I pay to get to where Im going on time. I cut airlines some slack because things do happen which are out of their control. However, when delays, poor service, etc become regular you know there are underlying problems. I then vote with my feet.
    Regarding the B787, Ive started to avoid this aircraft as some of the cabin layouts (particularly LCC) are diabolical.

  21. IFE ! Welcome to the world of the ME3 particularly Emirates and Cathay, Singapore ………., the majors ( worldwide ) have a lot to catch up on helping their passengers to forget the misery of economy air travel.

  22. Regarding your comment about the trailing edge moving: “Check out how the trailing edge of the wing adjusts as it detects changes in airflow. I assume this is part of Boeing’s turbulence reduction system.”

    Those are actually inboard and outboard Ailerons. Used for roll control. The outboard ailerons are only used at low speeds when flaps are extended and lock at higher speeds using only the inboards for roll control.

    Only a Boeing flight control system. Airbus uses a differing system…

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