United Airlines … I Expected Less … So Much Less

By Robert Mark on June 12th, 2007

It really pains me to say something good about United Airlines when I look back at the history of lousy service I’ve had from them over the years, from canceled flights, to unexplained delays for mechanicals.  Probably too, it’s the indifference at the hands of their customer

Photo by Shane Stoffregan

service people I often find so irritating. And I fly from their main hub at ORD.

In the grand scheme of things though, I guess most of us don’t expect much out of any airline these days, except perhaps Southwest, where they always seem to offer a simple, friendly service for a decent price.

OK, so reading a another blog entry about bad airline service is about as interesting as reading a headline that says meteorologists are usually wrong. 

Let me surprise you a bit.

The Trip: United 1560

I flew to Tampa the other day for a speaking gig at the Florida Aviation Trades Association Convention in Sarasota. Since I brought the family with, I let my wife make the airline reservations and almost choked when I heard she’s booked United.

I woke in a daze the morning of the flight because I knew what was coming.

We arrived at ORD two hours in advance knowing full well we’d need it on the nation’s second-largest carrier.

Then they ruined my curmudgeonly stance when a nice smiling guy in a United golf shirt checked our bags at the street after grabing them out of the trunk of the cab.

Five minutes later we were headed for security with my wife saying … “Seeeeee!”

OK, I’m pretty fair, I think. I gave  United folks one for their efforts.

Then we made it past the TSA people in another five minutes and now had  an hour and a half to kill before boarding. My 12-year old daughter certainly has learned how to give me that “Seeeee!,” feeling by just rolling her eyes.

“Wait,” I said. “We’re not airborne yet.” 

Headed to Gate B20 at ORD I glanced up at the screen. “On Time.” Sure, sure.

We boarded at 8:55 for a 9:20 departure. “Look, my wife says. I got us a free upgrade to United Plus as we boarded the A-320.” Yeah, yeah.

Being a good blogger, I take my laptop and cart everywhere except in the shower. In a Boeing though, I know I have to lift it up to get down the aisle because it is too tight. Of course, I’m thinking about this as I’m wheeling my laptop bag along down the aisle headed for Row 9.

More room in the bus …”So!”

Departure time draws near and the captain comes on and says there will be a slight delay.

“AHHHH. Gotcha. I knew it was coming,” I said looking at my wife and daughter.

We took off only five minutes late because the catering/beverage truck was late.

Then we get airborne and these friendly United flight attendants – they have their nerve – asked us to vote on which movie they were going to show us (Wild Hogs won).

And wouldn’t you know it that the flight avoided every bump of a pretty nasty cold front sitting in southern Indiana. They even made up the lost time an got us to the gate on time (and yes, I know the flight times have a little extra fluff in for that reason).

Finally, they gave me something to complain about from Row 9 during the landing rollout and something that perhaps a few of you Airbus experts can comment on.

When the flying pilot pulled the engines into reverse, the cabin of that airplane shook so hard, I expected something to come unglued. I’ve never felt such vibration in the thousand other airplanes I’ve been on. It even scared me.

When we arrived at the gate, just to add insult to injury, these crazies at United try an idea they stole from me, unloading the cabin people from both the front and the rear doors of the airplane in Tampa.

Actually, I think they stole that idea from me. United actually mentioned they were going to try using the rear door over a year ago, but I never saw the plan in action until this week.

It’s impressive to watch such a simple idea translate into such dramatic results. The airplane was empty in nothing flat.

Everyone on board I talked to loved it.

So get your act together you other airlines. There is no reason loading and unloading an airplane should be such a nightmare. I’m not challenged. I CAN walk up and down stairs if you give me a choice to make my life a little easier.

Curse you United. Now you’ve really made me crazy. I may just have to fly UAL again, but how do I know you won’t be out there gunning for me next time?

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2 Responses to “United Airlines … I Expected Less … So Much Less”

  1. Bill P. Says:

    ….and then you woke up.
    Ahhh, just a dream, the universe has not turned inside out.
    The nosewheel shimmy you felt was real though, and had you not felt it shaking the bed until you awoke, you’d be late for breakfast.

  2. Eric Says:

    Even better you blogged about the good experience. I wrote an article on freightdawg.com discussing the fact that at least some airlines are now reading BLOGS for gawds sake to see whats being written about them, then working on correcting it. (shock!)


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