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Old May 6, 09, 4:53 am   #1
 
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Reputation of United Airlines - Are they really that bad?

I am posting this here because I want to get some general feedback from ALL sides and not just from those who fly preferably United.

I wonder what the reputation of UA is. I've been reading a lot of posts here on FT. Very often there is indignation or anger over screw-ups at UA or when I read something that I find quite shocking I find out it is a UA policy. I can't give you any concrete example with doing a speciifc search but the impression I get of UA is a negative one based on the posts here.

Am I totally misguided or is there really something wrong with UA or its reputation?

I've flown UA maybe once or twice and don't recall anything special about it be it good or bad. Of the airlines I fly more often, I prefer Continental over AA and Delta, just to give you a reference point where I am coming from.

Thanks for your comments.

Till
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Old May 6, 09, 8:21 am   #2
 
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I think it all depends on who you ask. Some love UA, some hate them and some fall in between. This isn't specific to UA at all, IMO if you read and of the airline boards you'll get the same mix of posts. It's truly a case of YMMV.
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Old May 6, 09, 8:31 am   #3
 
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IMO, people who have status with UA usually enjoy the airline - no other US airline has as much room in economy (Economy Plus) for elites.

But for those I've spoken with who have no status with United ... well, they're hostile and seem to have really bad feelings against the airline.
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Old May 6, 09, 8:33 am   #4
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UA doesn't bother me, but they're not my first choice.
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Old May 6, 09, 8:40 am   #5
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FlyerTalk is heavily populated with whiners and crybabies. These are people who seem to expect absolute perfection from all service industries -- even though such an expectation is both unrealistic and hypocritical.

And the complaints are not just about UA -- you see the whining and screaming throughout the site. Oftentimes, people will switch loyalties to a different airline or hotel chain, only to start b*tching about their new pick (in some cases almost instantly -- the honeymoon period can be very short).
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Old May 6, 09, 8:58 am   #6
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As a very-high status customer, I've had increasingly good-to-excellent service on the carrier. Interestingly, one of the reasons I moved over from AA, over 25 yrs. ago, before FF programs, was my "declining" experience on the carrier: arrogant staff, mysteriously "lost" reservations, and maintenance problems.

Even with reduced skeds, there is the occasional cancellation on UA and certainly weather delays. With all carriers reducing domestic flights, recovery is often more difficult. UA has historically located key hubs (SFO, DEN, ORD, IAD) in places often affected by weather. In these situations, I've felt that my status has definitely eased the pains. I do agree with the assessment that this carrier offers a much better experience to those with status.
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Old May 6, 09, 9:42 am   #7
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As a mid-level elite, my experience with UA runs hot and cold. Generally, they're pretty good. As another poster mentioned, E+ makes up for a lot of ills and, so far, I've always managed to get an E+ seat. For mid-levels, UA's handling of delays and cancellations is mediocre though, at least, we're rarely shunted to the Indian Call Center, which can be absolutely dreadful. For the most part, I like UA's FAs -- they're professional, efficient and usually pleasant (though trans-Pac in coach is, sadly, a frequent exception). I also like UA's pilots -- the availability of Channel 9, which monitors ATC/cockpit communications proves them to be concerned about passenger comfort and, of course, UA is the home of the legendary Captain Denny, who has redefined customer service from a captain's perspective. A lot of UA's pilots, however, also go the extra mile for customer service. For example, it is not unusual on a long-haul for the captain or FO to give an interesting lecture about the aircraft on Channel 9.

I can't speak to the UA experience for non-elites, except to say that, at least for mid-level and above, UA appears to try to provide a distinctly better experience than for non-members. As has been stated a number of times, UA's business model appears to target the frequent-flying business traveler, and rewards customer loyalty. If you can obtain 1K or GS status, you'll have a much better experience than I, as a 1P, receive. However, in turn, I know (from watching my non-status wife trying to deal with UA from time-to-time) that I have a better experience than 2Ps, 3Ps and non-status pax.

With all that said, I can't say that I love UA. However, I've yet to have a compelling reason to switch to another carrier.
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Old May 6, 09, 9:43 am   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KathyWdrf View Post
FlyerTalk is heavily populated with whiners and crybabies. These are people who seem to expect absolute perfection from all service industries -- even though such an expectation is both unrealistic and hypocritical.

And the complaints are not just about UA -- you see the whining and screaming throughout the site. Oftentimes, people will switch loyalties to a different airline or hotel chain, only to start b*tching about their new pick (in some cases almost instantly -- the honeymoon period can be very short).
kathy is very wise.....
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Old May 6, 09, 10:00 am   #9
 
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I guess this depends what you are comparing against, what class of travel you are in and what expectations you have.

If you are only comparing against the other U.S majors, I dont think they are particularly better or worse, if you compare against Asian airlines then they are really bad.

Much depends on your personal experience, all the airlines have good and bad crews and they make or break the flight.

Ive flown all the U.S majors a few times in the last few years and would say my worst flight was on CO in business TATL, really nasty crew. My best flight would probably be Northwest who had a superb crew.
I'd put UA somewhere between, though i did find their ground services at LAX particularly poor.
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Old May 6, 09, 12:51 pm   #10
 
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I am DC based and do most of my flying on US; reserving UA for my international travels from IAD. On the trips I have taken on UA I have found them to be fine. The staff is fine; leg room normal; they standout to me in no way save that they have PTVs on the 767 fleet.
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Old May 6, 09, 3:56 pm   #11
 
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Yes, they are horrible. A little known fact is that they are called United Airlines because you have a great chance of being "United" with your deceased loved ones by flying with them.

But, all bad jokes aside. They are a typical airline which will get you from A to B without much trouble. And they have great leg room in Economy Plus for people like myself with long legs.
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Old May 6, 09, 9:08 pm   #12
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I have taken hundreds of trips on United. My experiences have generally been good with one or two grumpy FA's who need to find a new career. But overall generally fairly good.

I think it comes down to expectations.

I don't drink alcohol so refilling my wine glass, the type and variety of wine and when they serve it to me mean absolutely nothing. YMMV.

I like to sleep on airplanes. Leave me alone and I will leave you alone. It is nice to wake up and find a bottle of water at my seat that you left for me while I was sleeping, that is a nice touch. I like this, YMMV.

I don't think I have ever had a meal on any airline that made me sit up and think "WOW!" but I don't fly airplanes for the food, I fly to get places in as much comfort as I can. YMMV.

Now, if you like to have your special drink, to be called by your name, to have a special seat that you just have to have then you will be disappointed form time to time. I don't care about some of those and if they are missing I don't notice or care.

SWA does a great job of managing expectations. You don't expect much and they meet your expectations. They do a fine job and are safe to fly, but I know many people who would not set foot on their airplanes. Everyone has a different idea of what is good.
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Old May 6, 09, 9:20 pm   #13
 
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I started flying with them because of E+, enough to become a 2P, but now due to circumstances, I haven't traveled overseas for over a year, so bye-bye status.

For an MSP-based person like me, the major disadvantage of United was ORD. I learned to despise that airport, especially after getting stuck in it twice.

When I start traveling again, I'm considering sticking with airlines that fly nonstop from MSP, NW/DL, Sun Country, and Icelandair, so that I can just go back to my own home if a flight is cancelled or delayed instead of sitting around in ORD or springing for a mediocre motel.
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Old May 7, 09, 2:25 am   #14
 
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I think they're fine for a US airline. I find them slightly worse than Air Canada, alot worse than many European airlines, and much much worse than many Asian airlines. The major problem I have with UA is their inconsistency, especially the service of their front line employees. Some of their FAs are great, but many are OK-to-terrible in their attitude, especially it seems (unfortunately for me) those that do the trans-pac routes. Again, some are great, but I wish it was a bit more consistent.
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Old May 7, 09, 3:41 am   #15
 
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Thanks to all for the interesting replies!

I see a little clearer now. And I learned about the E+ thing, which I didn't know before. From Austin, I never really had to take a UA flight. Most of my flights are Continental and the rest is American for the last eight years or so. I prefer CO. The planes are cleaner, the seats more comfortable (subjective, of course) and the staff better and friendlier. Not by much but enough to make a difference.

Of the European airlines I have mostly experience with Lufthansa, Air France and Swissair (Swiss). Haven't flown LH in quite a while but it might be my overall preference possibly even better than CO. Swiss did often have food where I said, voila, this is good food. Within Germany I recently had a very good experience with airberlin. Great price, great service, very nice cabin.

Till
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