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The grass is not greener: Experiences of a DM at United

The grass is not greener: Experiences of a DM at United

Old Jul 9, 14, 4:59 pm
  #1  
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The grass is not greener: Experiences of a DM at United

In February, I relocated from BOS to IAH, so I went from having a choice in airline (where I picked DL) to being hub-captive to United. I did a status match to 1K and have access to United Clubs through Amtrak (which I also miss). YTD, I have ~60K BIS miles with UA with another 20K coming by the end of the month. Here are my observations and comparisons to DL, in no particular order, for anyone who may be curious (bottom line – I miss DL):
  • Lack of upgrades. I think this may be a function of being hub-based. That said, I now have the ability to buy more YBM than I did previously. I did end up in the back on one occasion with an M fare. Additionally, I think the F cabin is just smaller than DL, on average.
  • Consistently indifferent frontline customer service – there are exceptions, few nice FAs and GAs – mostly legacy Continental. Lag way behind Delta overall though.
  • Perhaps my biggest complaint is lack of WiFi – they’ve got a long way to go – and when they do “have” it, it often doesn’t work
  • I’ve been on Transcons (to/from BOS) in F without WiFi, IFE, or Outlets
  • Meals: I’ve given up on eating on the plane. Not a big deal since I don’t rely on in-flight food, but with Delta, I would usually look forward to my meal (esp on Transcons or anything >4 hours)
  • Incompetent phone customer service – one more than one occasion, I’ve had to explain their own rules to them. Such as guaranteed seat availability for 1Ks buying a YB fare. Delta agents were not perfect, but MUCH better.
  • Delays due to lack of crews – this is a function of the merger. They still haven’t reached a deal with the unions. These delays occur very often. This is not an issue for DL very often.
  • Planes: mixed bag – while they have some really old planes, the 787 and 737-900 are new and nice. Delta’s old planes generally tended to be cleaner
  • Reward system not any better… nothing in the “saver” category, but the calendar does work online
  • Not great for flying to LHR, fewer flights, overpriced. OK out of IAD and IAH, but out of EWR, I’ll take Virgin every time (and out of IAD). I think Delta wins that one with Virgin.
  • United Club: wow. The cramped B concourse SkyClub in ATL? Yea, that sounds pretty nice right about now. Just awful, nothing good to say. The new one in BOS is OK, but the options are meh. Out of SFO, IAH, EWR, forget it. Not that Delta “wins” in this department, but United still loses.

My only “Delta” flying this year was a Virgin Upper Class flight to/from LHR. What a pleasant experience. We were in a ground stop due to weather and they apologized for the weather! And those lounges. Oh my.

I miss Delta and its fantastic employees. Delta is not perfect by any means, but they are miles ahead of UA.

Happy to answer any questions.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 5:09 pm
  #2  
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Don't have much experience with DL on many points, but with regards to rewards, where did you want to fly?

I dread having to call DL everytime I want book an award. Half the partners have a different way of booking things and many agents don't know how to look for them. I have literally got a headache talking with them.

Last edited by UA Fan; Jul 9, 14 at 8:16 pm
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Old Jul 9, 14, 5:26 pm
  #3  
 
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I had four flights on United this year. All four were late, employees were crabby planes were dirty and gate areas stunk. And they fly CRJs on 3+ hr flights. That is one messed up airline. My friend is DM on DL and 1K on UA and she absolutely hates UA (but from what I understand her client books her on UA a lot). I've heard stories that make my head spin. Sorry you're stuck in IAH!
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Old Jul 9, 14, 5:36 pm
  #4  
 
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You forgot to mention United's uninspired whiffle ball logo and its unappealingly stout wordmark.

And its aesthetically-offensive and boxy font choice.

And how united.com looks like a blast from the Web 1.0 past.

And its cheesy "friendly skies" campaign.

And how "1k" doesn't make any sense seeing as how it requires 100,000 miles to achieve and includes far more than 1,000 members.

And how the majority of its hubs are in congested airports prone to inclement weather.

I am not a fan of UA.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 5:40 pm
  #5  
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UA is vastly inferior to DL at this point. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I've said this before, but my wife had some travel last year to DEN and SFO. So, we match her over to 1K and she flies UA a few times. After every flight, she'd say "even with the connection, I should have taken DL".

But you are in IAH, so not sure what the alternative is.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 5:43 pm
  #6  
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Yes I have flown US , UA and DL this year. No contest - definitely DL for me.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 5:45 pm
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Originally Posted by pbarnette View Post
But you are in IAH, so not sure what the alternative is.
Sometimes being based at a hub airport for one airline opens up opportunities in terms of lower airfares and special sales by other airlines — if you are willing to take connecting flights instead of direct or non-stop flights.

Being based in the Atlanta area, I often find that connecting flights operated by United Airlines and American Airlines are less expensive than non-stop flights operated by Delta Air Lines...

...and unlike Atlanta — which really has no other alternative airport unless you are willing to drive to and fly out of airports such as Birmingham or Chattanooga — at least Hobby International Airport is a possible alternative.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 6:30 pm
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I am SFO based and chose to fly DL. In my experience, a connecting flight on DL is better than a non-stop flight on United, more often than not
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Old Jul 9, 14, 6:35 pm
  #9  
 
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When I was a kid, I remember United being pretty much the world, well, them and TWA. So last year when I had a business trip that made me fly United, I was looking forward to it. I now no longer look forward to flying United. I feel bad as this thread just feels like a pile on but I can't say I was impressed at all. As stated by the OP, not that Delta is super awesome or anything, just that United seems to have become that bad.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 7:14 pm
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Delta is far ahead of United. But that only serves to emphasize how terrible United is, when mediocrity is still significantly better than United.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 7:19 pm
  #11  
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Flying DL

I'm an longtime PMCO elite (there was basically no UA to speak of in the NYC area till the merger) who has now been flying DL primarily for a few years, and here are my observations:

1. Upgrades: Frankly, I am not very focused on upgrades. If they come through, great, if not, I have always been able to reserve either an exit row or an EC seat.

This year, I started out as FO after a major slowdown in my travel in the 4th qtr of '13. I just made made gold the other day, but in this 7 months of traveling I have--incredibly--been upgraded 9 out of 11 upgradeable segments, always flying out of either LGA or JFK.

I have always purchased the least expensive ticket available, although sometimes these were extraordinarily expensive (LGA-MSY for over $900 in economy).

When I was gold with CO I went 0 for 25 on upgrades.

A big part of the problem over at UA is that they upsell FC to non-elites with buy-ups which, unbelievably, they do not make available to elites (because they are eligibly for free upgrades).

Sometimes these buy-ups are sold for "Tens of Dollars" and the TOD issue is huge over on the FT UA forum.

2. SkyMiles: If there is any aspect of DL that is the most derided it is its mileage program ("SkyPesos"). Yes, award inventory at the lowest redemption level is often virtually non-existent and booking awards on partner carriers can be maddeningly difficult.

But...

As you wrote, the fat is that "saver" inventory on UA is also not easy to score. Every summer I acquire award tickets to fly my kids JFK-SFO to spend the summer with grandma. In the old days I could routinely get them tickets for 25,000 miles each. But now 50,000 is pretty much the norm, on both DL and UA.

And here's the difference: If I'm a mid-tier elite (50k miles) on UA, I receive a 50% mileage bonus. At the same tier on DL, I receive a 100% bonus.

That means I need to fly about 33,333 miles to earn those 50,000 miles on UA as an MP gold, but I only need to fly 25,000 miles on DL as a DM gold.

I realize there are ways of accruing miles other than BIS, but BIS miles are, at least for me, a major way I collect miles and by this measure I get better value out of SkyMiles than UA MP.

Plus, don't forget that UA is modifying MP so that it will end up looking a lot like SkyMiles starting in 2015.

3. Service: This is where DL wins hands down, no contest. The UA people are just so frazzled and pushed to the extreme by their management that they end up taking out their frustration out on the customers. But DL very much sees itself as part of the hospitality industry, and in shows, not only in the friendliness, but also in the reasonableness when an issue arises.

4. Star Alliance: Where UA wins hands down, though, is with its airline alliance. In my book, *A is by far and away the best airline alliance, which the best choices for worldwide travel with a close second being OneWorld. But SkyTeam is truly a distant third with the only major carriers being DL, AF/KL and KE. Otherwise, many of other SkyTeam carriers, are airlines about whom it's hard to be very excited (Tarom? Saudia? Xiamen Airlines?).
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Old Jul 9, 14, 8:45 pm
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Originally Posted by TWA Fan 1 View Post
3. Service: This is where DL wins hands down, no contest. The UA people are just so frazzled and pushed to the extreme by their management that they end up taking out their frustration out on the customers. But DL very much sees itself as part of the hospitality industry, and in shows, not only in the friendliness, but also in the reasonableness when an issue arises.
This!

I know I've seen complaints about lack of service in various seating areas of Delta flights but I've not had issues so far. (About to do my first 1st/Business flight so we'll see if this hold true.) Even in EC where they say you only get standard coach rounds, I've received stellar service from FA's. Maybe I'm just nicer to the FA's than the complainers but I can't believe that to be true. Had a flight back from SYD in EC and had a constant flow of Woodford for me and my seatmate well beyond the standard coach rounds and they never seemed to mind or let on at all if they did. (And you know on a flight like that, the FA'are hoping everyone sleeps!)
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Old Jul 9, 14, 9:05 pm
  #13  
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Originally Posted by TWA Fan 1 View Post
---3. Service: This is where DL wins hands down, no contest. The UA people are just so frazzled and pushed to the extreme by their management that they end up taking out their frustration out on the customers. But DL very much sees itself as part of the hospitality industry, and in shows, not only in the friendliness, but also in the reasonableness when an issue arises.---
A big +1
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Old Jul 10, 14, 5:33 am
  #14  
 
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United is on the verge of becoming a niche player in the airline market if they aren't careful.
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Old Jul 10, 14, 8:26 am
  #15  
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Originally Posted by SansSerif View Post
And its aesthetically-offensive and boxy font choice.
Who cares about fonts? You just don't like it because it's a boring sans serif font.
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