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New depths of service for UA: ICN-SFO in C

New depths of service for UA: ICN-SFO in C

Old May 4, 11, 6:56 am
  #1  
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New depths of service for UA: ICN-SFO in C

I flew ICN to SFO in C on Monday. For reasons that are hard to explain, I ended up violating my golden rule: when paying for C, always fly a real airline, never United, especially on this route, where SQ offers a much, much better product.

UA's soft product reached what must be a new low. I dealt with gratuitous, petty aggression from FAs and inedible/undrinkable food/wine offerings. I got by on ginger ale and nuts. The seat was OK and I got to watch some movies that I liked. So, not all bad.

To start: I board and situate myself in my seat. The FA comes over and asks me if I want juice or bubbly. I take some juice. I ask for napkins and some water to clean the IFE screen, covered in some unidentifiable goop and she says "I"m busy now, you can get towels and water yourself in the bathroom."

I can't, because they're still boarding the plane and I'm seated in 9A. A steady stream of passengers effectively blocks the path to the lavatory. Oh well.

FA comes back (no napkins or water, which she was holding in her hand previously when serving pre-flight beverages) and offers to hang up my jacket. I no longer have my boarding stub. "Why not?" she asks me. I just stare in disbelief.

Meal time: no menus on this flight, so we all have to pay attention. I can't recall what the purser said so order fish. It's beyond revolting - the purple potatoes have leeched green color onto the fish. The potato things still have the dried up eyes that should have been removed in cleaning. I send it back. I get some unidentifiable and equally disgusting (but less alarming) chicken thing. I eat the rice. Because I'm late finishing, the FAs have put away the desert carts and tell me I can get desert during the mid-flight snack.

I won't mention the wine other than to say I stuck with the ginger ale after one taste of the "Sauvignon blanc."

I never saw the mid-flight snack, as it wasn't put out on tables when I was up stretching my legs. Maybe it was put out some other time. I did hear, repeatedly, about the FAs and their plastic surgery experiences in Korea and Brazil. The conversations (I'm in 9A) are quite loud and not really of the type I would imagine hearing at 3 AM under any other circumstances. Vintage UA.

During breakfast, the same FA comes by and shouts the choices at the Korean person next to me who clearly speaks no or very little English. He doesn't understand and she gives him the quiche, which he does not eat. I get the same, as I don't understand the choices. FA asks me if I want tea, I say yes, she says "milk or sugar?", I say "both please" and she responds "just milk." I figure she didn't hear me. When she sets the mug down, I ask for sugar. She says "I already asked you that."

Ugh.

I don't know how UA manages to make their soft product so unbelievably unpleasant, but once again I got off a long-haul UA flight and felt grateful that I had not been assaulted by the FAs. That is not exactly the hallmark of good service.

/rant. But I will not soon be violating my own golden rule about TransPac on UA. Only if C is for free. Otherwise, it's SQ.
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Old May 4, 11, 7:32 am
  #2  
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As OP acknowledges, this doesn't really sound out of the ordinary. Sounds like every longhaul UA flight I've ever been on and half the CO long haul flights I've been on.

Frankly this is going to continue forever until someone videotapes it occuring in C and F in about 100 flights (so that there is sufficient evidence to establish that it is pervasive) and then goes public with it. Even then there won't be much of an improvement until an airline breaks a union and eliminates seniority staffing. The only hope of breaking a union though is having video documentary evidence so that the public sides against the old broads pulling this crap. I of course would be a lifetime customer of any airline that broke a union; one of the resons I support CO is out of loyalty to Frank Lorenzo who just simply owned the airline unions in the 80's.
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Old May 4, 11, 9:21 am
  #3  
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And I just completed 2 transpac flights where I had amazing crews. One ORD based, the other SFO based.

The best was my flight over with the ORD crew. I was offered seconds on dessert. I was awake the whole flight, and every time the F/A came by with water (which was frequent), I was asked if I wanted anything else to drink. I was told when the snack cart was put out and if they could bring me anything from it (no thanks, I'll get up and check it out, but thanks!) I was assured my first meal choice as a 1K MM when orders were taken. I was thanked for my business by several of the F/As. (I don't know if any of this had to do with my MM status, as this was my first long-haul trip as a MM, but if it has any correlation, I like it...Although I doubt it). I had a seating issue due to an aircraft swap, and the F/As went out of their way to accommodate me (as well as several other passengers, many of whom were separated from their traveling companions). The salmon was actually really good, even the person next to me commented how good it was.

The trip home was almost as good. Friendly service, although they were a bit slow in getting the first meal out. (That was my only possible gripe). My filet was overcooked, but that's to be expected.

Are my expectations lower? Maybe. But I've flown SQ, LH, TG and many other carriers in premium cabins--I'm not saying the service was as fabulous as these other carriers, but it wasn't noticeably less.

I am not a UA apologist...I've had plenty of bad crews over the years, some so bad I've written letters. But that hasn't happened in a while. For the last year-plus, all of my transpac crews have been great.
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Old May 4, 11, 10:16 am
  #4  
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I have to agree with MBS PremExec. Both of my international trips in 2010 (FRA & CDG) have been outstanding. On one of the trips, the FAs on the upper-deck were outstanding, and when they found out that I was flying back to ORD the following day, they went out of there was to make the return flight very enjoyable. The purser even stopped by my seat for several minutes, shook my hand, and thanked me for my business. One CDG-ORD, I was seated with an FTer in C, and we both remarked on how nice the FA was. That had to have been one of my best flights in 2011.^

Yes, there are some FAs out there on both airlines that could use some re-training, however my experiences have always been positive.
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Old May 4, 11, 10:23 am
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I have had good TATL/TPAC experiences with UA mainline and I have had bad TATL/TPAC experiences with UA mainline.

I have a litmus test for knowing which one I'm going to have the second that I board.

Young international-based crew: good
Young domestic-based crew: good
Old domestic-based crew: bad

It's a labor problem. Simple as that.

I like the hard product and the soft product is serviceable (especially in international F).
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Old May 4, 11, 10:59 am
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I fly that route a lot but always UD

I have had pretty good service UD SFO-ICN. Although when I route through NRT (SEA-NRT-ICN rather than SEA-SFO-ICN) the SEA based crews are noticeably better. My last SEA-NRT had the best service I have ever had on any airline and the return trip was pretty close.
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Old May 4, 11, 11:21 am
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I have had good experiences on UA. I've had good experiences in transpac C. In fact, I could see that the other flight attendants on board had a much better attitude and seemed to like their jobs.

The FA assigned to my part of the aircraft was not happy, did not like her job and seemed to take pleasure in confronting passengers. She couldn't wait to put away that cart and made it very clear that she was annoyed by any request that went beyond the minimum service requirement.

I cannot understand why UA doesn't take more vigorous action to ensure that service quality is more even, removing FAs like this one from the system.

Is this purely a matter of unions and seniority? Could UA management not put into place some system of review whereby foul attitude and gratuitous aggression shown passengers required some kind of remedial action?

I've flown with Iris in F transpac and it was fantastic (and I've flown with others in F and it was great). But I've had the kind of experience I reported from ICN to SFO on many, many occasions - crews that can't be bothered with passengers and see their jobs as something to get out of the way so that they can get on with their crossword puzzles. They don't seem to care that it's hard to be sympathetic to people who discuss their plastic surgery in loud voices at 3 in the morning.

Maybe I'm naive, but is it really that difficult to get rid of these people?
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Old May 4, 11, 11:26 am
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Originally Posted by embarcadero1 View Post
Maybe I'm naive, but is it really that difficult to get rid of these people?
It all starts with customers advising UA of their experience that did not meet expectations. I would UA to make an attempt to help the individual employee modify their behavior. At my company we call that a performance plan. Give the person an opportunity to change and if they don't give them an opportunity to work for someone else.
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Old May 4, 11, 11:43 am
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Originally Posted by embarcadero1 View Post
Maybe I'm naive, but is it really that difficult to get rid of these people?
The only value proposition of paying union dues is that they will fiercely protect the employees interest in both collective bargaining as well as any kind of employment action specific to the employee. Yes, it is very hard to remove a senior UA FA from a position. It takes a ridiculous level of documentation and process. All of which the union will resist each step of the way. As they must to ensure their own relevance.
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Old May 4, 11, 11:55 am
  #10  
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Originally Posted by embarcadero1 View Post
..
UA's soft product reached what must be a new low....
..
The potato things still have the dried up eyes that should have been removed in cleaning.
...
.
Judging by your description of food I'd say your were particularly cranky that day and nothing aside from perhaps a lap dance by a SQ girl would have made you feel better.
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Old May 4, 11, 11:59 am
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Originally Posted by azepine00 View Post
Judging by your description of food I'd say your were particularly cranky that day and nothing aside from perhaps a lap dance by a SQ girl would have made you feel better.
wowie wow!
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Old May 4, 11, 1:10 pm
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Originally Posted by embarcadero1 View Post
I flew ICN to SFO in C on Monday. For reasons that are hard to explain, I ended up violating my golden rule: when paying for C, always fly a real airline, never United, especially on this route, where SQ offers a much, much better product.

UA's soft product reached what must be a new low. I dealt with gratuitous, petty aggression from FAs and inedible/undrinkable food/wine offerings. I got by on ginger ale and nuts. The seat was OK and I got to watch some movies that I liked. So, not all bad.

To start: I board and situate myself in my seat. The FA comes over and asks me if I want juice or bubbly. I take some juice. I ask for napkins and some water to clean the IFE screen, covered in some unidentifiable goop and she says "I"m busy now, you can get towels and water yourself in the bathroom."

I can't, because they're still boarding the plane and I'm seated in 9A. A steady stream of passengers effectively blocks the path to the lavatory. Oh well.

FA comes back (no napkins or water, which she was holding in her hand previously when serving pre-flight beverages) and offers to hang up my jacket. I no longer have my boarding stub. "Why not?" she asks me. I just stare in disbelief.

Meal time: no menus on this flight, so we all have to pay attention. I can't recall what the purser said so order fish. It's beyond revolting - the purple potatoes have leeched green color onto the fish. The potato things still have the dried up eyes that should have been removed in cleaning. I send it back. I get some unidentifiable and equally disgusting (but less alarming) chicken thing. I eat the rice. Because I'm late finishing, the FAs have put away the desert carts and tell me I can get desert during the mid-flight snack.

I won't mention the wine other than to say I stuck with the ginger ale after one taste of the "Sauvignon blanc."

I never saw the mid-flight snack, as it wasn't put out on tables when I was up stretching my legs. Maybe it was put out some other time. I did hear, repeatedly, about the FAs and their plastic surgery experiences in Korea and Brazil. The conversations (I'm in 9A) are quite loud and not really of the type I would imagine hearing at 3 AM under any other circumstances. Vintage UA.

During breakfast, the same FA comes by and shouts the choices at the Korean person next to me who clearly speaks no or very little English. He doesn't understand and she gives him the quiche, which he does not eat. I get the same, as I don't understand the choices. FA asks me if I want tea, I say yes, she says "milk or sugar?", I say "both please" and she responds "just milk." I figure she didn't hear me. When she sets the mug down, I ask for sugar. She says "I already asked you that."

Ugh.

I don't know how UA manages to make their soft product so unbelievably unpleasant, but once again I got off a long-haul UA flight and felt grateful that I had not been assaulted by the FAs. That is not exactly the hallmark of good service.

/rant. But I will not soon be violating my own golden rule about TransPac on UA. Only if C is for free. Otherwise, it's SQ.
Did they walk down the aisles with the open garbage bags inviting passengers to dunk their trash ? That is my favourite classy moment.
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Old May 4, 11, 3:03 pm
  #13  
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You would eat food that appeared tainted?

Originally Posted by azepine00 View Post
Judging by your description of food I'd say your were particularly cranky that day and nothing aside from perhaps a lap dance by a SQ girl would have made you feel better.

And you reached this conclusion because you would have happily eaten food that appeared to have been mishandled and tainted?

Seeing green on food where it ought not to be is a red flag. I think this is the only time I've ever sent food back on the plane versus just not eating it.

In fairness, this was handled quite well by the purser, who said she was going to write up the episode. The FA working my aisle, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen throughout. The purser and other FAs seemed great. The catering and the FA assigned to my seat, not so much.

I've contacted UA maybe 3 times in 10 years, maybe I will this time. It all seems so trivial until you put it all together I don't know.

And to you last point, I really would not enjoy a lapdance from an "SQ girl". I realize you're trying to be humorous here, not all FTers are sleazy straight men.
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Old May 4, 11, 4:08 pm
  #14  
 
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Same Flight, Same Experience

I was on this flight (ICN-SFO) 3 weeks prior to the day (UD row 14) of the OP. The FA hostility level was palpable and obvious, even among the crew members themselves. As little as possible was done from start to finish. An anomaly from my UA long haul experience, YMMV.

Don't know "What Gives?" but it was unpleasant.
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Old May 4, 11, 4:21 pm
  #15  
 
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My wife and I were in the Upper Deck of the ICN-SFO last August and had unfortunately a very similar experience.

Granted, we had menus, but the class and demeanor of the FAs was atrocious. We had much better experience during our trip in Y on OZ, NH and SQ, and the C flights on TG just highlighted the chasm in airlines.

Sorry to hear about your luck, I wonder if the ICN-SFO/reverse flights are notoriously bad on service? I've had much better service before on TATL & TPAC flights, but this ICN-SFO stuck out for being especially bad.

-jeremy
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