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Posts from the ‘United Airlines’ Category

United Airlines provides the finest of passenger experiences (yet again!)

February 21st, 2013

Kinny Cheng

[UPDATE — 22 February 2013 @ 23:50]: Matthew has just posted an update to his original post, which lists some of the developments since posting his original article on the matter. It includes additional observations made by passengers who were also on his flight, plus some additional commentary by Matthew — all of which makes for further (and interesting) reading.

 

Live and Let’s Fly’s Matthew Klint, having come to terms with an unfortunate turn of events last Thursday, explains his ordeal — of being kicked off a United Airlines flight from Newark to Istanbul due to the use of a camera on-board, pre-flight.

First up, Matthew offers a bit of a disclaimer to the facts that follow:

“Live and Let’s Fly has been silent the last three days as I weighed how I wanted to cover what happened to me on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Istanbul last week. The situation was both traumatizing and highly embarrassing and I wanted to ensure that I had ample time to consider what transpired before hurling any accusations or failing to understand the other side. But frankly, the more I replay the incident in my mind, the more certain I become that I was wronged.”

I’ve read Matthew’s reviews before, which I sometimes find to be informative and entertaining (especially for the aviation geek and frequent traveller) to read. On this occasion, when my eyes got up to the word “traumatizing”, I knew this wasn’t going to be your typical in-flight product-service review…

“As I settled into my seat, I pulled out my iPhone to take a few pictures of the seat. When I held the phone at forehead level to take the picture below, a flight attendant came running over and told me that I could not take any pictures of the cabin.

[…]

I looked at the FA, smiled, but said nothing, putting my iPhone away. To be clear, I did not take any more pictures—not a single one.  Meanwhile, another passenger was taking pictures behind the curtain and the FA ran over to him and demanded that he stop as well.”

Different airlines, and countries, have different policies when it comes to the use of cameras in the aircraft cabin. Usually, in cases where on-board photography is not allowed, the crew would advise the passenger to refrain from continuing to doing so — similar to how cell phone users are told to switch their devices off. No biggie.

“Naturally, the FA’s warning bothered me and I felt the need to explain myself. I signaled for her to come back and asked her to hang my coat. I then said this verbatim—

“I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you didn’t think I was terrorist. Here is my business card [offering her one]. I write about United Airlines on an almost-daily basis and the folks at United in Chicago are even aware of my blog.”

She took my jacket but refused to take my business card saying, “No, that’s okay,” then saying, “I did not know that” after I explained my reason for taking pictures. I again emphasize, I took no more pictures.”

I’m assuming the crew’s demeanour wasn’t very positive, which led Matthew to offer an explanation for his unknowingly-prohibited actions. A perfectly reasonable move for someone who’s being considerate.

But what comes next will be a shock to many…

“A few minutes later a Global Services rep came onboard and asked to have a word with me, motioning for me to follow him. As I walked up front, I noticed the FA who had reprimanded me earlier ducked into the front galley and out of sight.

He was direct—”The captain is not comfortable with you on this flight. You’ll need to gather your things and we’ll find another way to get you to Istanbul.” I was flabbergasted. My first thought was that they had the wrong passenger—they must have wanted the passenger who was arguing.

The GS rep stepped into the galley, around the corner, and asked the FA to verify it was me. She leaned forward, our eyes briefly meant, then she quickly hid herself again. Yes, she meant me.”

What’s with the ducking and avoiding-eye-contact gestures? Why does she seem to be afraid of confronting Matthew when it was only a few minutes ago that they (seemingly) had a perfectly-civil conversation?

One perfectly-logical reasons come to mind: she dobbed Matthew in somehow, and someway…

“I asked to speak to the captain—surely this was a ridiculous misunderstanding. The GS rep would not let me approach the flight deck but offered to talk to the captain on my behalf.  He stepped into the cockpit for a few minutes and a few minutes later the captain emerged. He would not look me in the eyes as we spoke.”

Take note the very-poor demeanour of both flight crew. This time, it was the Captain with a lack of eye contact — which, in most cases, is due to the speaker’s lack of confidence whilst conducting his/her conversation.

And this is the part (of the conversation) that pretty much explains everything we’ve gone over so far:

Captain: My FA tells me she told you to stop taking pictures and you continued to take pictures.

Me: That’s a lie, captain. She told me stop taking pictures and I stopped. I did try to explain to her why I was taking pictures—I am a travel writer [I offered him one of my business cards and he too refused to accept it].

Captain: Look, I don’t care. You are not flying on this flight. You can make this easy or make this difficult. We’ll call the police if we have to.”

Once again, consider the behaviour and body language of both the FA and the Captain, and you would come to the realisation that something just doesn’t smell right. Now, add ‘flight attendant exaggerates about passenger’s inactions’ to the Captain, and ultimately we’re presented with a scenario where Matthew would be deplaned no-questions-asked. The disinterested attitude of the first-in-command, paired with his poor demeanour, illustrates just how pathetic the entire situation had become.

Subsequent to Matthew’s level-headed-but-futile reasoning, the Global Services representative escorted Matthew off the plane, where he was subsequently re-booked on to another flight to Istanbul.

Matthew continues his detailed “review” of the crew’s unprofessional behaviour in his post, which I strongly recommend everybody to read in full, and possibly leave an intelligent comment to make this unfortunate event stand out and actually matter.

It is clear that the original crew member who took issue with Matthew’s actions and words (most probably with that “t” word) should be removed from her role as flight attendant, or even probably shouldn’t be involved in the field of customer service any longer. Her inappropriate actions are not only a disgrace to her colleagues and other practicing flight attendants, but also puts the United Airlines brand and reputation on the line.

For those of you who follow me here and on Twitter, you’d know that I’m not the biggest fan of the American-based legacy airlines, which includes United Airlines. But never would I have expected this kind of insanity being played out, over a matter that (I believe) shouldn’t have become what it has.

Outrageous.

UA cuts baggage allowances for premium pax

February 19th, 2013

Kinny Cheng

Australian Business Traveller:

“United Airlines is cutting baggage allowances with immediate effect for business and first class passengers across its network. Business class passengers’ luggage limit is now two bags of 32 kg each, down from three bags.

[…]

First class passengers travelling within the US will also see their luggage allowances cut from three 32 kg bags to two.”

Well that sucks!

Just to give you an idea — it’s $200 Australian Dollars for every subsequent bag you check in after the second bag if you’re doing the Australia-to-US route (and vice-versa), and travelling in business class. Should you be fortunate enough to have Star Alliance Gold status, the third checked piece is then free.

Welcome to the new United.

United Baggage Service

February 17th, 2013

Kinny Cheng

From the United Hub:

“We’re excited to announce a new baggage delivery option for our customers. Now you can skip having to claim your baggage at the carousel when you arrive at your destination airport. Instead, you can proceed from the gate directly to your home, office or hotel and have your checked bags delivered there.

Offered by BagsVIP, this baggage-delivery service is now available to customers departing from any domestic airport and arriving in Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles and Orlando. In the coming months, we plan to expand the service to more than 190 domestic airports.”

Apparently, this new ancillary revenue generator began about a month ago (15 January 2013, assuming it’s the same date as the post I’m sourcing).

Since I haven’t seen any angry tweets or read up on any articles depicting furious passengers not getting their bags (in a timely manner), it’s probably safe to assume the baggage service is delivering on its promise — or, just that no one is really using it(?)

Paying extra moolah to United baggage handlers to deliver your check-in/s to your doorstep is like relieving them from the pressures of meeting unloading deadlines/quotas (if there have ever been any), and saving possible grief of receiving your bags in an undesirable physical condition (i.e. in a significantly-different condition as you had last saw it on check-in).

Yep, what a great idea!

But if you really would like an airport-to-door luggage service, then this is probably a go — and only if you’re travelling United and between the aforementioned cities.

UA negligence reaches new high, kills Golden Retriever

September 23rd, 2012

Kinny Cheng

Maggie Rizer, Bea’s owner, spells out her first-hand experience:

“When we arrived in San Francisco to pick up our dogs we drove to the dark cargo terminal and on arrival in the hanger were told simply, “one of them is dead” by the emotionless worker who seemed more interested in his text messages.  It took thirty minutes for a supervisor to come to tell us, “it was the two year old.”  Subsequently we requested that our dog be returned to us and were told that she had been delivered to a local vet for an autopsy. Whatever thread of trust remained between us and United broke and we then insisted that she be returned to us for our own autopsy by our trusted veterinarian, Shann Ikezawa, DVM from Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center. Over the next two hours the supervisor’s lie unraveled as it became clear that Bea was right behind a closed door the whole time and he had been discussing how to handle the potential liability with his boss who had left and sticking to the divert and stall tactic that they had been taught. Eventually Bea was returned and we drove her to the vet at midnight.”

It’s a worthwhile read describing just how shamelessly incompetent the many workers at United Airlines truly are. At the same time, it sickens me to learn of the seriously-poor attitude being adopted to address this sensitive situation.

This is one side of the story. Yet, given how United has the rather-unusual core competency of consistently screwing with their customers (they lost a kid last time), it’s hard not to pass down judgement on the airline.

Such an ungodly event makes (the typical) lost bags and flight delays seem like absolutely nothing at all.

Commoditisation, perhaps?

August 28th, 2012

Kinny Cheng

John Nicholson, of AIRistocrat.com fame, speaks candidly about the epic failure of US-based (legacy) airlines:

“If the likes of Singapore Airlines, Emirates, or Qatar Airways were allowed to operate domestic flights, I predict that they would shut down the likes of Delta, United, American, and US Airways in a heartbeat.”

I couldn’t agree more.

For someone who pretty much only does air travel outside of the US, the fact that such airlines are still able to operate (the way they do) after all these years is just beyond me.

Of course, the passenger experience on-the-ground isn’t fantastic either…

But a bunch of airlines, in competition for market share (obviously), are all adhering to the one concept of customer service that’s warped in the same ugly way?

The saying “Only in America” makes the best sense here.

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