United Airlines Strikes Again

United Airlines, as some of you may recall from previous posts is my least favorite airline. I didn’t like flying them before the dog fiasco because I’ve had nothing but trouble on their flights, and worse I have more legroom in the backseat of a Mini Cooper than I do on their airplanes. Economy Plus offers about the same room as a Standard AA or Virgin America flight. But I had a certificate—apology for their mishandling of three of my favorite dogs—and I figured I hadn’t read anything bad about them for a few months.

The good news is United Airlines is equal opportunity when it comes to shoddy services for humans, because my experience was on par with the dogs’ experience last summer. The next positive report is the legroom remains such that you can give your neighbor a head massage when s/he reclines. Hopefully, the person dropping right into your lap showers and/or washes his or her hair and they practice pay-it-forward.

What happened this time? The jaded part of me says it was the Super Bowl—our flight Sunday, February 5, from Orlando was scheduled to depart midway through the first quarter. Now if I, or any of the passengers traveling for that matter, gave a s*(^& about the Super Bowl, we would have booked a flight at another time. However, the captain and crew must not have had a choice, because they were clearly obsessed with the game. After Green Bay had surprisingly taken the lead with one touchdown, in came the maintenance guy. A few minutes after the second touch down, we got the “this plane is not flying” speech and something about another plane due to arrive in a couple of hours.

We all deplaned in an orderly fashion as requested (What did they expect, people to freak out and start throwing suitcases—some should have when you hear the problems this caused), and then waited at the gate to be called up and told our fate.

San Francisco passengers? Sorry, you miss your connection, we’ll put you in a hotel in LA. Reno? San Diego? Other destinations in the fifty states? That’s a hotel for you too. Sound nice? Not really, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Sydney passengers (and there were a few)? The sophisticated travelers ready to hurl suitcases were rebooked on other airlines. Hopefully, they made it without too much delay. The non-sophisticated passengers were routed through LAX and rebooked with such delays that some lost days of travel while others missed their cruise. The latter were people who’d saved for their big retirement trip.  The look on their bewildered faces was heartbreaking. Other complainers (I was one), you get a middle seat on a half full plane. The question, “What happens we get to LA” was answered with, “Agents will meet you at the gate and give you hotel vouchers.”

Not surprisingly, we departed when the Super Bowl ended. We arrived at LAX only to find one agent, as opposed to many. Turns out the gate agent putting cranks in middle seats didn’t do whatever she was supposed to, because we had stand in a long line while the lone agent at LAX booked each passenger on their new flight, got their hotel and meal vouchers, and answered their questions. After this 45+ minute process, I got to wait outside for the hotel shuttle—another 20/30 minutes. I got to my hotel at 1.30AM—enough time for a shower and an hour sleep before getting back downstairs for the shuttle back to LAX.

In sum, I could have flown to India in the time it took United to get me home to San Francisco from Orlando, Florida. At least the hotel, the Westin LAX, had little packets for passengers without their luggage and subsequently, toothbrushes, because United could not be bothered to pull the bags out of the luggage waiting area and return them to stranded passengers whose planes were not leaving for several, sometimes 12 or more, hours. God forbid United should take the trouble to at least provide essential toiletries to the passengers they inconvenienced with a broken plane.

Let’s get to that airplane…the problem? I heard from the Orlando gate agent that someone flushed the toilet and broke the plane. At LAX, the lone gate agent left to manage 30+ displaced, tired, cranky passengers after midnight, said it was a leaky toilet. I still believe it was Super Bowl related. That said, I have heard from more than a dozen people that their United plane had toilet problems.

Note to United Airlines: When you send a certificate asking them to continue doing business with you and pledging to do better, doing worse is the way to go about it. And another thing, you might want to seriously review your toilet situation, because this excuse is getting tired.

Note to self: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. This time, shame on me. Never means never. And I did say the last time that I’d never fly on United again. From this day forward, I don’t care if I have to fly around the globe twice to get to my destination. I will do just that before setting foot on another United Airlines flight. I am done with a capital D with United Airlines. Anyone else out there that continues to fly with them, be prepared for delays and no toilets. At least the cramped seats make holding it easier.

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About shana

Shana Mahaffey lives in San Francisco, California, in part of an Edwardian compound that she shares with an informal cooperative of family, friends, and five cats. She’s a survivor of catechism and cat scratch fever, and is a member of the Sanchez Grotto Annex, a writers’ co-op. She welcomes all visitors to her website and is happy to meet with book groups in-person or in cyberspace (phone/webcam/the works).
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2 Responses to United Airlines Strikes Again

  1. Mark says:

    As always, you are awesome. Be careful, though. I once wrote a complaint letter to United. Next thing I found out I was on the Federal Do Not Fly list and needed to get a “Redress” so I could fly again. Not sure what a blog post would do!

  2. Janey says:

    What a horrible experience. Its not worth complaining to United directly if you don’t plan on flying them again. I am glad you have a blog to voice your complaints to the world.

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