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United International Business Travel Not What it Used to Be

July 15, 2012

Having travelled well over a million miles over the last ten years, I have had lots of opportunity to fly internationally on United. Back in the old days we used to horde our systemwide upgrades for just that kind of trip. Things have changed since the United/Continental merger—and not for the better.

I have spoken with about a dozen fellow 100K and global services United flyers, and they all agree that the biggest current unsolved problem when travelling internationally has to do with the upgrade list on international flights. We have all been booted from the upgrade list that is supposed to be completely automated. What happens is this. You sign up for an upgrade and get on the list. Then control gets released to the gate and the list gets mangled and 100k flyers drop off like flies. I was even de-upgraded this year (a word I sadly have to invent for Jeff Smisek’s new broken United)! Ever been kicked out of a business class pod for no good reason when you’re already in the seat? Well I have. It sucks.

My friend Jacob says that he has been kicked off the waitlist internationally at least 8 times and that it takes him 2 hours on the phone with United the night before his international flights to straighten things out. Amazing that this known problem has persisted so long. More attention to paint and buying airplanes than operating the ones you have properly perhaps?! Smisek, get an ops guy or get out of the way.

In order to avoid the upgrade list fiasco and the potential for being de-upgraded, I have taken to either buying business class direct or quadruple checking that the upgrade will go through the second an international economy ticket is purchased. This turns out to be either expensive or frustrating. I guess United wants me to go the expensive route. Thanks for your loyalty to your customers?! NOT.

This last trip, I flew through Frankfurt and had a long layover both going and coming. The United Arrivals facility no longer exists, and the Lufthansa lounges are so crowded that it is difficult to find a seat. The wifi systems are likewise utterly overloaded. So much so that it took me 40 minutes to get on the net to post this. (Maybe it’s an evil censorship plan?)

With no United Arrivals showers, I opted for the Lufthansa Senator Lounge and the adjoining business lounge near A26 in Terminal 1. There used to be amenities like up scale soap and shampoo. Now there is a dispenser of off brand “product” to use as soap, shampoo, conditioner, cooking oil, and antibiotic salve.

The shower is nothing to write home about.

Showers after a long flight feel great. But you know how we feel about plastic showers around here!

An amusing note. In the current iteration of the United business class packet thing you get at your seat there is a comb that reminds me of the ones we used to carry around in our back pockets in 6th grade. Classy? Not really. Ours had clever smart ass comments like “kiss my ass.” Way better than “United.”

A comb just like in 6th grade. Mrs. Snow would confiscate it.

One thing that has improved when it comes to international travel is customs at Dulles Airport. A vastly improved facility with Global Entry capability. It took me 10 minutes to breeze through customs today, mostly spent waiting for my bag.

2 Responses to “United International Business Travel Not What it Used to Be”


  1. […] a two week delay (including a trip to Athens on United), no fly July has finally […]


  2. […] How Does United Suck? Let us Count the Ways Frequent Travel is for the Birds: United Still Sucks United International Travel Not What it Used to Be <a href="https://noplasticshowers.com/2012/08/27/a-o-way-to-go-united/"A, O, Way to Go […]


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