United Airlines is terrible. We are attempting not to fly them in 2015. But don’t just take our word for it. Read the Wall Street Journal airline report.

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Jeff Smisek should be fired.

Back in the old days when United had equipment problems (which understandably happens sometimes), they would get another plane to the gate immediately and fly to their destination within an hour or two. Now under Jeff Smisek’s pathetic leadership, operations is so screwed up that United does the mystery five hour delay followed by a flight cancellation. Leave em hanging and then strand em!

Jeff Smisek explains that he can neither run an airline nor tie his shoes.

Jeff Smisek explains that he can neither run an airline nor tie his shoes.

For the second “flight” in a row, this has happened, and today it’s my birthday to boot. So I get rebooked on a flight that departs 8.5 hours after the one I was supposed to be on. And I get to be in a middle seat for 5.5 hours.

Was my business impacted again? Of course. I am supposed to be on a private cyber war panel in San Francisco this afternoon and have other business meetings as well (including recording a podcast). If you count on United to get you where you need to be for business, you should choose another airline.

Email trail:
Confirmation number:
United flight UA1429 on February 25 is delayed due to aircraft servicing.
Now departs: 12:30 p.m. on February 25 from gate D29, Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)
Now arrives: 3:06 p.m. on February 25 at San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Confirmation number:
United flight UA1429 on February 25 is delayed due to aircraft servicing.
Now departs: 3:00 p.m. on February 25 from gate D29, Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)
Now arrives: 5:49 p.m. on February 25 at San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Confirmation number:
United flight UA1429 from Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles) to San Francisco, CA (SFO) on February 25 is canceled.
Confirmation number:
United flight UA1474 will depart from gate D21.
Departs: Gate D21, Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles) at 4:55 p.m. on February 25
Arrives: San Francisco, CA (SFO) at 7:58 p.m. on February 25

All that and a middle seat to boot (though see below).

Top it all off with a hugely unsatisfying call with “Customer Care” through the 100K desk (apparently routed to Camaroon call center).

On a slightly brighter note (like, say a 25 watt bulb), @united tweet people switched me from a center seat to a window. I can pretend I am 10 years old today! Better than middle I guess.

Tell me why regional upgrade certificates are useful again as a reward? Because I can’t seem to figure out how being on the waitlist THAT I WAS ALREADY ON AUTOMATICALLY is in any way interesting.

United Airlines: Already Useless into 2013

United Airlines: Already Useless into 2013

United CEO Jeff Smisek continues to destroy the last vestiges of hope for United airlines. I just completed a west coast run (which I have done countless times), and the flying part of this trip was just pathetic. Jeff Smisek, you need to resign before United loses all of its customers. Really. Nobody likes you—especially your flight crew employees—and your customers in particular think Unted’s decline is all your fault. I certainly do.

Remember when 100K flyers with 1.5M miles were upgraded regularly on new equipment? Well neither do I since it has been three years. My upgrade average this year is running well under 20%, even when I try to use electronic upgrade certificates “awarded” to me as a reward for suffering under United’s decline. What good does it do for me to be loyal to this airline? No good at all.

I decided to start tracking which fare class I am in to see if there is any rhyme or reason to the way I am treated by United’s computers. Here are the data from this trip:
Economy (V) upgraded
Economy (L) not upgraded (waitlist position 3)
Economy (V) not upgraded even with an (utterly useless) regional cert request (waitlist position 8)

What good are regional upgrade certificates and how do you use them? As far as I can tell, they are completely worthless and do nothing to bump you up the normal “automatic upgrade” queue. Gosh, what a phenomenal reward.

As you see, I did get upgraded on one leg of this trip (going west on the long leg) and here is how it went. I was upgraded on an ancient 757 which barely had enough seat power in the recently renamed “BusinessFirst” class to keep my laptop running. Hilariously, the seat power system was not able to charge the battery. I got some honey nut cherios (oh joy) for my trouble and a slightly roomier seat. So maybe I am complaining about nothing really.

Leg 2 (no upgrade) was a short flight on a B737-800 piece of Continental equipment with no economy plus. The seat was uncomfortable, crammed, too small, and crappy. I felt like I was flying in Europe.

Leg 3 (no upgrade) was another ancient 757-200 with no power, no wifi, no in seat entertainment, and minimal comfort. I was able to use my macbook air until the battery depleted.

Some pictures for your entertainment.

Wow, a CRT that shows a captive audience one program!

This is the kind of seat you get as a reward for flying too much.

I see that maintenance has upgraded my volume controls.

I should give a shout out to the professional flight crews who have to deal with a bunch of disappointed frequent flyers. There must be thousands of us. The flight crews put on a good face even though they have apparently drawn the short end of the stick in this situation. Thanks you guys. You deserve a better CEO and a better airline.

My friend Drew keeps sending me texts about how much better Delta is. He switched airlines last week. Says first class is better, there is real wifi net, and even champagne. Remind me why I fly United so loyally, because I don’t seem to recall.

Meanwhile Jeff Smisek shows up on the mandatory pre-flight infomercial touting the dreamliner, fresh paint, new equipment, and inflight wifi—all “coming soon.” Guess what Smisek, you have us all on 757s built 25 years ago. United’s aging fleet sucks and I am riding on it. Your marketing crap is crap. Improve operations or at least stop bullshitting about how great things are.

United Airlines sucks and I am getting fed up enough to start voting with my flying dollars.

The soup nazi holds not a candle to the United upgrade nazi. Three years ago I was upgraded on every segment I flew with United but one. Now, having flown the same amount for around 10 years and doing nothing less than three years ago, I can’t get upgraded on long haul domestic flights to save my life. (Last year’s absolutely awful experience on the way to Europe should have tipped me off.)

The Continental merger may be all hunky dory according to the self-promoting CEO of United Jeff Smisek, but I am thoroughly underwhelmed. I used to be loyal. Now I am only cranky and resigned to crappy flights. United airlines sucks so far this year.

Lets review:
Flights to and from SFO not upgraded to start off 2012 (2 for 2)
Flights to Boston/NH with no upgrade (2 for 2)
Flight to Indy without even the possibility of upgrade, though the flight back was my first upgrade of 2012 on a regional jet (1 for 2)
More SFO flights with reasonably big but poorly configured planes with no upgrade (2 for 2)
Yet another cross country haul (to denver) with no upgrade followed by a regional jet upgrade (1 for 2)

Add it all up? 2 for 10 on upgrades for a million mile flyer with current 1k status. Um, yay? I hate bus travel in the air.

Here at NPS we have done what we can to avoid flying United airlines since they have such terrible operations. After loyally flying 1.6 million miles and over a decade as a 100K, we’re done.

Today, both flights we were forced to take to get some business done had bugs.

On the flight out, the highly advertised wifi did not work. Ever.

The venerable, um, I mean nonexistent wifi.

The venerable, um, I mean nonexistent wifi.

It’s 2015. Wifi works everywhere else.

On the flight back, we started with the classic drip delay, supposedly caused by weather. A drip delay is what happens when United (and only United as far as we can tell) delays the flight by just a few minutes…multiple times. The first three drips were: 14, 11, and 9 minutes each. We would really just rather learn this all at once.

But the best was yet to come. The inbound aircraft landed, so they called us to the gate to line up. But there was no pilot. The last drip was a hefty one hour! (That is, assuming this was actually the last delay…we’re not on the plane yet.)

United airlines sucks at operations

United airlines sucks at operations

United airlines sucks. Fly any other airline.

It is unbelievable that Jeff Smisek is still the CEO.

Two months in a row without flying anywhere. But I have to go to LA for the first trip of 2014. What kind of seat can I get for my 100K status and 1.5 million (that’s MILLION) miles? How about a crappy economy window seat! Yay?

United airlines just sucks.

Jeff Smisek, are you still the CEO? You should be compensated like the CEO of the Greyhound bus lines. That’s what you operate now.

United airlines new plane.

United airlines new plane.

Four years ago, I was upgraded on every United flight I flew across the country except for one. Then came the era of Jeff Smisek (2011, 2012), mostly likely the worst CEO of a major company in the United States.

These days, getting an upgrade on United is impossible. Who cares about loyalty when you can cram your customers on broken old airplanes because they’re pretty much stuck with you?! I used to kinda like United about the same way I liked Honda. Now I just feel ripped off and stuck in a very bad airplane marriage.

I gotta tell you, flying across the country on United equipment in “economy plus” is not a happy experience. I am an unsatisfied customer.

And all of the United employees I meet think their boss sucks too.

JEFF SMISEK, please retire. Pretty much anybody could do a better job than you are doing.

All your suck are belong to Jeff Smisek, worst CEO in America.

All your suck are belong to Jeff Smisek, worst CEO in America.

Jeff Smisek can’t run an airline. He sure does like to talk about himself, paint, nonexistent wifi, and airplanes that his airline does not fly yet. That sucks. He sucks. Fire yourself Jeff, please. (Even the New York Times agrees: For United, Big Problems at Biggest Airline.)

Why do I continue to fly on United Airlines?  Good question.

Why do I continue to fly on United Airlines? Good question.

On this last trip I broke 100,000 miles for 2012 (and 1,465,480 lifetime miles). Each and every one was, for the most part, utterly awful. I’ve been flying United loyally since 1996. If only I did not live so close to Dulles Airport I would certainly switch carriers. I may just do it anyway. Anybody know how I can avoid United and continue to fly so much? Has United airlines become worse than Greyhound Bus?

Yay, 2013 100K Pemium status again. Big f-ing deal. No upgrades. Crappy planes. An egomanic CEO. United Airlines was the worst ever in 2012.

The decline of United Airlines has not abated. Jeff Smisek continues to alienate his frequent travellers, myself included.

Jeff Smisek sucks as a CEO.

You know those “Global Premier Upgrades” they hand out as rewards for flying too much? Well, they don’t work. Once again a “nuclear cert” did not work for me on a trip from Europe (fortunately for me only on the 8.5 hour flight home). United seems not to understand that the basis of my loyalty is not miles that I accumulate but upgrades. Especially upgrades on long haul fights to and from Europe.

Since the upgrade system no longer works, I have no reason to remain loyal to United.