Has United Actually Not Given Up?

My dalliance with United has been because (1) Newark is often convenient for me and (2) their miles are useful for my trips. Currently as a Platinum I have not been upgraded this year and flying them is grim, grim, grim.

A few scenes from a March paid business trip to Asia.

  • United Club lounges in Newark so busy I would need to sit on the lap of others to get a seat.
  • On Chicago-Beijing it turned out three of the main courses had shrimp and/or lobster, my only food allergy. I requested the flight attendant hold a steak for me in case gone by the time my order was taken. She lectured me that I should request special meals and that they aren’t allowed to hold meals. Maybe that would work at Ma’s Diner, not on the upper deck of a 747.
  • On Saigon-Hong Kong, a 3:30 am departure primarily for passengers to make onward US connections, there was a blanket on the floor. I requested a pillow. “We don’t cater pillows on 737s.”

This is typical of my United flying. Doing it for convenience and miles, not the crusty seats and crustier service.

Yet I see news, the first I recall in some time, of United trying to improve in-flight. Specifically, new 3-course international economy meals with free beer and wine (Cranky Flier). The only thing I like about current United long-haul international economy is if you want to rest, they typically fling the meal at you and then you never see anyone again the rest of the flight, good compared to nonstop interruption airlines like Delta.

Last week I flew the JFK-LAX ps service in economy for business. I brought my wife, putting her in business on an award. We both came off the flight happily surprised that the crew was friendly and accommodating. She said one flight attendant happily played with children in nearby seats. In economy we frequently got water. I realize it is a flagship route of sorts, so not typical, yet that it exists on a United plane is cause for hope.

Do the new meals mark a turning point by United to reverse the post-merger decline?

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  • Greg N

    I just got back from a weekend trip from SAF-DEN-BOI (and the reverse) and in all cases, on both mainline and Express flights, United staff could not have been nicer. We had our 16 month old daughter with us, and numerous flight attendants and ground staff made an effort to interact with her and make sure she was happy.

    We had a four hour delay in Denver due to a late arriving plane from DFW (when all other flights from AA and WN were arriving on time from Dallas area, so I assume it was mechanical, but no confirmation of that) before our flight to Boise, and at the end of the flight I was surprised when they announced we should log on to United Customer Appreciation to receive some sort of compensation. I was offered either 2500 miles or a $50 voucher.

  • Kyle

    In my judgment, yes. Sometime a few months ago or wherever, somebody must have told them to improve their soft product ,and they have. The lounge improvements (although nothing at SFO yet) are great. The problem, however, with UA is pretty clear across the board: CPUs are near impossible, even as a 1K my rate is below 50%. Yes, things aren’t as rosy elsewhere either, but I don’t think we see EXPs or Diamonds having the same problems.

    If UA wants to get back on top of things, they need to start making top tier status feel like top tier status. Group 1 boarding etc, you feel like you’re part of the herd.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Kyle – that cattle call boarding chute process must go.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Greg N – glad to hear they did you well.

  • David

    on UA the crew can make or break the experience.

    There’s nothing they can do to overcome things that HQ has done and continues to do, like picking the most uncomfortable cheapest thin seats for their narrow body fleet, often used on midcons, transcons and Hawaii flights.

    Who in their right mind would voluntary choose to sit in one of those seats on LAX/SFO-BOS or any Hawaii flight when there are cheaper/better alternatives?

    And .. with their emulation of Delta, there’s much better ways to accumulate UA miles besides flying for the 99% of us that aren’t flying high fares between LGA (Newark in UAs case?) and ORD.

    -David