A Rant to Most US Airlines (Specifically United/Continental)

I’m sitting here on your flight, reviewing everything that could have gone right, but didn’t. There are so many small things that you overlook that other airlines are able to catch. Maybe you are not aware of them, maybe you do not notice them, or maybe you just don’t care. The last three years are showing me it’s most likely the third choice, but I’m still willing to give you the benefit of doubt. Why does the overall quality of your airline seem so much worse than those of others?

Your napkin reads, “Planes change. Values don’t. Your priorities will always be ours.” Except it appears to me you have no idea what our values are as a customer. Airlines are supposed to be service-oriented, just like restaurants, just like retail stores, and just like every other business. What is going on with your business model? I dread flights that I have on your airline. Korean Air, Asiana, Eva, Singapore… nearly all Asian airlines are amazing (even though, they have the longest flights). Even Air Canada is doing it right. Why do the large America airlines have so many deficiencies?

I fly 200,000 miles a year. My office is based out of Los Angeles, but my three usual routes are LAX -> ICN (Incheon, South Korea), LAX -> PDX (Portland, Oregon), and LAX -> CAL (Calgary, Alberta). My company is still small so we are unable to afford business class (not that I even see the value in it). That’s who I am. I may not be your “best” customer, but I would like to think I could be a valuable customer.

Let’s talk pre-flight. The day before the flight I am reminded of my flight and permitted to check-in via web. Great! This will allow me to avoid the waits in the airport and enhance my experience. How wrong could I be? You make me go through so many options for overpriced upgrades that I didn’t purchase when I reserved the ticket. I don’t want to be forced to go through these screens again. Yet, you remind me three times that you’re charging overpriced “upgrades” that I would otherwise avoid. For the most part, the rest of the check-in goes without issues.

The next day, when I arrive at the airport, I am unfortunate because I have to check a bag. That line is intimidating because it’s long and full of disgruntled customers who, like me, all seem to detest checking in a bag. Just in case you’re not aware, let me inform you why we all hate this. All of your booths have seem changed into self-service boxes. Most people like to work with people, but I can see that you’re making an effort to “optimize” my experience. Or the way I view it, you’re reducing jobs by taking work away from humans, and changing it to computers to reduce expenses. From a business standpoint, I can understand. But what I can’t understand is why you have only 2 employees serving all of 16 booths. If I were them, I would be moving frantically, in attempts to serve everyone; however, seeing that they have to work like this on a daily basis, they have just given up. They take their time offering the worst service that I can imagine. Then you have a third employee on the microphone telling us which docks are open. She’s broadcasting, “These are self-service. That means, you do all the work. I’m not here to help you.” I cannot believe my ears. Does she even want to be working? I paid for my bag online and all I have to do is drop it off… I cannot believe it took me over an hour to check this bag. Unacceptable.

Then you got the whole charge for the bag ordeal, which sucks, but is understandable. More bags means more work for the people loading the planes. You have to pay their wages. Bags also mean weight so the plane will be expending more fuel. But this really sucks. I have to pay $25 to check a bag? Whatever fine. I need my clothes so I’ll pay for it.

Next, you always tend to overbook your flights. I’m not sure how this happens and why it does. Maybe you can educate me on this. But since you’re overbooking, you have a group of people at the desk prior to boarding who are disgruntled because now they may not be able to fly. I’m sure there are those people who know which flights you tend to overbook and take advantage of the system. But that’s a problem you’ve created. The counter attendants seem to be more helpful than those working at the baggage check counter, so no issues here.

Going back to the whole bag-check charge issue. We’re looking at another problem when we board the plane. People don’t want to check bags because the experience just sucks and they don’t want to be paying to check the bags. So those people bring the largest two carry-ons that they possibly can. This fills the ENTIRE plane with luggage. I have been delayed on virtually all flights because flight attendants are scurrying and finding ways to squeeze bags into the compartments. Then once they fill every tiny space, they check the rest of the bags. Not a fun experience when you only have a single piece of luggage and you are the last to board. Luckily, my mileage enables me to board early so I don’t know what that is like, but I’m sure it’s not very fun.

During the flight, most flight attendants are kind and helpful. I’ve seen some great ones and I’ve seen absolutely horrid ones. It’s a coin flip. I know that everyone has their good days and their bad days, but it’s your job to serve. I have to do it, the stranger next to me has to do it, and everyone else has to do it. Please try your best to give me a cup of water because I’m parched. I’ve already had a bad experience from checking in a bag. I realize it’s not your fault my experience was unsatisfactory, but why can’t you just give me a cup of water?

Luckily, I’ve never lost a bag so kudos for that (knock on wood).

When you take all these little things and sum them together, you see a significant difference in service. Most other airlines simply do it better than you. They seem to know our values as a customer; your airline just thinks you do. End rant.

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