A complaint from the “huddled masses yearning to be airborne”

By | September 14th, 2016

Can John Hart’s United Airlines flight be saved? Not that it really needs saving, per se, since he arrived safely at his destination. And more or less on time.

Maybe that’s United’s point — we got you there safely and on the same day, didn’t we?

But Hart expects more, and frankly, so do I. So let’s review what happened, and then maybe you can tell me what — if anything — I should do.

Hart and his partner were scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Chicago on United Airlines flight 1986 on July 28. Here’s the flight, for those of you following along at home. (A subscription to Flightaware may be required to view this information.)

“My partner and I paid over $1,000 for a flight to a family reunion in Chicago,” he says. “That is a premium fare, by the way.”

After boarding, the aircraft waited 20 minutes. The crew remained silent about their reason for the hold-up.

“When they did use the PA to inform the huddled masses yearning to be airborne, they said the aircraft needed more fuel. And they said that meant they had to rejoin the fueling queue,” he says.

The incident “smacks of unprofessionalism by the flight crew,” he says. After all, SFO is a hub for United and “surely, the fuel deficiency could have been detected earlier.”

“Had someone lost the fuel credit card?” he muses.

It took more than an hour for the plane to depart and it touched down at almost 8 p.m., roughly half an hour after its scheduled arrival time.

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The landing was a little rough, says Hart.

“In truth I have experienced softer landings on Aeroflot!” he says. “Not well done, United.”

Then the aircraft rolled to a distant taxiway and switched off the engines. And that’s when the fun really started. I’ll let him explain:


The problem was not revealed by the silent air crew for half an hour. It seems that they had not been in radio contact with Chicago during the flight and were unaware that the gate United hires for arrivals was occupied by another United aircraft bound for London, but which had a mechanical problem which prevented our aircraft from using the assigned gate.

The error was surely avoidable if the United staff responsible and the aircrew simply communicated with Chicago and asked for an alternate gate. One suspects that United was going to have to pay extra for arriving at a noncontracted gate and were simply going to let the passengers on United 1986 stew in their own juices.

We did.

After over two hours the crew restarted the engines and taxied to an alternate gate anyway since the London-bound flight with the mechanical problem was clogging the booked gate.

Now, from where I sit, this looks like any other day on United. Flights are routinely delayed. Gates are occupied. I find it interesting that the flight stats don’t match Hart’s story exactly, but at this point in my career, I don’t really believe anything anyone tells me.

But this I do believe: Hart had a bad flight experience, and no doubt, United could have done better.

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He wants $500 — half of his airfare — refunded.

A review of United’s contract of carriage and customer service plan suggest that no serious violations occurred. They may have broken the “Notify customers of known delays, cancellations and diversions” promise in their “customer commitment,” but so what? There are no penalties for doing so.

So now what? Hart contacted United and is waiting for a response. I doubt he’ll get a $500 refund. I could reach out to the airline, but I don’t think it will do anything more than apologize and throw a few worthless miles into his account.

The bigger problem is this: Why does it have to be so bad?

Why can’t United offer timely announcements, gates for its aircraft, adequate training for its pilots? Yes, they delivered Hart to his destination safely and sorta on time, but it sure didn’t feel that way. And that’s wrong.

Should I take John Hart's case?

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  • Kairho

    If folks go to the link in paragraph 4 they will be quite confused because that link goes to the 26 July flight rather than the 28 July. The correct link to the 28 July flight is https://flightaware.com/live/flight/UAL1986/history/20160728/1950Z/KSFO/KORD

    Also “simply communicating with Chicago and asking for an alternate gate” is an oversimplification for many reasons, one being this flight was on a 767 and not all gates can accommodate that aircraft*. Having said that, ORD is a major UA hub so this argument should be secondary. But whatever the reason, I’m sure it was not UA, ATC nor the airport authority intentionally making 1986 cool its heels in the Penalty Box.

    *We all recall, of course, the saga of Qatar Airways’ A380 flight to ATL which could not be accommodated at a gate … noting ATL has only one such gate (amongst other reasons).

  • FQTVLR

    Flightstats, which also requires a subscription, is a much better source for flight times than Flightaware. Flight states gives all four necessary pieces of information–time of departure from gate, take-off/runway time, landing time and time at the gate. Flightstats gives times more in keeping with what Mr. Hart described. Here is the link to the UA 1986 on 28JUL16: http://www.flightstats.com/go/HistoricalFlightStatus/flightStatusByFlight.do;jsessionid=B917527E126695627C42791ED2E668ED.web3:8009?departureDate=2016-07-28&flightNumber=1986&airline=%28UA%29+United+Airlines&y=13&x=31

  • sirwired

    – Changing weather conditions can result in an increase to the required fuel load. It happens. This can be stronger headwinds, a re-route by ATC, or a change to the alternate airport. Sometimes these changes take place just before departure. It is wasteful and inefficient to carry much more fuel than necessary. The weather map for this flight is hardly benign; it looks like the flight had to route around a couple storms.

    – An airplane can’t just pull up to a random gate at an airport, or even request one. They are not available for rent on an ad-hoc, per-flight, basis. (The gate would have neither equipment nor ramp staff, so the plane would just be stuck there.)

    – The landing being “rough” is no indication of the pilot’s skill. It can be affected by weather conditions, the assigned taxiway, etc.

    – The idea that the flight “was not in radio contact with Chicago” seems a bit far-fetched (I sense a game of Telephone here; not a deliberate lie.) A pilot is in constant contact with the Flight Dispatcher throughout the flight.

    – Looking at that weather map, much of country East of the Rockies was having weather issues at the time, including storms in DC (another UA hub), all the way up the coast to NYC. I expect that there were a lot of Eastbound flights on Ground Hold leading to a problem with gate availability.

  • sirwired

    Actually, this was a 737-900. That said, the weather map for the Eastern half of the country at the time was unpleasant. So while there may have been many gates at ORD capable of handling this aircraft, they may have simply been full due to ground holds.

  • Lindabator

    succinctly put on all points

  • Jeff W.

    You have got to be kidding. So he wants a free flight because the flight was late? And yes, he is asking for a free flight. Assuming this was a round trip flight, $500 to get there and $500 to get back. (Yes, I realize airline math does not work that way, but you get the basics.)

    Yes, you waited 20 minutes before take off. The crew was silent because they may not have known what was going on or the pilot was sort of busy dealing with the issues.

    Why did they need more fuel? Odds are there there was some sort of weather between SFO and ORD that required some creative routing. Or they needed to add fuel because they might need to circle longer than planned. Or headwinds. Weather is not constant. And planes only carry as much fuel as they need plus a little extra for safety reasons. More fuel means a heavier plane and a heavier plane uses more fuel. There is a science to all that.

    And if there was new routing, the captain was probably busy making sure he/she had it right. You do want to the captain to know where he is going, correct? You don’t want to have to land in Omaha to pick up more fuel because the plane was running low mid-flight?.

    Hard landings, that happens sometimes. That is why tray tables are up, all large portable devices are put away, and seatbelts fastened. All it takes is one gust of wind at the last minute. You do know Chicago is sometimes windy?

    Waiting for a gate. Yes, ORD is a hub. But not all gates can hold all planes. And it also matters what planes also occupy the neighboring gates, especially when it is a large aircraft. The plane occupying the gate had a mechanical issue and I am sure they thought it would be fixed soon. Finding another gate also means the passengers waiting at the gate would also have to relocate.

    And if $1000 was the total cost, that is not a premium price. That equates to $500 per person for a cross-country flight. $500 is certainly a lot of money, but not premium. If it was $1000 per person, that would be premium.

    You arrived two hours late. And you want United to give the flight to them for free all because the FAs didn’t provide updates as to why they were late?

    You would be lucky to get 500 bonus miles, not $500. There are much more worthy cases than this.

  • Cathy_Disqus

    For those who don’t want to click through: the plane landed at 7:58 PM CT and got to the gate at 9:52 PM CT. At the time of takeoff from SFO, the estimated runway arrival time was 8:31 PM CT and the estimated gate arrival was 8:46 PM CT.

    So, no matter how infuriating it is for the passengers to sit on the ground in Chicago for nearly 2 hours (and I am right there with Mr. Hart on that), the airline will probably consider this to be a 6 minute delay at the destination.

  • Cathy_Disqus

    *sigh* make that an hour and 6 minutes delay on the ground. Can’t do math today.

  • sirwired

    Incorrect. Airlines are required by the FAA to use the departure and arrival time at the actual gate.

    FlightAware feeds off of ATC data, which is why they have different numbers, but that’s not what the FAA or the airlines use for operational statistics.

  • DChamp56

    Unless the “Mechanical problem” getting the London plane stuck at the gate had to do with wheels, tires or landing gear, they should have been able to “tug” it away and allow this craft to pull in. You would think at least.

  • Rebecca

    This falls into the category of life happens. It would be like me asking for half of my full cart of groceries for free because several cashiers called off on a busy day and I had to wait in line for a half hour at the grocery store. Add to that there are so many outside factors that can contribute to an airplane issue, many safety related, and this is just ridiculous.

    Personally, I prefer the pilots concern themselves with the aircraft and the impeccable safety record in commercial aviation than stopping to update people waiting every few minutes. Simply not a priority. Again, life happens.

  • Rebecca

    Well said.

    And you’re correct about the “premium” price. I flew ORD or MDW to SAN often when I lived in Chicago. Not the same, but similar as both are in CA. If anything, SAN is a much smaller and non-hub airport than SFO. And $500 is not premium. It’s right about reasonable. It cost me more than that to ship my dog ORD-SAN!

  • Kairho

    You are correct … somehow I misread that!

  • FQTVLR

    I am having a good laugh at the hard landing complaint. All regular flyers have experienced hard landings. My rule of thumb is not to complain if the landing was not hard enough to make the oxygen masks come down. Happened to me on a flight into Omaha years ago. Wind was strong and smacked us down onto the runway. The landing gear held up but the masks came down. Maybe I should have requested a refund as the flight was late (weather) and the landing was exceptionally hard.

  • Pat

    This falls under life happens. When you fly, delays like this are not an unusual occurrence, especially when flying into O’Hare. Also the fuel issue can happen. Stronger head winds or extra baggage / cargo weight can change the fuel requirements. Advocating this would actually damage the credibility of the person advocating. I would question why they even brought this up to me. Also any future issues brought up by the person would be looked at as less credible than they might actually be.

  • Alan Gore

    I would demand a refund under these circumstances because of the gate delay on arriving at ORD. If no gate was available, why couldn’t United be bothered to roll up an airstair and bus everyone to the terminal?

  • Jeff W.

    Sometimes the airlines can deal with mechanical issues while the passengers are still on board. If they tug it away, they would most likely need to deplane. And it was indicated that this was a London flight, so there are probably additional steps that the gate agents (and passengers) do not wish to repeat.

    This assumes people were on the plane. They may or may not have been.

  • Hanope

    The additional gas and hard landing may be annoying, but thats not too bad. I’d be a lot more annoyed at having to sit for 2 hours in the plane after landing. That’s the problem I think is the most egregious and deserves some sort of penalty, since some of the pasengers may have missed connections (and a 2 hour connection is normally plenty of time). Half the fare, no. A smallish credit voucher ($100) seems sufficient for the OP. If someone missed a connection, they would deserve more, imo.

  • Jeff W.

    There are many reasons why you would not do that at O’Hare except for emergency purposes. Or for the few gates that the small regional planes use that are designed for that use. Gates E1 and B24 come to mind.

    * Liability
    * You would have to park the 767 somewhere near a gate so that the passengers can get to a terminal. You do not want them wandering around the tarmac. That would certainly impact operations around those gates.
    * You can bus them, of course. But that would be lots of buses and would certainly be time consuming.
    * What do you do with passengers with limited mobility that cannot descend the stairs?
    * If it was raining at O’Hare, I bet some people would prefer to stay on the plane rather than get wet on the tarmac.
    * And liability

  • James

    I’ve flown Aeroflot (SVO-VOG) and the landings were professional (even if the aircraft was old.) Usually, those rough landings are caused by thermals, and in the heat one now gets in Chicago in mid-summer, no surprise.

    My worst landings have been when it was over 40degrees C… AYQ, ASP, ASW, and LAS.

  • Jeff W.

    United knows how many people on that plane have connections and how many are at risk of missing their connections. I am sure that there is some sort of cost-benefit analysis that factors into decision making process.

    But since this passenger did not have a connection, then I don’t think anything is warranted. But if they were ones who missed their connection and had to stay overnight in Chicago, then yes, some sort of credit would be appropriate,

  • Noah Kimmel

    there are a number of potential reasons. There are also passengers waiting for the aircraft to turn and moving them might be problematic (especially if estimate isn’t too long), there may not be ground staff scheduled at the alternative gate as well (on break, off duty, work rules, etc.). Other gates could be full or also awaiting imminent aircraft arrivals as you say.

  • Noah Kimmel

    Delays on outbound mean nothing, it is all about arrival time at the destination gate. And a rough landing could be the result of many things, and unless the oxygen masks drop, I don’t see why it is relevant. Also the price of the ticket shouldn’t matter because he bought it – do others who got discount tickets not deserve help?

    The OP wants compensation for over an hour delay (by schedule) on the ground after arrival. It is a very reasonable complaint to have, especially when it was almost 2 hours operationally. However, asking for $500 seems extremely high for a delay likely attributed to strong weather. He didn’t get rerouted, he wasn’t cancelled on, etc. United provided poor service, but not enough to warrant a free flight. He deserves 10,000 miles and an apology. United needs to up their game on the service side as unpredictable things happen in the industry all the time and the test of great airlines is how they respond and recover.

  • Noah Kimmel

    A refund for the whole flight for a delay of 2 hours? What ground crew will “roll up the stairs”? what available hardstand gate will you park at? What about the people waiting to board the turn flight? — I don’t know what happened that day, but the idea that united couldn’t be bothered is ridiculous. Tons of employees try hard every day to deliver a great experience, pilots and flight attendants also hate sitting on the ground as many aren’t paid for that time. There was clearly multiple failures here – communication, gate planning, and service recovery. But it just doesn’t seem so egregious to warrant a full refund. Heck, if it were pre-departure, the DOT wouldn’t yet require the airline to let people off the plane, let alone give a full refund.

  • AAGK

    I wonder what John Hart does for a living and whether he has ever made a mistake at work or taken an hour longer than expected to do something, or maybe something changed mid project (he couldn’t reach the client immediately or someone he relied on for information added an unexpected detail he needed to consider). If this man has never encountered a situation like that then he would be a billionaire CEO and have a private plane. However, those guys make mistakes too. Hart maybe just discovered the internet where you can see detailed accounts of airline changes that we were never privy to before.

  • MF

    The fueling delay was likely caused by corporate pressuring the pilot to not take extra fuel on board, but then wind or potential holding in the air showed that the fuel reserves were below FAA minimums for safety. Not really an aircrew training issue, a corporate profits issue.

  • Alan Gore

    Nice try, but I can remember a time when an airstair and a walk to and from the terminal – no bus – was standard procedure for all boardings and arrivals. For a long time after that, jetways were in use only for the big mainline flights operating at new terminals. And all this time, the handicapped were accommodated. The sky did not fall, and neither did the passengers.

    When did we turn into such incredible wimps, with edge-case ‘liability’ being a universal excuse for bad service?

  • AJPeabody

    The plane crew may have not informed the passengers with details and time estimates for the delay because they not have had the information either. Who knows in advance how long it will take to fix a mechanical problem?

  • gpx21dlr

    In the SF Bay Area, the BART train occasionally stops in the TUBE between SF & Oakland. So you’re sitting there waiting, 1 minute, 2 minutes, in a stuffy BART car, and no announcement, no nothing and you’re thinking…uh oh. Finally, the train operator comes on with a delay thing…whew.

    The airlines do this to all the time. Just keeps you waiting with no explanation and you’re thinking the worse scenarios.

  • sirwired

    There is a very large difference between taking airstairs down to the tarmac and into the terminal at an airport designed for it, and doing the same thing at some random remote bit of concrete at a huge airport.

  • HRTraveler

    This is worthy of an angry tweet to @united, not a message to Mr. Elliot. Grow up man.

  • Bill___A

    Things like this happen altogether too much. I notice that in many airports, generally like Chicago, Houston, etc, there are not gates available when there should be. Although it was noted that there was a problem with a London bound aircraft, from where I sit, countless passenger-hours are spent every day wasting time and it is often said they are “waiting for staff” at the gate. This is not an efficient thing to have happen, and I can tell you it happens with a lot of frequency and needs to be addressed. Trying to get United to pay $500 for this is likely a non starter. However, finding out how much this actually does happen, even for 15 minutes at a time, would be shocking and someone should address it, definitely.

  • Lindabator

    the weather on the East Coast impacted Chicago, and NOT easily foreseen

  • Jeff W.

    “When did we turn into such incredible wimps?”

    Well, the fact that someone is actually writing into this site asking for $500 compensation for a two hour tarmac delay answers that question.

  • Weather is going to happen. Mechanical problems are going to occasionally pop up. But passengers react a lot more sharply to any gratuitous ‘trapping’ behavior, like the arrival described in this story, caused by an engrained resistance to applying common sense when a problem arises, not having any Plan B in event of a gate availability problem. That is what gives us the impression that they just don’t care.

  • Tricia K

    I’ve been in similar circumstances with other airlines, and it is amazing how much more tolerable the waiting is with some simple updates on a regular basis, even if that announcement is to say, “sorry for the delay, I’m not sure what is causing this delay but we appreciate your patience and will update you with more information as soon as possible.” While the end result is the same, at least the airline seems appreciative that your time is worth something and I’ve seen the difference it can make. Offering beverages or snacks, if possible, helps as well.

  • Tricia K

    A hard landing is when the pilot came in too fast and bounced the plane so hard that he had no choice but to go back around again and the plane gets grounded for several hours while they check how badly the landing gear was damaged. That is a hard landing.

  • Michael__K

    An airplane can’t just pull up to a random gate at an airport, or even request one. They are not available for rent on an ad-hoc, per-flight, basis. (The gate would have neither equipment nor ramp staff, so the plane would just be stuck there.

    Well, carriers are required by law to have contingency plans to prevent tarmac delays over 3 hours. They were at nearly 2 hours on the tarmac when the London flight (UA931) finally departed gate C19. What were their contingency plans if that London flight couldn’t finally depart when it did?

    If we had EC-261-style compensation rules, then I guarantee you the carriers would have better contingency plans. UA has many gates that handle 737s at ORD and if those are not always enough then I bet they would invest to make buses and portable stairs and employees available rather than risk paying their passengers substantial compensation for lengthy ground delays.

    Granted, in this case, they would have escaped the threshold for compensation even under EC 261 rules by 21 minutes.

  • Michael__K

    Carriers are required by law to have contingency plans to prevent tarmac delays over 3 hours.

    This delay was ‘only’ 114 minutes, but what was their contingency plan if the London flight remained stuck at gate C19 for another hour or longer?

    Maybe we need tougher regulations on tarmac delays for arriving aircraft. If they already have the means (possibly with portable stairs and buses) to deplane passengers after 3 hours, why do passengers have to wait the full 3 hours before these means are put to use?

  • sirwired

    https://www.united.com/web/format/pdf/UA_Tarmac_Delay_Contingency_Plan_5-14-2012.pdf

    And, in the end, they did change the gate for the inbound aircraft. And in plenty of time to meet regulatory requirements, so the contingency plan wasn’t necessary. (I suspect activating the plan, with airstairs and buses, diverts personnel from their actual jobs, like baggage handling, so it’s only done when actually necessary to avoid the 3-hour ceiling.)

    In my comment, I was addressing the LW’s assertion that the pilot could somehow have simply pulled up to some random non-UA gate and deplaned there, and that the only reason this wasn’t done is to save some sort of gate-rental fee.

  • sirwired

    It is likely that the plans are expensive and inconvenient, so they are avoided if at all possible. (For instance, the tarmac rules don’t say anything at all about baggage; dollars to proverbial donuts that if they have to deplane via airstairs on some remote apron, those bags aren’t coming off the plane for a very long time.)

    I’m not quite sure what you are getting at about “tougher regulations”; other than shortening the maximum limit, what do you have in mind?

  • Michael__K

    Waiting 2-hours to deplane is inconvenient and something most passengers would like to avoid if at all possible.

    I understand that for departures, sometimes a tarmac delay can be preferable to the alternative (e.g. cancellation). But for arrivals, it’s ridiculous to keep passengers captive for 2 hours just because it saves a few bucks. Yes, the time limit should probably be shorter for arrivals.

  • sirwired

    For arrivals, sometimes a tarmac delay can be preferable to the alternative (e.g. waiting even more hours for bags to be offloaded.)

    Not to mention that offloading the plane remotely makes the next flight the plane is supposed to perform that much later, if it occurs at all. Which inconveniences THOSE passengers.

  • Michael__K

    My main point is they do have the means to offload passengers even without a gate. And yes, IMO, it is worth utilizing those means to deplane passengers almost 2-hours sooner. Even if some other passengers have to wait slightly longer for their luggage.

    BTW, according to the article, they did change the gate, and on second glance flightstats does show that the London flight departed from C9, not C19, just minutes before the OP’s flight arrived at C19.

    Assuming one of those gates wasn’t typo’d, what’s odd is that the last activity that I see for gate C19 is a flight to LAX that departed at 7:45pm (minutes before the OP’s flight touched down…). So if C19 was unused all that time, why didn’t they park there immediately? Unless the problem was never gate availability but ground-staff availability…

  • ChelseaGirl

    That’s not the way it works. As annoying as it is to be on the plane for two hours before you can deplane, you aren’t going to get a refund. I don’t think it’s warranted.

  • Michael__K

    Deplaning by stairs takes much less than 2 hours. So even the passengers with luggage (which is generally a minority of passengers on domestic flights) would get where they are going sooner. Not to mention that it’s much more comfortable to wait in an airport than to wait on an aircraft.

    And if there is really no gate for the plane for 2 hours, then the next flight will be delayed more than 2 hours regardless. Unless they use the same stairs and the same buses to board passengers for the next flight. Which might not be a bad idea.

  • marathon man

    First comment to writer: Chris, when I click on the link in the paragraph where you say, “Hart and his partner were scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Chicago on United Airlines flight 1986 on July 28. Here’s the flight,” it is the type of link that brings you to that page, but leaves this page. You might want to make it so it opens a new browser instead. Just a thought.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Why surprised? Everybody know it’s United usual standard Modus Operandi, nothing out of ordinary. The culprit is obviously the lack of American equivalent of EU 261 rules for delay compensation and the indecent oligopoly gauging fare in and out of Chicago permitted by the US regulators and representatives..

  • marathon man

    This is yet another story of overcrowded planes rushing to meet a schedule they can never ever do. Everything is always late or delayed, and no matter what happens, something mechanical or the weather is to blame somewhere in the comical and frustrating process.

    In an effort to bring in ever more pennies and dollars of profits, airlines pack full every flight, have no time to clean them, push their staff to the limits, forget details, and discard regular customer service. I was on a flight that couldn’t leave because a secondary air fan in one of the lavatories was working poorly. This was the first flight of the day. Who was working last night?

    Airlines must meet certain safety standards but they take on those in the same way a spoiled child who has to do his chores may snidely mumble something under his breath to his parents as he carries them out–and not so well because he is bitter about actually having to do them. They blame the problems on YOU and do nothing for you in the end.

    Staff and FAs must basically just follow protocol. They don’t see you as a human anymore, it’s all policy, numbers, safety protocol and following the rules that have been clamped down on them and the business which they highly resent. As a result, they don’t give a flyin f**k anymore!

    Crews may not really mind sitting on the tarmac when a plane lands. Hey, they are getting paid to do that. But customers… I dunno… Hasn’t any of these crew members been customers? I guess not.

    This is why I have been avoiding domestic travel whenever I can. At least on United and American. My wife and I joke that if we ever want to go to California from where we live near Boston, we should fly around the world (on Asian carriers, etc) and enter the USA from the Pacific. It would be a smoother flight experience for sure. To get to Chicago, I’m thinking horse and buggy may be quicker.

    My advice to Hart would be: Be done with flying UA domestic. Done. Take the useless miles they may offer, and if it’s a voucher, take that but ask for an e-voucher if you can. Vow to avoid using UA for anything domestic. The last time I tried it, which was last Feb, you could, despite it saying it wont allow it, use this type of voucher as partial payment for a flight for someone else. My friend Scott needed to fly to Seattle and I applied a $100 e-voucher towards his flight, and even though it was in my name, it credited perfectly fine.

    Find someone who needs to fly the airline and pay for their ticket and give them a discount (if it’s a friend who needs a $200 UA ticket, and your voucher is say $100, buy their ticket and offer like $20 off the voucher value). If that friend is lucky they will get to their destination on time. Settle up with that friend BEFORE they fly.

    But you will not fly UA again in the USA. Instead, use your miles to book a partner like Lufthansa or something. It currently takes 30k UA miles to fly economy one way from BOS-MUC for example, or 70k to sit in biz class. Come enjoy Oktoberfest! I find that currently, anything that takes off from the USA and leaves its airspace has been a FAR more enjoyable experience–even if you are crammed into economy–than anything flying in the USA or its airspace. The exception to this being flights to Iceland on US carriers. Those are like domestic US. A 5 hr Delta flight from JFK was cramped and bad. The 5 hr return flight on WOW, the low budget carrier, was fine.

    If you have any leftover UA miles, visit https://www.magsformiles.com/ and burn em all up on a subscription to some magazines you like. If you had status and a ton of miles on the airline, book tickets for friends and in return, have them book you on airlines you like at the same value. ie, 1:1 for some tickets on something you can rely on.

    If you absolutely must fly the routings UA has and nothing else will do, then you have to suffer and spin the wheel of luck every time.

  • marathon man

    protocol and safety. They wont offload with stairs because some idiot made a rule about that or something. I could see them not doing it even if everyone on board was puking and begging to get out. It’s stupid but the rules that are in place “for your safety” are also often in place to totally screw you up.

  • marathon man

    So should we all just “take it?” When should everyone start pushing back against what I see as gross negligence on the part of this and other airlines? Who should push back?

  • joycexyz

    Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing!

  • joycexyz

    Some flight crews are more talkative than others. Remember, they’re busy processing the info themselves.

  • Gary K

    Question for Chris (or the editors): By what standard does United not “…offer…, adequate training for its pilots”? That could be considered a pretty serious allegation, regardless of context.

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