Tag Archives: united airlines

United got us there, but what an awful plane! (But surprising results from my contact with the airline)

Our trip to France was a bit convoluted-

  • SFO-Chicago (Flight/United)
  • Chicago-Munich (Flight/United)
  • Munich-Lyon (Flight/Lufthansa)
    followed by
  • Lyon-Avignon (SNCF train)
  • Avignon-hotel (Rental car)

This is nothing new to me; long (seemingly-endless) travel “days” without sleep have become the norm. I don’t look forward to them, but you get past them and somehow the brain-numbing ordeal seems to set your clock to local time a lot faster; I feel 100% adjusted the day after arrival. The experience isn’t enjoyable but it’s a means to an end. And in the end, everything worked out as planned, but I gotta say, the second leg’s plane, an aging 767 that seemed older than UA’s Rhapsody in Blue corporate theme song, was close to disgusting in Coach.

Upper panel loose above right side emergency exit (above row 19)
Upper panel loose above right side emergency exit (above row 19)

Loose panels over the emergency exit door, worn & torn wall-mounted pouch for United’s magazine and safety materials, and the carpet? I think United salvaged the stuff we threw out last year when we redid our floors! Thin, torn in places, and the only thing holding it together was likely the dirt. Even the overhead bins were an issue; this had the old style that don’t allow you to place your luggage in front-to-back, so space is drastically reduced by people having to place their rollaboards sideways.

This is pretty shabby... first thing you notice getting to your seat.
This is pretty shabby… first thing you notice getting to your seat.

There have been a number of recent changes to United’s elite flyer programs, making it seem that they only really care about a small number of customers who buy high-priced last-minute fares for business trips. I sure hope they don’t run out of space up front for them, because anybody sitting in the cheap seats of this particular plane wouldn’t think the airline thought much of them.

Did United scavenge the rug we replaced at the shop?
Did United scavenge the rug we replaced at the shop?

In general, I’ve thought that United had been doing a pretty decent job, recovering from their bankruptcy a few years past, and the various problems that came with their merger with Continental. But if they’re still letting a piece of equipment like this one fly the friendly skies, clearly having been in need of substantial renovation for a number of years, you just gotta wonder.

Now this is cruel... blocking access to Biz & First with a food tray... wine, cheese, fruit & nice table cloths...
Now this is cruel… blocking access to Biz & First with a food tray… wine, cheese, fruit & nice table cloths…

But they did get me to Munich, on time, and without hassle. Something that would have been a challenge for them just a couple years ago.

Lufthansa? Oh my goodness, how much more apologetic, in an amazingly-sincere way, could you get over the fact that you were going to be leaving 4-5 minutes late due to delays getting baggage loaded? And then again at the end of the flight. The pilot’s German accent caused us to think he said 45 minutes, which made sense; who would be apologizing for 4 or 5? Nice clean plane too.

The photos and descriptions of United’s 767 were sent to United via their website form. Read on for the surprising result.

Part 2- United Responds

Mr. Jacoubowsky,

Thank you for contacting United Airlines.   I regret learning about your disappointment with the appearance of the cabin aboard flight 655 11July13. In efforts to provide you with a seamless travel experience, United expects our staff to maintain the aircrafts to ensure the cabins are safe and comfortable.

The comfort of our passengers is a primary focus for us, and I truly regret you were disappointed in our service. Each aircraft adheres to a rigorous maintenance schedule to help ensure our customers enjoy safe and comfortable travel.   I will include your comments in our monthly Customer Care report. The report will be reviewed by our Technical Operations Team. I am confident necessary repairs will be made.

Please be assured your comments have been reported to the members of senior management team as well, for internal review. As a goodwill gesture I have added thirtyfive hundred bonus miles. to your MileagePlus account.

We appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.

Regards, xxx xxxxxx Corporate Customer Care

Part 3- United is fixing the planes! (response below from a friend who works for United, in aircraft maintenance)

Mike: Did you send UAL the same comments about your France trip you posted a while back? They heard from somebody.  Quite a few  legacy United 767 aircraft have recently had interior audits done.   The worst plane spent about a week at SFO.  More than 100 items were replaced, cleaned up, or re-worked.  This plane wasn’t supposed to be in for routine major mechanical service until late this year.  Keep your comments coming.




The adventure starts before getting to the airport (thanks United!)

Once in a while you find a departure screen in need of a reboot. Rarely do you see one quite this messed up! Not even the final (SP3, not SP2) version of Windows XP. United’s IT (information technology) department is not putting its best-foot forward.

What, back in France, again?

The fun started with my first phone call from United, at 5:30am, telling me that my flight from SFO to Newark was delayed. 50 minute connection time between flight at Newark, and the flight was delayed (at first) 30 minutes. Not good. Another call says an hour delay. Itinerary now shot; won’t be able to make train connection in Brussels to Paris. So I call United to see what other flights can be had and, of course, while she’s trying to fix things up with a later flight, as soon as she puts me on hold the connection dies. I call back, get someone else who is having trouble dealing with the record because it’s “locked” (probably by the first person). But that gets dealt with, and it works out that we can fly through Chicago and directly from there on to Paris, killing the need for the extra train ride. That’s actually workable, allowing us to leave about an hour later than originally planned.

Too bad that I ended up losing an extra hour of sleep due to having to get up earlier, when the first phone call warning of the late flight came in!

Lunch in domestic first isn’t bad. Very nice salad, cold & crisp, with fruit bowl.
Dinner in international coach.Whatever the beef thing was, it wasn’t bad, but the salad was pretty sad.
“Breakfast” in international coach was pathetic. Not that I really cared that much (very little sleep). But a half-burned tiny roll, 4 small pieces of fruit and a cup of juice.

Thankfully, I was still able to use one of my remaining regional upgrades to sit up front (domestic first class, not that much to write home about, but better than coach) with my wife. She was originally booked in first all the way to Brussels, but the best we can do for her on the new itin is what United calls “BizFirst” which is basically a plane where “business” class is the highest level, not first. That’s fine, not so bad for her, and me, back in coach on that segment? Not too bad at all since it’s only 1/3rd full.

One of the flight attendants knew that Karen (my wife) was up front in business, and asked if I’d like any of the better wines offered to them. She was rather surprised when I declined (not much of a wine drinker). But Karen was nice enough to send me back a plate with two rolls and some butter. The FA told me she said I liked bread. Right. Just give me bread & water and I’ll do fine, while the aristocrats up front are dining on whatever my imagination will allow. 🙂

Landing at CDG we can see a United plane that’s a lot smaller than anything else at the international terminal, one of the 757s they fly across the pond. Yuck!
The infamous “gotta go up before you can go down” tubes inside CDG airport

Upon arrival at CDG (Paris airport) we got through passport control very quickly and, with carry-on luggage only, we were on the RER train to Paris in no time. About $8 each way, takes about 40 minutes, and drops you off at Gare Nord, from which you can take another train or metro to get to just about anyplace you want.

The Velib cheap city-owned rental bikes are everywhere in Paris! When we get back to Paris on Friday and Saturday, I may just be desperate enough to rent one of those clunky monsters and get some exercise.

Today we took another RER train to Gare Lazare, and then just a three-block walk to our hotel, the Bellvue, just opposite the SNCF station from which we leave tomorrow morning for our trip to Bayeux (D-Day beach tour). That eening we rent a car and drive to Mont St. Michel and then Wednesday morning drive to the Loirre Valley. What, no mention of any bike rides? I’m going to be in pretty sad shape by the time I get home next week!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this trip has nothing to do with cycling. It’s all about castles (“Chateuxs”) and touristy things and a trip to the D-Day beaches. In other words, this is my wife’s version of a vacation. But that’s cool; I’m seeing ares of France I’ve never been to (basically anything in the Normandy region, west of Paris). Should be fun. –Mike–