The Major U.S. Airline I’m Going To Actively Avoid And Why

I usually save my commentary posts for Fridays, but this is one I just couldn’t keep in for that long. When booking trips, the first thing I do when looking for cheap flights is to set the search filter to avoid certain airlines. I’ve stopped looking for Spirit and Allegiant for domestic flights. If I’m looking for flights in Europe, we’re not going to book on Ryanair. If you read here regularly (and if you do, thank you!) I bet you think I’m going to be adding Frontier to this list because we just finished our first time flying with them. But nope, they’re fine and I’d fly them again if the circumstances were right.

The airline I’m going to be actively avoiding is United.

Here’s why…

 

It’s been a long stretch of bad news for United, and I’m not just talking about the last week, month or year. I listed a few down just from the top of my head and here’s some of the problems United has faced in recent memory.

These are just the stories I can remember and jotted down when writing my notes about this article. I’m sure there are many more that I’ve forgotten. I just can’t believe how much is wrong with this company but the only power I have as a consumer is to simply not fly with them anymore.

 

So why did I make this decision? Whose fault is it? There are many reasons that a big company has a systemic problem. Every employer has good and bad employees, it’s a fact of life. When a company allows the bad employees to stay bad and depresses the morale of the good ones, you have a problem like United has.

I mean, look at this video. If everyone at United was like this, I doubt I’d be in the position that I am in right now. If you’re wondering, the bagels in Newark will be much better than those in Houston.

Unfortunately, not all employees will be like this at 5:40 AM when they’re working for a company they feel is following instead of leading. Does United want to be a premium airline with the Polaris first class product or are they racing to the bottom with basic economy fares? They announce the premium economy product with no details. They tell everyone that they are losing money with their decisions but that will change when the rest of the competition meets them at the bottom of the barrel. Let’s not forget that it was just two weeks ago when they announced their bonuses would be given out via lottery. Employee outrage over this caused them to postpone this plan, but they’re still planning on going to this system to save money.

Is this the type of management you’d be thrilled to work for? Me neither. It’s impossible to improve morale with a defeated workforce.

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Employees aren’t dumb. If they feel management is useless and out to screw over the customers and employees, that’s how they’ll perform. What incentive is there to be helpful if your company won’t appreciate it? If you’re just a number on a graph of a Power Point presentation, what do you matter?

I thought there was hope when Oscar Munoz took over as CEO in September 2015. He seemed to get it. He said what a CEO who is going to turn things around needed to say. He admitted problems and said they would fix them. He noticed that morale was low and promised to improve it. Then he had a heart attack about a month later and subsequent heart transplant in January 2016 and was out for months. Thank goodness he’s OK but all the momentum was lost. United hired Scott Kirby (formerly of American and before that U.S. Airways) in August 2016 as United’s president and put him in control of the day to day operations, and it shows. Kirby’s history as a cost cutter (he was the one who said U.S. Airways planes didn’t need power or in seat entertainment and American is still dealing with that problem to this day).

Making this decision will have personal effects on my travel. I’m cheap and this isn’t an easy thing for me to accept. I might have to pay more for our flights. We may have to take a connecting flight or have non-optimal flight times. It’s worth it for me not to support an airline that I feel just doesn’t have its act together.

Sharon still has the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card. I’m not planing on renewing it this year and I’ll tell Chase exactly why we’re cancelling it. We also have about 60K United miles but there are a bunch of airlines who are Star Alliance partners with United. We have trips to Europe and Asia planned in the coming years and I’m sure I’ll be able to use the miles on one of those airlines instead of United.

What can change my mind? I don’t know. Once someone makes a decision about a company, it’s hard to change. I’d have to see them start treating their passengers better. No more stories about dead animals or beaten up passengers would be a good start. Maybe standing up and realizing that some of your employees need to be let go, or disciplined when they act poorly instead of sticking up for them, even when they might be wrong like with the flight attendant who put the dog in the overhead.

This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.

Wait, that seems familiar. Oh yeah, it was basically the same as the apology for another dead dog in 2017.

“We are so sorry to learn of Lulu’s passing and have reached out to our customer to offer our condolences and assistance,” United said in a statement on Monday. “We are conducting a thorough review of this incident.”

I guess they’ve gotten better. This was their response in early 2017 to the death of another dog on an United flight.

“We know this is an extremely difficult situation for Miss Considine and we have been in touch with her before she posted on Facebook and since,” Hobart said. “We offered our condolences and have provided a full refund for the shipping cost.” 

 There was also this attempt from United at an apology:

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United,” he said. “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

This wasn’t about an animal’s death. This was United’s first attempt to clean up the mess from Dr. Dao being dragged from the plane. Um, sorry we had to re-accommodate the passengers. Really? That was all you could say?
So here I am. Making the only decision I can make as a customer. Walk with my money. Not give it to them anymore. Cut ties with places that do, like getting rid of my co-brand credit card with Chase and telling them why I am doing so. No longer using the United shopping portal or Mileage Plus X app. Dropping the dining program. Not earning any more miles in their program. PERIOD!  I’m done. I’m out.
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