1K Executives Complain About United Airlines in the Red Carpet Club at SFO

A group of us executives were sitting in the United Airlines Red Carpet Club discussing United Airlines in San Francisco International Airport. We started talking about United Airlines and soon realized that we were all 1K’s. We also realized that we all had the same impression.

As a person who travels over 100,000 miles a year with your airlines and almost 600,000 miles in total, I am qualified to give you some feedback that may help your airlines. I believe that United Airlines is the worst airline in terms of customer support, cleanliness and comfort, and loyalty rewards programs.

First: customer support. The flight attendants in every route I travel internationally have a us versus them attitude. Maybe it is because United Airlines lost their pensions during the bankruptcy proceedings but these people are angry. Let me illustrate several examples:

o On one flight from Australia, I asked for a cup of team. She responded, “what do you want?”

o On this flight, I’ve had two flight attendants physically hit me with the carts and say, “please move”,

o On this flight, the flight attendant actually began the process of forcibly removing my laptop bag to place under my seat to accommodate another customer that had a huge suitcase. I asked her to check that large bag and she actually said, “no, this is the process we are taking, you will have to put the bag under your seat. “But I checked my bag and now there is no room for my feet!”

Of course, I can recite more if necessary.

Second: cleanliness and comfort. As a person who flies often with your airlines, I notice old forks in the seatbacks. Tables are more often than not dirty. The chairs and floors are in need of a cleaning. Speaking of chairs and floors, I realize that you are in the business of making a profit but seriously, can your seats be any more uncomfortable and close together? On many routes, the audio systems breaks down and I laugh to myself that it is usually my seat. Have you ever sat in coach for 14 ½ hours from San Francisco to Sydney? They are really really uncomfortable – especially in the back half.

Third: Loyalty programs. As a 1K, it is really impossible for me to use my system wide upgrades. My company sends me overseas often but will only pay lowest fare. The joke is that even if I spent my own money – $1000 or more – there is still no guarantee I can use my upgrade miles. How upset would you be if you paid $1000 more for a seat on an airline that fails in the aforementioned areas only to find that you could not even use your points?

When I travel to countries that are part of the Mileage Plus program, i.e. Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines etc, I do my best to travel with those programs.

Why? It comes down to this, they understand customer service. Their flight attendants are trained well and happy with their work and their airplanes are clean and comfortable. There are times when I can even use points to upgrade even if I don’t buy a full fare. Cathay Pacific described your airline as more concerned about turning a profit than providing a positive experience.

What really gets to me is that I fly so many miles with your airlines yet you don’t single me out to say thank you, offer to hold an extra seat in an aisle in Economy Plus, or to come back from first class with a bottle of wine and say, “you know, it sucks that you sit back here but thank you for flying with us. Can we give you a glass of the good stuff?”

The unfortunate part is that I cannot leave because you serve all my markets. Instead, I sit here wishing that there was a competitor that came into the picture that served all the markets I manage and that would rescue me from your airline. I would be the first in line to dump all my awards and miles and start again – and brag to my friends who feel the same way – that I am free of United Airlines.

It is my hope that United Airlines uses this feedback constructively. There are many, many 1K’s who feel the same: start treating us like customers.



About Cameron Ackbury, CPA

Founding Director at DaggerFoil Group
This entry was posted in Reverberations. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 1K Executives Complain About United Airlines in the Red Carpet Club at SFO

  1. Eric says:

    I feel your pain, Cam! I’m a couple hundred thousand short of 2 million miles on Northwest/Delta. I still add the Northwest because I truly can’t stand Delta. Since the acquisition, the airline has spiraled downwards into something resembling how you describe United. Can’t stand “the experience” anymore.

    Having been out of the sky for a while and losing my perennial “Platinum” or “Diamond” has been a rude awakening. History means very little to Delta. Although I’m at least “Silver” for the rest of my life for being a million miler, upgrades are few and far between…and never on international flights. On NWA, I would often be upgraded from standard coach to Business when flying to Europe or Asia. They even apologized on some of the occasions they weren’t able to do that. On Delta? Forget it. You’re a butt in a seat and that’s all they really want to know about you. Your sentiments towards their company is of no interest to them.

    I hesitate saying this but one other very obvious distinguishing feature of American airlines is the attitude and appearance of flight attendants. The job used to be glamorous and the, mostly, young women who served the passengers and helped in cases of emergency did so because they wanted to. They were genuinely interested in the job, the airline and the adventure of global travel. Now, most are rude, “old” and too large to walk through an aisle without bumping into everyone’s shoulders. When is enough, enough? Does the inability of a flight attendant to perform his or her duties during an emergency finally force the airlines to address the physical fitness of their employees? Would it hurt if these flight attendants were even remotely attractive? Again, I hesitate mentioning this but I’ve flown so many airlines all over the world and they do have one general trait in common, the service is friendly, younger than my mom and attractive. It helps. Perhaps chauvinistic, maybe just a much more common thought than most are willing to say out loud 😉

    Anyway, I digress.

    Cam, flying the friendly skies is not what it once was. Airlines have turned into buses.

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