Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Misery Air: United (cont.)

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, asked to cite examples of major decisons his vice-president, Richard M. Nixon, participated in, famously replied "If you give me a week, I may think of one.''

That is how I feel when I try to come up with a major virtue of United Airlines (aka Misery Air): If you give me a week, I may think of one.

I flew United ( twice in the past few days between San Francisco and Vancouver, British Columbia on a travel-writing trip. Nothing terribly untoward happened and United's infamously cranky cabin crews - the carrier's "friendly skies'' era is long gone - at least stayed out of passengers' faces. That's something, I guess. The last time I flew United, flight attendants openly mocked passengers and blamed travelers for the overstuffed overhead bins,

This time, little things went awry. I flew in economy class, everyone's favorite. The passenger in front of me put his seat all the way back, nearly knee-capping me. He kept it there during take-off and landing, which is supposed to be a no-no. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to get into it with a fellow traveler. Neither did the flight attendants, although enforcing safety regulations and seeing to the comfort of all their customers is their job.

On the way back from B.C., on-board another crowded, narrow-body, single-aisle Airbus A320, more little things went wrong. Although I was one of the first passengers in the way-back of the plane, when I went into a washroom well before take-off, I found a messy unflushed toilet. Early in the flight, I flicked on the overhead light at my seat so I could read. It winked on, and then it winked off. And then it winked on again. And then ... I turned it off for the duration of the flight. I squinted and read in semi-darkness.

No big thing, you may say, and you would be right. Both flights arrived safely, and one of them was even on time. But as the old song says, little things mean a lot. And little things add up. United still has a lot of work to do to make its customer service more than notional.

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