The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

United Airlines Are A Great Airline. For 1984.
April 13, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

I know this is going to make me sound a complete cock.

I know I should be grateful to have someone pay for me to fly business class regardless.

But this isn’t actually about my ‘princess’ tendencies, it’s about how blind – or arrogant – some companies are in relation to the expectations of their customers.

I fly a lot.

I fly to stupid places for stupid reasons but what this means is that I have had the pleasure of experiencing a bunch of different airlines, sat in all parts of the plane.

OK, so I tend to fly with Virgin because – as many of you know – I have a personal relationship with a number of the senior people there, but that aside, when I think of the airlines that consistently offer the highest levels of service and hospitality, it is always the Asian ones that lead the way, especially when compared to the once undisputed leaders of customer service – America.

This shouldn’t come as any surprise as I’ve been talking about this for years – be it planes or hotels – however nothing highlighted this fact more than my recent trip from Chicago to Shanghai upon United Airlines.

I was incredibly fortunate to be flying at the front end of the plane which, according to, costs approx US$6500.


And that’s just one way!!!

OK, so it’s a 13 hour flight but that is a hell of a lot of money which is why you’d expect the airline to treat you like a King – but United is not like every other type of Airline.

Putting aside the fact the lounge at Chicago’s O’Hare airport was little more than a cheap motel in terms of it’s décor and facilities, the real shock came when I boarded the plane.

Sure there was a lot of space … sure it was clean … but the seats were, well fucking awful.

To be fair to them, when I flew to Chicago from Shanghai, I was in a plane with all the bells and whistles.

Sure the service – and the food – was utter pants, but at least there was a good entertainment system and a fantastic seat that turned quickly and easily into a comfortable – by airline standards – bed.

But coming back was an entirely different experience.

This was an old plane.

A very old plane.

Not only were the seats unable to do anything other than lean back a few inches more than a seat in economy, the inflight entertainment system was one of those ultra-old types where you ‘got what you were given’ and you had no control when you could watch the limited choice of movies, because they were all running at the same time and were all on a loop so when one film finished, you had to wait till the other film you wanted to watch started all over again because it was probably already half way through by the time you got to it.

I know this makes me sounds like I’m a poncy fucker – and maybe I am – but for over SIX THOUSAND US DOLLARS, this was a disgrace.

I don’t know whether it’s because United Airlines don’t have enough good planes or whether they think the people in China have no comprehension of ‘quality of service’ but regardless it’s fucking terrible, especially when Singapore Airlines offer a much more comfortable seat, better food, better service and well over [and I mean, well over] 100 channels of ‘on-demand’ entertainment IN ECONOMY.


To put that in some sort of perspective, my United, business class flight offered me 9 channels.


And each channel had been carefully designed to show old movies that weren’t very popular the first time they came out.

In all honesty, I can’t see how UNITED can charge the same amount of money for this flight as they do on one of their modern fleet.

Of course they don’t tell you at the time of booking you’re going to be on a plane from the 80’s – so by the time you find out, it’s too late – but in terms of ensuring their limited loyalty is pushed to the breaking point, this is certainly a good way to go.

But it gets better. Or should I say worse.

When I got on board the plane, a hostess came up to me and asked to see my ticket.

While she tried to do it nicely, at least by United hostess standards, it was pretty obvious she was checking to see if I belonged there.

OK, so unlike the other passengers – all dressed in blue business shirts, tan chino’s and brown brogues – I was an unshaven, birkenstock-clad, shitty jeans and crap t–shirt wearing mess, with weird tattoos going up both my arms … but to say I was insulted was a bit of an understatement.

“Don’t you think I should be sitting here?” I asked.

“Not at all sir …” she replied, “… I’m just checking you’re in the right seat.”

While I might be being paranoid, the fact I was the only passenger in the whole of the business class cabin that she asked to provide seating evidence makes me think I’m not so just to fuck with their minds, I added …

“I’m pretty sure I am, I’m a travel journalist so I do this quite a lot”.

The look she gave me was priceless especially as even she knew she couldn’t challenge me with any more questions.

Yeah, I lied – sorry – but they started it when they charged my company over six grand and promised me a ‘business class’ experience.

If this is the sort of standard American business people think is of high quality, it’s no surprise their country is so in the shit.

Sorry Steve & Lee, I’ll never stray from you or your partner again.


So can I confirm that you don’t really like United?

That’s a seminal rant Robert and I agree with every word.

Comment by Bazza

Anti American Asshole.

Comment by Billy Whizz

stop sounding like a fucking tea party groupie twat.

Comment by andy@cynic

to make yourself feel better billy, every ticket thinks british airways are fucking crap too. not as crap as americas united though. the brits have more fucking class than that.

Comment by andy@cynic

to answer your first fucking question on the first fucking line of this post.

yes you fucking are.

i hope you found this feedback useful.

Comment by andy@cynic

this post is overfuckinglong, overfuckingcomplicated and over the fucking top but its about united airlines and they deserve all the fucking kicking they can get.

Comment by andy@cynic

does any fucker know if united charges less for a business class seat on one of their shittier planes? come on lee, be fucking useful, it doesnt fucking matter if they do, theyre still shit and this post is still basically an unpaid infofuckingmercial for you. just want to see if we can shut campbell fucking up even though this is the best bitchfest fucking rant hes churned out since 1989.

Comment by andy@cynic

im assuming this was an unpaid ad for you lee?

Comment by andy@cynic

Wouldn’t this blog have to have influence and followers to justify that?

Comment by DH

good fucking point but remember lee is someone who thinks campbell is good so his judgement is definitely fucking off.

Comment by andy@cynic

Lee never comments on Robert’s airline rants. It’s called “being professional”. It’s similar to the way John Dodd’s didn’t comment on Robert’s rant earlier this week about those 3 amigos on the sofa, though fear may have been his motivation rather than professionalism.

Comment by George

I no longer have any motivation.

Comment by John

All fair points Rob, but you do sound like a pampered princess cock.

Comment by DH

good fucking prognosis.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by John

lite by brainpower, lite by fucking nature.

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh those kinds of lies are most fun.

Unless people figure out some other way of fuelling planes, flight will probably get very expensive at some point.

Keep offering service at that price and if that doesn’t make people give up entirely, they will either find alternative means of transportation or employ (even more) video conferencing.

You could inflict a rubbish conference call late at night on someone (even regularly, sorry), but the inconvenience and cost would be small compared to putting them on an expensive and crappy flight to somewhere (just as regularly!) where they’ll inevitably be jetlagged to death. Even allowing for human error I should think.

I do hope that at some point, some airlines will get what they deserve from a generation of people who will refuse to dish out that sort of money for the luxury of face to face interaction (business-wise I mean). Not saying we’re all new generation type people who have replaced human interaction with a screen, but business travel is always the one to take a hit when things go bad.

Ah airlines. Where they smile at you when you check in whilst thinking of how to make more money off you in the back office. But if it looks like Virgin or Singapore or Etihad and Emirates – hohoo. Take my credit card. Charge it like there’s no tomorrow.

Comment by Andrea

the war on fucking terrorism would be over by now if the yanks had just sent in 3 united hosties to the fucking region. nothing can beat those bunch of unhelpful, hefty, miserable fuckers.

Comment by andy@cynic

I fly united from Chicago to Shanghai this weekend, thank you for giving me something to look forward to.

Comment by ShiaAskew

Hello there – nice to have you comment and apologies for filling your journey with dread, but if I had to go through it, I don’t see why anyone else should get away with it.

Comment by Rob

At least you know where you stand (sitting is extra) with my fellow countryman Michael O’Leary. Surely, Rob, someone in travel at W&K must know better than to book you on United. Young Andy is excelling himself today methinks. Anyway,
look on the bright side, the Texas Cannonball enters the Hall of Fame on Monday.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

with the shit he gives w+k, im guessing thats exactly the fucking reason they fly him united.

Comment by andy@cynic

and im always on excellent fucking form.

how the fuck are you doing mr ciaran?

Comment by andy@cynic

If the ticket price is the same for flying on an old plane or a new, that would indicate United’s pricing structure is as flawed as their customer service levels. Unless, as you say, it’s their attitude towards Chinese travelers.

Comment by Pete

Don’t overthink it Pete, it just means they’re cocks.

Comment by DH

That reminds me when I got to take a supposed bullet train from Malmö to Gothenburg. The Bullet train didn’t arrived and I was questioned not for an employee of the Swedish Railroad system, but from a “Nazi” tendencies old swedish lady that told me that wagon was 1st class and I had to show my ticket to her. It wasn’t a US$6,000.00 ticket but still got the same feeling.

Comment by Marcos Tavolaro

And yet in their company ‘mission statement’, I bet it say’s something like, “Our customers are our priority”.

Corporations are slowly – but surely – making words completely and utterly meaningless.

Comment by Rob

you know how much i’m going to comment on this Rob. Tomorrow morning though. Tonight wouldn’t do my vindicative self towards those utterly shit (c word) justice.

a demain

Comment by rafikrafik

United have a twitter feed with no tweets. In light of your recent posts this did not surprise me in this slightest…

Comment by almostalwaysthinking

To be fair, having a twitter feed that just said their planes were going to be late would probably be even more damaging than a twitter feed with nothing on it.

I wonder if they agreed to post complaints on twitter whether it would improve their service? Probably not, they don’t seem to be moved by passenger persuasion.

Comment by Rob

Didn’t they keep blaming the poor customer service on the merger with Continental? It’s 2012 and the excuse probably hasn’t changed much

Comment by Andrea

The two best flights I have ever had were Qatar and VA. Economy of course (I nearly tripped a VA steward as I had to stick my legs out to get any sleeping comfort)

The difference in that level of comfort from United is awful; I guess lots of airlines have that though, mixes of planes and you have to take your chance which you get. Even with Qatar one plane was better than the other.

Good rant

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

I think they fly that same plane from Washington D.C. to Frankfurt…. at least, I was put on such a slag heap on one of the many regular occasions when they cancelled the flight I had reserved.

Comment by Elliot

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