United Airlines sucks

Yesterday morning, I flew the final leg of my 23-city book-tour. I was supposed to fly Kansas City -> Chicago -> Toronto, but the Kansas/Chicago flight was delayed, because United had scheduled the crew too tightly on its turnaround, and the FAA grounded them until they got a full night's sleep. I was able to get on another flight in Chicago, but my bag didn't make it.

But they assured me it would follow. After all, there are several United flights every day from Chicago to Toronto. The ground agent in Toronto even offered to expedite the bag.

But it didn't show up. When I called last night, the automated system reported no updates. This morning, it was the same. After a very long time on hold, I was told that they'd flown it to Las Vegas and forgotten about it. When I asked what I was going to do about toiletries, medication, workout stuff and a change of clothes, they offered me a whopping $75. That won't cover it -- especially since I have to dress up for an event tonight (bad enough that I had to finish out the tour without clean socks or underwear). And when I spoke to a supervisor, he wouldn't budge.

Screw you, United. This has been a comedy of errors, from the scheduling screw up in Kansas to the series of bag and reporting screwups, to the awful treatment from your customer service department. Every one of them was your fault, and you left me high and dry. You suck.


  1. Same thing happened to me when I flew across the Pacific to SF to start a 3 month contract. Didn’t have a change of underwear or clothes or a toothbrush, and tootk them 3 full days to get my bag to me. Worse though, were the choice of movies on the plane – the 3 stooges, some fucking marine corps propaganda schtick with zach ef-something, and battleship – TWICE. While every single person was trying to sleep they had all these explosions lighting up the cabin from that horrible movie. I would have traded losing my bag for a week to not be subjected to that dreck :(

      1. I think the most relevant point is this line:

        “While every single person was trying to sleep they had all these explosions lighting up the cabin”

  2. United also breaks guitars. :P~~~ Aren’t they renowned for their piss-poor customer service?
    Well, Good luck replacing what you need. And I hope your meds aren’t too important :/

  3. All airlines suck.  Only a select few suck enough to take a dump on a blogger/author read by millions.  Well played, United.

    1. This was my thought, how dumb do you have to be to anger bloggers read by millions world wide?  

        1.  Or put him in the body cavity search line.  It’s best to fly as low-profile as you can, friends.

          1. After what he’s written, it’s a wonder he hasn’t been put on the no-fly list.

  4. Rotten news about your luggage. I hope you’re ok with that missing medication. I’m too terrified to not bring things like that in my carry-on.

    1. Yeah, meds come with me on carryon ever since I got to London once with half my scripts missing (yes really). Some one helped themselves. Assholes.

  5. My rule for airline travel is never check baggage, unless your packing guns. Somehow they don’t lose those. I guess going to the press with “United misplaced my gun” is too risky. Some industrious people actually buy starter pistols and travel with them for that very reason.

    1. Actually, they do lose guns. 

      I had a “luggage didn’t show up” incident several years ago, and while waiting in the line-up to talk to the lost-luggage office, I got talking to the person in front of me, who was a winter Olympic bi-athlete — that’s the skiing-and-shooting one. Her rifle was among the missing items, and she had to fill out a lot more paperwork than I did.

      1. An Olympian’s .22 is one thing, but a pistol is a whole other world of PR nightmare, especially if you go public.

    2. A few years ago, I was in line at an airport behind a school’s fencing team. They were checking their sabers.
      They used their own case and their own lock and key.

      Just thought that was interesting.

      1. Did they also take the machine they used to clean their sabers with them?

        You know, their saber-laving device?

      2. You can’t use your own lock and key unless it’s one that the TSA goons can break.  They need to look to see if what you packed is worth stealing.

        1. The exception is if you’re carrying a gun (and a starter pistol is enough of a gun for those rules, even though you don’t need a permit for it.) 

          In that case, you have to have hard-sided lockable luggage, they inspect it with you, and it’s locked and accounted for the entire trip.  It’s the standard approach when you’re carrying lots of expensive cameras or electronics.

      3.  Last time in Toronto I went to Chinatown to hit the Chinese wholesale restaurant supply stores.  On the way back the luggage people asked if I had anything in my luggage and I said “Yeah. there’s a bunch of meat cleavers in there.”

    3. That doesn’t really work.  I had a checked .30 caliber rifle go missing for a couple of days once. 

    4. My rule for airline travel is never check baggage, unless your packing guns.

      Or more than 3.4 oz. of shampoo.

    5.  yeah, i’ve had firearms go missing,  they usually find them,  but it takes a while   I had a .357 pistol returned to me,   clean when I checked it,  it had been fired.  I was very upset,   it required lots of paperwork.

  6. I have listened to the seatbelt lecture 44 time so far this year, only 2 of the. Were on United and both were terrible.

    The first time the flight was so delayed and the communication was so poor and the concern so great that the Gate agent threatened to have us kicked out of the Newark Airport.

    The second, a flight from O’Hare to Nashville, they succeeded in doing something Samsonite said they have never seen before.

      1. Snapped the recessed handle off Samsonite’s top of the line bag. I have no idea how they did it, unless it was done on purpose. I was told by United that regardless of how it happened they are not responsible for handles.

    1. That sucks, but you do realize all product reps are bio-engineered to say “I’ve never seen that before.”

      1.  I remember the 1st commercial. The fake gorilla is far cooler than the real chimp. Especially his didn’t do it, look towards the end of the sequence.

  7. I just flew United from Frankfurt to Houston. It was the second leg of my flight from Mumbai. I had just spent 9 hours flying and nearly 5 hours on the ground when I (and 15 others) were told we were being downgraded from Business Class to economy and there was nothing we could do about it. So I had to fly 10 1/2 hours in coach despite paying for my ticket and picking my seat over 7 weeks ago. 

      1. As someone who doesn’t even remember what it’s like to have enough money to fly, please accept this nanoscale violin: http://phys.org/news167646198.html

        1.  As a quadriplegic terrorist, please accept this non-violin, to celebrate your fantastic lives.

      2. As someone who flies in coach all the time, I have a very tiny violin for you.

        As someone who has a 40″ inseam, I have a big, fat ‘fuck you’ for you.

        Some people might have legitimate reasons to pay extra for a seat that has the same amount of room that all seats had a few decades ago. Passengers are the victims here, even the ones who need more space.

        1.  40 in inseam!! Either you’re built like the skinny henchman from the Original 101 Dalmations cartoon, or you’re 6’9. WHICH IS IT?? THERE IS NO GREY AREA.

          1. holy smokes.  where do your internal organs fit?  i’m 6’2″ with 34″ in seam and i feel really short waisted.  you must be a sight when you tuck in your shirt.  i’m imagining your belt about 4″ below your shirt pocket. :)

          2. 40″!

             I’m 6’2″ (on a good day) and can wear a 29″-30″ inseam depending on how much of the cuffs-in-the-dirt or grampa-waist-at-the-belly-button look I’m tilting toward.

          3. Pretty much. My yoga students named me the Boy with the Million Dollar Legs.

          4. I’m 199cm and have no idea what my inseam is–haven’t bought anything off the rack in decades (that’s about 6’7″ for the metrically challenged).

            When I’m forced into an airplane, I’m quasi-disabled. In many seats, if the person in front reclines and I don’t immediately rise from my seat, my kneecaps) would be crushed. Then I’d be really disabled, and will sue the airlines.

            In years past, counter-staff would recognize this and ensure I got an exit row seat or something lessening the chance of injury. When I fly on business, firms pay for biz class. I could care less about the cashew nuts–I want my kneecaps intact.

            Nowadays, airlines seem to think exit row seats are some sort of perk. So I fly less.

            I am fond of my knees and the ambulatory functions they provide.

          5. I’m the anti-Michael Phelps. My upper half is from a 5′-8″ person and my lower half is from a 6′-8″ person. Size 12 shoes, size S gloves. Pants from the tall men’s store, tee shirts from the children’s department.

        2. As a sufferer of Short Man Syndrome who must cede advantage to taller folk in every other aspect of life, I confess I wallow in schadenfreude whenever I see you guys on airplanes.

  8. I recently returned from a long trip across the Pacific. Whenever someone asked what airline I was flying I replied simply “fucking United”. The flight was a good $500 cheaper than anything else I’d seen, but I was still bitter about the fucking United part.

    They’re a terrible airline. Terrible food, terrible customer service, old crappy planes, and constant god damn screw ups. Apart from the cheap trans-pacific flights there is absolutely no reason I would ever choose to fly them. Unfortunately $500 cheaper is pretty difficult to argue with when you’re a student.

    1.  Or if only United hadn’t tried to shave pennies by scheduling a crew for consecutive and unsafe shifts, I would have been able to get to the city on my ticket at the time they’d promised, with the bag I’d checked.

        1. Right. I mean, Cory’s not accusing them of contract violations. He’s accusing them of being huge, unrepentant assholes.

      1. I read that as “if only United hadn’t tried to shave penises.”  Which I guess is appropriate since they are a bunch of dicks.

        This is something like the third horror story I’ve heard in the past week about United.  I don’t have anything nice to say about Delta either, for similar shenanigans on my last flying misadventure.

    2. If only United hadn’t been dicks and scheduled their flights in such a stupid way as to force the FAA to step in and ground them. What kind of an airline makes a schedule that says “fuck you, flight staff. Sleep is for the weak”?

      1. Grrr.. You and your socialist policies. If it weren’t for government interference, they’d never have lost Cory’s bags in the first place! Yes, maybe there’d be a few crashed planes here and there, but the industry would ultimately regulate itself with the market’s invisible noodlely hands.

  9. United has been bailed out so many times that they now understand they are part of the “too big to fail” club and can therefore treat their customers like shit without the usual consequences that would befall other companies that did the same.

  10. Sorry to hear about the bad service. But does this really surprise you in any way? You’re not new to flying, are you?

  11. Airlines are in the same situation as broadband Internet providers, at least in North America: they all suck, and they have no incentive to improve.

    If there was an actual, financial penalty for them not routing luggage to properly follow passengers, you can bet they’d invest money into actually tracking it and moving it properly.

    Bad PR from people complaining (even celebrities) isn’t an issue for them, because they know their competition sucks just as much. 

  12. Wasn’t United, but my folks, who live in Columbia Md, had their bag not arrive with them from a domestic flight.  Long story short, it had a fabulous time in the South American Columbia before it got home. Hope your bag will eventually return with a similar story. 

    1. Air Zimbabwe bumped us off a flight from London some years ago because the national soccer team was returning home and need the seats, so we spent the night in a hotel while our bags went to Zimbabwe on the plane without us and returned to London in time to catch our flight the next day. So our luggage got to go to Zimbabwe twice and we just went once.

      1.  Do you get a special stamp in your passport for that?

        Also, great t-shirt slogan! Cooler if it was a place like Columbia though, all kinds of shady implications

  13. Maybe this will help: http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/travel/handling-luggage-problems-from-damage-to-delays.html?pagewanted=all

  14. There are on average 3.39 baggage mis-haps for every 1000 bags processed.  As a VERY frequent traveler over the past 15 or so years, the #1 tip is DONT CHECK YOUR BAG.  And the #2 tip is if you must, check it at the threshold of the plane (as you board, because the overhead space has been exhausted.)  At the threshold, you reduce the airport handle time by about 45% (of the entire trip.)  Last time is ensure you name (address, phone, email, address) are on the outside and inside (easily found) of your bags.  And finally a unique thing on the outside helps increase the airline’s ability to identify your bag.  i.e.:  black travel pro bag, versus black travel pro bag with skull and crossbones 12″ sticker on front and back.  Good luck on the final legs of your journey, Target is your friend for cheap replacement clothing. 

    1. This man speaks the truth. There are two kinds of bags: “Carry on” and “Lost” – look into a Scott E-Vest if you simply can’t fit all your gear in a bag, 

      1.  No, you can carry on your meds regardless of what form they take.  I simply left the stuff in it’s prescription-labeled box, it never was the slightest issue.

        1. No, you can carry on your meds regardless of what form they take.

          If you have the good fortune to live on the archetypal plane. Here in material reality, you can do what the TSA agents allow, which is frequently different from what the rules allow.

          1. Yes. Remember when the TSA said 11″ MacBook airs didn’t have to be taken out of carry on luggage and placed in a X-Ray bin. I tried doing it a few times and the TSA officers would always search my luggage and then say, “You didn’t take out your laptop!” Now I always take it out.

          2. And I’ve only once – since 2001 – in hundreds of flights ever been dinged for not taking my liquids out.  So. 

          3. @boingboing-ac1dd209cbcc5e5d1c6e28598e8cbbe8:disqus Really? I can’t have flown more than 20 times since 2001 and I’ve been dinged 3 times, all accidental. I even lost a snowglobe!

  15. I had a horrible time with United in Chicago- 1 flight…. tried 3 planes- all had mechanical errors… waited 13 hours and will never fly with them again.

    1. US Air is on my don’t-fly list for a similar episode last year. Didn’t realize they could make you wait on the plane for an hour while they waited for the *pilots* to show up from another delayed flight. Then had a similar thing on our replacement connecting flight (after missing our real connecting flight by four hours).

      1.  USAir is the only airline on my absolutely never fly under any circumstances list. The last time I few them, of the 4 flights on my itinerary, exactly 0 of them were anywhere close to on time. Their US hubs are also terrible, with areas so small for checking in, crowds form outside the terminal building.

        1. Same here. Their prices always tempt me, but no, never again under any circumstances will I get on a USAir plane. My favorite incident was when they stranded me in Boston for three days; to compensate me, they gave me a “free round trip ticket”. What they didn’t mention was that after blackout dates/times, it was only good on red-eye flights between a half dozen major cities, none of which were my home airport — making it useless. They laughed at me when I mentioned this on the phone.

        2. Last year I took a few US Airways flights and I was surprised that ALL of them were on time and arrived earlier by a few minutes. I’m worried of the merger with AA though…

    2.  I had a flight from San Francisco to London once, for my vacation. I spent three days in the airport (though they did give us hotel rooms for the nights). Three days, with the rest of my flight, being told that the plane only had a minor mechanical difficulty, that they’d have it fixed soon, or they were bringing in another plane…yeah, it was three days of lies, lies, and wild goose chases. At one point, when the passengers dared to ask what was really going on, they called the cops. I’ll never forget hearing them explain that there was just another minor difficulty that would be fixed soon as I watched out the window, where the ground crew were running around, waving their arms about, as a liquid was spewing off the wing, and then the fire truck showed up.

      1. They sound even worse that the European budget airlines.

        I was on a short Easyjet flight.  Halfway there (over Brussels), the captain came out and apologised, and said there was a fault with the aircraft.  It wasn’t a problem, but the aircraft wouldn’t be allowed to take off once it landed.  If we continued to the destination, there could be no return flight.  Easyjet’s spare plane was in London Gatwick (their main base), and they had no spare pilot.  We returned to London, and after about an hour left on the spare plane.

        I assumed that a non-budget airline would have a spare pilot with their spare plane, and would have flown that — possibly with engineers/mechanics — to make the return flight.  However, I’d only paid £40 or so for the ticket, rather than £120 or so.  EU law meant I could have claimed the £40 back, but two weeks later when I returned from my holiday I could no longer be bothered.

  16. Tom Paxton wrote a song many years ago, a very excellent predecessor to “United Breaks Guitars”, called “Thank You, Republic Airlines”…for executing the same seemingly impossible task (apparently, Paxton was traveling with his performance guitar in a bulletproof case. It just wasn’t airline-proof).

  17. Also, I flew Southwest yesterday for the first time in a long time. Sadly, the only “major” airport within an hour of my home has United and very few other choices (and not Southwest). I didn’t even make it down the jetway before I can see (and hear) in the cabin, as the flight attendant is smiling and singing into the PA system something about “move on back, move on back, so the rest can come with us, too” or some such (but much more charming).

    Wow. Even on a packed flight the overall attitude of the airline employees, and by extension the passengers, was AMAZING…

    I miss Southwest.

    1. The only time I check bags is when they pry it out of my hands at the gate, and even then I howl with discontent. 

    2.  Cory travels with Aeropresses and coffee grinders, which I think would cause consternation in his carry-on.

  18. For airlines, baggage has got to be the least interesting, lowest priority aspect of the entire business. Frankly, keeping everyone alive and mostly on schedule seems like reasonable priority. Frequent travelers take responsibility for their own bags. Carry-on for two weeks on a business trip, never more than a night or two in one place, yet with clean, presentable clothes – it can be done.

    A good starting point is onebag.com

    For a longer trip, shirts can be cleaned overnight or shipped ahead. Underwear can be washed or bought. Look at your total cost of travel. How much sense does it make to jeopardize the entire very expensive undertaking for $10 worth of boxers or just wanting a change of sweater? Meds in a checked bag? Oy.

    Yes, air travel is a mess, with random serious customer service failure. Now that you’ve vented, read up and see what expert travelers do to keep themselves clear of the worst of it, become a travel geek, and please share your findings.

    1.  I travel long-haul with carry-on. But realize that my physical size makes it difficult or impossible to purchase clothes in most destinations.

      Good sub-assemblies are important. In Asia, the Japanese chain Muji makes excellent lightweight gear. US manufacturer Eagle Creek also gets the nod for overall design and durability.

      On a trip last May to eastern Europe, relatives gave me several presents–that was nice, hauling them around…not so much. As I live in Hong Kong, I didn’t need any of the chilly-weather gear I wore in Europe, so I packed it all at a Vienna post office and mailed it back to myself.

      It wasn’t any cleaner when I picked up the parcel weeks later, but it all came out in the wash.

  19. I was trying to find out some stats, where did you get that number?  For what month, for what year?

    If I feel obsessive-compulsive, I might collate and graph all the data from the link below.  I wonder if anyone agglomerates the data to compare major airlines all over the world.

    Air Travel Consumer Report, by the US DoT, reported by month/yr:

    Search the docs for ‘Mishandled baggage’.

  20. In Boston, United’s mid-afternoon flight to Dallas, the last one out of Boston to United’s main hub, is late so regularly that there is a state trooper who stands next to the check-in desk.  Normally state troopers patrol the whole terminal keeping the peace, but United consistently has such deplorable service that there is the need for an officer to stay by the check-in desk for this flight.  I know this is a regular occurrence because I asked both the gate attendant and the officer about it. The way I see it, United is relying on the state police to provide free security for them at this desk, while taking away from the overall security of the rest of the terminal.

  21. Oh Cory, so sorry to hear! I am not fond of flying, I hear you.

    A fellow commiserant, a musician who has suffered at the hands of United Airlines:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

    Tuneful even catchy, but his story itself is pretty awful.

    Holy crap, the musician’s got a book and a web site now. Been a while since I watched the original music vid, the guy’s been busy: http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/book/

  22. As a frequent business traveler and occasional pessimist, I’ve made it a practice to minimize opportunities for disappointment when dealing with organizations like rental car agencies, airlines, hotels and restaurants.  First among my practices is to never check luggage.  Never.  Ever.  It’s an invitation to chaos.  I’ve even gone so far as to UPS clean clothes to a hotel in advance of my arrival and send dirty clothes home via UPS to avoid the requirement to pack too heavily.

    And all of this because I too have had luggage misplaced, lost, misrouted, etc. and have suffered at the hands of indifferent, unempowered airlines staff who couldn’t care less about *you*.  

    1.  I’m with you, I never put anything in checked luggage that it is crucial for me to have at the next stage of my trip.  I’m slightly cheaper than you; I mail excess luggage (clothes, souvenirs) home.  Usually a 25 pound box is cheaper to mail, even with DC and insurance, than the checked baggage fee, unless I’ve been abroad.  And I won’t get an insulting refund offer if the USPS loses my box, I’ll be compensated to the full value of the insurance.

    2. Your combination of pessimism when applied to airlines and rather naive optimism when applied to UPS suggests a distinct lack of familiarity with the latter’s customer complaint and reimbursement resolution procedures.

      1. I can speak to that, since I used to work in the parcel industry for one of the three lettered carriers, Destroy Hide Leave.  They’ll do everything in their power to deny the claim (and that includes the USPS).  It’s essentially a scam–they take your money, park it in an interest bearing account, and then delay or find a reason to deny your claim.  If you’re going to go the parcel route, unless it’s something fragile (in which case, I would hand carry it, otherwise it will get destroyed), I would just trust whichever parcel carrier and lets the package land where it’s going to land without insurance.  

        1. We should compare stories :) I had a customer receive a package that, as best as we could tell, was dropped into the Hudson. What amazes me is that it was then *delivered*.

      2. Dear Invictus,

        Thank you for your reply.  

        My optimism has everything to do with consistency of service.  I’ve never had UPS “break” my clothing, or lose it, or even damage it.  I have, however, experienced the unwanted inconvenience, expense, and frustration of airline-related luggage loss.  It works for me.



  23. PS. Next time try American. I had a bad run with United, 3 emergency landings in a row and I was like…FOOK THIS.

    Have had NO issues with American, even flying to Europe (however I will admit it was first class).


  24. Book tours seem exhausting. I’d leave to read your reflections of the economics of it. For example, is there some relationship between the number of people that show for a book talk in a city to the number of books expected to be sold? What’s the break even point given the cost of the trip?

  25. Tape your business card to your with a big piece of clear packing tape.  Always mark hard luggage with a nice bright piece of colorful duct tape.  Tying a ribbon of surveyors tape is common, but pink is overused so you need to go with lime green or other less common color.  Sometimes you can go to the lost luggage area and spot your bag from across the room.  The luggage people really really appreciate this. One friend of mine simply bought a yellow suitcase.

    I also watched a guy at the luggage carousel debate whether to take my bag that looked like his – clearly he thought my bag was his but he was puzzled by who had stuck crap all over it. He eventually talked himself out of taking it.

    Essentials, grooming stuff, one change of underwear, socks, shirt should go in a small carry-on bag.  It does not have to be a Pullman, it can be a small gym bag with a shoulder strap and your name in indelible marker.  This can be small enough to stow under the seat.

    1.  My approach is these tags: http://www.tagsforbags.com/

      They’ve held up better than anything else we have used, I think mostly because everything that’s not flexible is made out of some pretty solid metal.  Given our extremely unusual name it would be pretty hard for someone to think our bag was theirs.  We also wrap a couple of luggage straps around each bag, that makes it even more obvious.  I can always spot our bags on the belt long before they get to us and they look nothing like anything else on the belt.

      There’s also *TWO* pockets in it for addresses–I use one for home, one for our destination.  I also use both sides–the side that’s normally exposed has name/city/phone/e-mail but I omit the actual address–a thief looking at it won’t see what house is vacant.  The back side has the address line printed.

    2.  People can mock me all they want, but I still have a sturdy backpack from my college days.  In a pinch, it fits under the seat in front of me, even when completely stuffed, it passes the sniff check for carryon luggage, and I can carry it as a backpack and have both hands free.

  26. I will say that one time the airline lost all our ski equipment, snow boards, and soaking wet luggage on the way home from the trip. They delivered it all two days later to my house. No need to schlep it though the airport. That was not that bad.

  27. KCI in Kansas City is Missouri, not Kansas. I feel funny for trying to correct you, thus making Missouri a possible participant in your misfortune, but so many people get it wrong. There are two Kansas Cities right next to one another, but they are wildly different from each other. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.

    1. Thank you Andrew, it’s important people know this.  I hate it when people try to say I’m from Kansas.  

      1.  No, KCI (or KCIA) is what people who use the airport call it. MCI is what people who work at the airport call it. I have never heard anyone say, “Well, wish me luck. I’m flying out of MCI on a United flight to CHI before we head home to ATL. They’ll probably lose my luggage.”

  28. welll..you can always borrow 20 bucks and start poppin’ tags at the thrift store..

    seriously though, sorry to hear about it, and best of luck on the tour! 

  29. I have similar stories from about 50% of my flights on United, USAIR or American.  The amazing part is that you got to complain to an actual human even once.
    I fly Southwest almost exclusively now, even driving from a nearby city if I have to.  And they’re not that great either.

  30. I have similar experience with United.
    Horrible customer service. There are flights (from IAD to tiny regional airports) that get canceled on regular basis and the stranded travelers are then mistreated. Sadly, often you do not have choice, except to go there by car – which I will do next time.

  31. This was a while ago, but just to prove they’ve been consistently terrible since, oh, 2005? Probably before that? They managed to “forget” to load the luggage onto a non-connecting flight – i.e. no stops, as simple as can be – from Albany to Chicago. Just didn’t put any of the checked luggage on, and as I recall it took two or three days to get my stuff – yeah, no change of underwear is awful.

  32. The big American carriers are creaky dinosaurs; the personnel so often seem harried and grim, the musty cloth seats and cracked plastic interiors of their Pan-Am hand-me-down planes are hardly conducive to a comforting flight.

    There are alternatives.  Southwest is no-frills but fine.  Virgin is up there in my book: purple lights, oooh! (actually it’s the newer planes that I like)…

    I recently flew SFO to Kauai direct on Alaska, 500 bones RT.  A fine flight, and a free Mai Tai before landing!  I picked up my friends 90 minutes after I landed, they flew (you guessed it) Untied Airlines…and had that grouchy mien of a bad flight.  Their quote: “They were flying slower to save on fuel!”

    1.  Alaska and Hawaiian, if you are flying from the West Coast, beat the major carriers hands down.

      1.  Hawaiin doesn’t have a vegetarian meal option, but apart from that they’re a damn good airline to fly on from Australia to Honolulu

    2. I never had the experience of flying Aeroflot in the Brezhnev era. 

      Would love to see someone who did so compare it with the typical American legacy airline today.

  33. I have a feeling there will be a lot of ‘me too’ posts…sad to hear that Cory, and sad that United haven’t gotten any better since 2011 and they left my bag in SF when I was in London -yes they screw up on International flights also.

    My own stupid fault my keys were in that bag (I thought I’d taken them out, yes the one time I forget…), but I had to beg to even get a meal ticket while I waited 7 hours while jetlagged at LHR. Never ever again. I went for United thinking I’d get quality, tbh better off with the cheaper alternatives like NWA/KLM which I usually went for. No frills but they never pulled that stunt.

    Oh and you can complain but you have to write to some address and they KNOW the majority won’t bother.

  34. You really need to stick to the airline you have the best experience with and milk their loyalty program – the majority of them will treat you like garbage, sometimes even with loyalty, but less often so.

  35. Terribly sorry Cory’s trip got , but I believe that checking a bag on any airline is an invitation for disaster.  It doesn’t happen much, but it does happen…. and it happens on UA and AA and Southwest, etc., etc.

  36. US Domestic Air Travel is consistently horrible.
    United crams too many people into a plane with antiquated entertainment, crappy luggage/catering options, and is known only too well for misplacing/damaging luggage as Cory experienced.
    Delta regularly overbooks flights and involuntarily bumps passengers as a regular course of doing business.
    Southwest treats you like the cheap customer you are.
    Virgin is an annoying booze cruise/party plane where the attendants are just *so* hip and cool it’s nauseating, and they leave so little space in the overhead bins they’re constantly requiring gate check of your carry on (which everybody has tried to adapt to doing because the checked luggage situation is already so bad).

    Northwest & Continental used to be good until they were consumed by Delta & United.

    Alaska is the only halfway decent option doing a pretty good job of getting you and your things where you intend for an acceptable price in an acceptably comfortable manner, mostly on time (when their computers aren’t busy crashing).

    Totally 1st world problems here… but international flights & airlines are the only  time I have a decent flying experience.  If only Korean airlines operated domestic flights in the US!

  37. United stranded me in Denver one night and wouldn’t pay because the weather was not their fault. It wasn’t till later after some sleep allowed me to think clearly that I realized it was their fault. They had already canceled *all* outbound flights from Denver *before* I boarded my flight to Denver. I didn’t know/realize this till later. The gate agent, by putting everyone on that plane had stranded us all in Denver. I think United must go out of their way to screw over customers.

  38. It would be nice if there existed an airline that charged the extra $50-$100 per flight to pay for the improved baggage handling and customer service that didn’t actually go bust because their prices were a rip-off compared to their cheaper, no-customer-service-worthy-of-the-name competitors.

  39. When I was 15 years old I flew alone from LAX to Seattle with a cat on United.   First flight cancelled.  18 hours and nearly a dozen bumps later, I arrived in Seattle, being put on standby after standby and only getting on the last flight.  No apology, but they did give me a ten dollar meal ticket.  They have sucked since then and I haven’t flown them since.  This was before mobile phones were common, and my mother was waiting in Seattle wondering if I was dead.

  40. My cousin’s flight-from-hell story puts all of mine to shame. Flying on South African Airlines (20 years ago, and to be fair I’ve never had problems with them.) They stop on Il de Sal (a rock in the middle of the ocean that SAA bought as a refueling station. The crew goes on strike. They herd all the passengers into a large room and leave them in there. Given that there is literally nothing on Il de Sal but an airport, passengers wait 20 hours for a new crew to be flown in. They get back on the plane, take off, and somehow in all the confusion somebody forgot to load the food onto the airplane. They now have 18 hours in the air with no food. Flight attendants are making announcements that if anyone brought food on the plane could they please give it to them… there are hungry children on board. They land and are given coupons for a free drink or something on the next flight. 

    1. A guy I used to work with had this happen in Dubai. They missed their slot at the main airport or something and landed at this little place out in the desert. The crew piled into a bus and left the passengers to look after themselves. They had to rent their own bus to take them to the main Dubai airport, and find their own flights home.

    2. That airport on Ilha do Sal is also Cape Verde’s main airport and right next to (literally!) a town of more than 5,000.

  41. I carry a change of underwear and toothbrush in my backpack along with iPod and assorted charging hw.  I’ve only ever lost 1 bag with the session notes and books I bought at a conference but it was the hotel’s fault so they fedex-ed it to me when they found it (gave it to someone else who luckily returned it). Can’t image being stuck like you were but there are a bunch of Traveler’s Rights sites that tell you what you can ask for in compensation and what you can get away with that doesn’t cost the airline money.  Planet Money and Lifehacker have articles on this.  I suppose with the more complex travel schedule it’s just a matter of time before this sort thing happens to someone. So far, direct flights and good weather have made me lucky.  Buy stuff out-of-pocket to compensate for lost luggage isn’t fun.

  42. I don’t know about United but TAP lost my luggage 2 weeks ago between Paris, Lisbon and Praia, Cabo Verde. 
    They just found it and send it to Praia. Unfortunately I left that country last week on a ship (I’m a marine engineer) heading to Congo… So yeah, that sucks. 
    We’ll go back there sometimes next month. I hope. 

    1. Where did he say he was surprised? This question is the same as, “And this is news, how?” Meaning, it’s just as dumb.

      1.  “But,” a conjunction used three times in the post, is used to introduce a response expressing a feeling of surprise.

  43. Cory,  I feel your pain.   As a frequent business flier,  I must add?   they ALL suck.   no matter who you fly?  stuff gets lost, planes get mis-scheduled,  every flight is full.    I will not check my rollerboard, and have enough in that and my timbuktu messenger bag to get me by.    sorry amigo.    they all suck,   sorry you had to experience it.

    1. I’ve never had any problems with Southwest. Even when I flew the day there were liquid bombs found in the UK! Less than an hour delay and they really made us feel at ease. I’ve flown Southwest a lot, and I’ve always really liked them. Even when random assholes kick fat people or attractive women off.

          1. I know. Still, these alleged “bombs” didn’t exist and are unlikely to ever exist. There were vague, unrealistic plans and one hell of an overreaction.

          2. Oh! I get you. Well, I don’t disagree! I was also being very vague. :)

            I got through some (forgotten/hidden) liquids that day, too, heh.

  44. I used to have to chase down luggage for the puddle-jumper commuter airline I worked for. As last carrier, the responsibility fell to us even though the other airline actually lost the luggage. All I could really do was try to light a fire under the major airline — working for a smaller airline gives the other airline marginally (VERY marginally) more respect for you, but after that it was in their hands.

    Basically all I was really able to do was be sympathetic and completely useless, and that first part was somewhat dependent on the passenger’s attitude. I’ll admit I was much better at that second part.  

  45. Sorry to hear about it. Our last luggage nightmare was on a US Airways commuter jet. We had a roller bag with our formalwear in it (we were heading to my brother-in-law’s wedding), but the flight crew determined that all those bags had to be gate-checked. Actually, it was more like tarmac-checked, since we were on the tarmac right outside the plane, less than ten feet from the luggage compartment.

    You can probably guess what happened. The ground crew somehow managed to take all our luggage–nine of us in total–and, instead of putting it on the plane it was right next to, sent it all to Indianapolis.

    My wife and I survived, but at least one person on the flight whose bag was lost was connecting through to Rome for two weeks of marathons in Italy. (Her running shoes and clothes were in the bag, naturally.)

  46. It’s been mentioned, but nobody has linked to the fabulous video by Sons of Maxwell:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

  47. Feel your pain. When I was a road warrior I always used American Express to buy my tickets in order to take advantage of their baggage/travel insurance. Some credit card companies will offer insurance too but they don’t advertise the fact. I’d contact whatever company you used and just ask. You can be surprised what you’re paying for with your credit cards but don’t know.

  48. I feel your pain. I used to fly on United fairly frequently, when I used to fly fairly frequently, but decided to avoid them after my last experience. I fly in and out of O’Hare when I do fly, and the United terminal was listed as one of the amazingly James Bond-like things in real life by Spy magazine back in the day, but that last time it was jam-packed and smelled like overheated, angry bodies. I became one of them when they told me that my flight was cancelled and tried to convince me to take a flight the next day. Apparently, there was no problem with getting another flight to an airport near enough to my original destination for my friend on the other end to make that connection instead, as long as I dug in my heels. Never again. 

  49. Hi Cory, F.Y.I.  Reference your delayed baggage, when the United rep offered you $75 they were breaking the U.S. DoT http://www.dot.gov rules which state – The DoT requires airlines to reimburse passengers up to $3,300.00 for lost, damaged or delayed baggage to cover all reasonable, actual and verifiable expenses you incurred due to the delayed bag.  And the airlines can’t put limits or requirements on expenses.
    (United has already been fined for this violation by way of a Consent Order)

    IMPORTANT:  If you do purchase something keep all receipts as you’ll need them to get reimbursed.
    While it’s NOT a requirement, if you can contact the United Airline’s baggage resolution team https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/Contact/baggage/default.aspx and get prior approval before purchasing any needed essentials then that may help speed up the reimbursement process.

    Also, check out:  http://www.wheresmysuitcase.com/  – it’s pretty cool what it does.  You can get a description of what it offers on my United Airlines Tips & Secrets web page at:  http://www.uatipsandsecrets.com/Tips—Secrets.html

    I also have info on baggage compensation & rules on my UA T & S web page and a link to file a complaint with DoT (I would recommend it since United broke the DoT rules and has already been fined for it – I also have a link to the Consent Order against United on my UA T & S web page).

    And if you wish to be heard to let United know you’re not happy with their service then you can find plenty of contact information (email, phone & address) for United’s headquarters on my UA T & S web page.

    Hope some of this helps you out.

  50. I like when they cancel the flight “because it’s snowing in Chicago, so it’s not our fault!” and someone whips out their phone and say “No, it’s 52 degrees in Chicago!”  Of course, that makes no difference. .

  51. I got bumped from a flight “because it was too full.”   The next day at work I saw a coworker who’d been on that “overbooked” flight and he told me it was half empty. 

  52. Bummer,

    Don’t look for any better with DELTA.  I’m a firefighter and DELTA wanted to charge me $1500 to delay my departure date by one day for treatment of a burn i sustained in a fire.  Thinking this was some sort of misunderstanding I went all the way up their customer service food chain.  Results = Time Lost + Consternation.

    I bought a ticket on American for < $400.

    DELTA sucks too

  53. Having been stranded in various countries, and lost many bags over the years I can without question say that the worst airline I have ever flown was AVIANCA. My one and only flight with them – they ran out of fuel and had to make an emergency landing in Spain. This was, of course, during the time of Franco and we were informed in broken English by the nice man with a machine gun that we were h’allowed to stay on the plane and not h’allowed to get off the plane. Then the eventual landing in Madeira took 4 touch and go attempts to get down. Granted the airstrip in Madeira at the time was too short for a plane that size but watching the large German tourist across the aisle bleeding out his ears made me decide never to fly with them again. Oh yeah, and they lost my bags – never got them back.

  54. I am always baffled how just about one of the most expensive services all people buy — we’re talking minimum a few hundred and maximum a few thousand dollars — comes with no customer service. In fact, it’s more like “F you and deal with it.” Guess it’s because they know they have us over a barrel so there’s no incentive to do anything right.  

  55.  My experiences with air travel over the last 3 years have led me to believe that it is the most unreliable form of travel. Do yourself a favor next time you travel and if you can take a train or a bus next time, at least you’ll get to your destination within 24 hours of your original estimated arrival time.

  56. You know the new FAA regs in the US, if you’re bumped from a flight by Airline incompetence (oversold, overworked staff, too-late-to-land-at-airport (I’m looking at you San Diego!), you should get a sweet $1,300 check cut right at the gate for you. Plus your makeup flight, hotel, whatever.

  57. How is it that an experienced traveler does not keep necessary items with them on the plane.

    All airlines suk!  Duh! 

  58. One little tip on booking travel from the USA to Europe. If the there is a code share (ie. one airline owns the place, but several airlines sell the flight as their own) on your itinerary, always book with the European airline.

    Example: For flying from SF to London, there is a 5:30PM flight that is operated by United, but you can buy the ticket at the same price from United or British Airlines (as a BA flight).

    If the flight is delayed or cancelled for any reason other than weather, as a European carrier the BA flight is covered under EU passenger rights and you are entitled to rebooking AND compensation. If you are in the midst of a multi-leg journey, you get accommodation money. If the delay is more than 4 hours, you get $700.

    If you are on a non-European (ie. US carrier) flying TO Europe, you are entitled to rebooking and nothing more; (unless you were bumped due to overbooking). The airline can at their discretion, give you something.

    I found this out in small claims court when US Airways stranded me in Philly, between SFO and Paris. The flight was cancelled due to staffing issues and we were rebooked on the next days flight. In court the judge pretty much said, US Airways had no requirement to do anything but get me there. The airline lawyer told me I would have been take care of on a European carrier.

  59. …and we haven’t even gotten to the part yet where since its merger with Conti we now have United as a shiny new monopoly, which soon will be joined by the other newly minted twin monopoly – American-USAirways. Watch airline fares! They are about to zoom into outer space. It has already begun. My take with United is that fares have jumped maybe 40% since their merger (that’s what monopolies do). And service? Forget about it, it will be a forgotten word. Already is. It’s like Obama has taken over the airlines, but this time there will not even be Obamaphones for the folks. This time it will be pay more, shut up and get in line. Do you want to drink water on board? That will be $5 a cup please. Get my meaning! It’s coming to an airport near you real soon, and airline passengers already get screwed everytime they fly. It’s gonna become totally insufferable in short order.

    1.  http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/how-airline-ticket-prices-fell-50-in-30-years-and-why-nobody-noticed/273506/

  60. If you can’t airline, please go into a new line of business so we don’t keep confusing you for a competent member of USA capitalism

  61. Those dicks lost my 12 year old daughter once after I had paid their unattended minor fee for the service of SPECIFICALLY looking after her. They had no idea if she was on a flight to DC (for some reason) or still in Denver. All due to a similar scheduling screw up.
    I got a $100 voucher for use within the next 3 months. Yeah, that went to waste.

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