Common questions and responses

  1. What is the purpose of this site?
  2. How did this site begin?
  3. But why pick on United?
  4. What effect have these web pages had on United?
  5. How many hits does this site receive per day?
Common criticisms and responses
  1. Why are you making such a big deal?
  2. Didn't United apologize?
  3. You expect to be be treated like a god.
  4. Have you never been inconvenienced?
  5. But airline employees have a difficult job.
  6. Are all United employees rude and incompetent?
  7. You get what you pay for.
  8. Why don't you try to do something constructive?
  9. Is the "consumer always correct"?
  10. Isn't your complaint with deregulation?
  11. Don't we all make mistakes?
  12. Why is there no section for complimenting United?
  13. I haven't had any bad experiences with United.
  14. Your web site is out of date.

This page aims to answer briefly some of the common questions that readers ask me, particularly those stemming from criticism of the web site. The questions and answers have all been drawn from the somewhat lengthy collection of excerpts of correspondence with various readers.

What is the purpose of this site?

To provide:

  1. a service for prospective passengers by alerting them to United Airlines' attitude towards its customers and employees
  2. a forum for passengers and employees to voice their concerns and complaints, in the hopes that United will pay attention and act appropriately to respond to them

How did this site begin?

The full history is available here. In brief, these pages began as a result of United's reluctance to read what I had patiently written them following a series of unpleasant flights in the spring of 1996. While my initial letter to the airline complained about their lack of coordination in rerouting passengers, not announcing a critical flight delay in English, not being able to satisfy seating reservations made weeks in advance, upgrading late arrival and standby passengers over others who had already been inconvenienced, and mishandling of a garment bag, the web pages resulted from United's lack of concern for customer relations in not replying to my letter.

But why pick on United? They're no worse than any other airline.

First of all, this is far from the truth. United has one of the worst records for safety, on-time performance, mishandled baggage, and overall service among the top 10 US carriers. More to the point, though, if all the airlines have similar problems, then there is no reason why consumers should continue to suffer in silence. One has to start somewhere, and since my traveling companion and I were appalled by United's service, that's where we've started. If United reforms and starts treating its passengers with some respect, the other airlines will hopefully follow.

What effect have these web pages had on United?

Obviously, I have no way to gauge the direct impact of my web pages on United Airlines. However, the success of the Untied site in attracting the attention of UAL management, as well as encouragement from several UAL employees, urging me to continue the efforts, is promising. Even if UAL management does not make efforts to improve, at the very least, the letters posted on my web pages are read seriously by a number of UAL employees.

How many hits does this site receive per day?

While numbers fluctuate, since the spring of 2012, the site has been receiving an average of over 50,000 page loads and 40,000 unique visitors per month. Interestingly, at least when we last checked by domain IP, visits from United Airlines headquarters accounted for 1% of these visits!

Why are you making such a big deal about a minor complaint?

The many letters posted here by other readers, chronicling their own misfortunes with United, make our own experiences pale by comparison. However, I believe that if any passenger feels disserviced by an airline, and takes the time to write an earnest letter of complaint, offering some suggestions for improvement, then they deserve to have that letter read and taken seriously. In my case, it was clear that after two attempts to elicit a serious reply from United, the letter-writing approach had failed. At that point, I felt that the public had a right to know about United's attitude towards its customers.

Didn't United apologize by sending you and your companion travel vouchers for $100?

We didn't ask for travel vouchers; we asked for an apology. Based on the form letter reply, it is clear that our letter of complaint was not even read. Travel vouchers are really little more than an incentive to letter writers to be repeat customers, urging them to spend thousands of dollars more on the airline to which they were complaining. At any rate, in the case of our own travel plans for the coming year, the vouchers were completely useless.

Have you never been inconvenienced by your local grocery store or one of your utility companies or a credit card company or had bad service at a restaurant or hotel? Why are you singling out United?

Of course I have received bad service from other companies. The difference, as I explained in my letter to a United pilot is in the way these other companies responded to a polite criticism of their poor service.

Don't you realize that airline employees have a difficult job dealing with hundreds of passengers every day, many of whom are rude, obnoxious, and arrogant?

This does not excuse their behaviour as described in the many stories posted in these web pages. Certainly, many passengers are rude and obnoxious, making outrageous demands on airline employees. These individuals should not expect to be shown any more courtesy in return. However, the many passengers who have been mistreated, through no fault of their own, deserve something more from UAL than a form letter.

Are you saying that all United employees are rude and incompetent?

No, I note that United has many fine employees with highly professional attitudes but unfortunately, the callous disregard shown by UAL management, customer relations, and a number of other employees toward the public, tarnishes the reputation these fine people uphold. Moreover, a quick glance at the reports linked from the "Employees" tab of the main page indicates that many employees have been harassed, intimated, wrongfully terminated, etc. by supervisors and management. has grown to provide these individuals with information resources as well.

You get what you pay for. Airline employees are paid as little as $6/hour so that the airline can offer the low fares passengers seek. At those rates, what do you expect?

First, as the Premier Class and Frequent Flyer stories will attest, the poor treatment extends right across the board, regardless of the fare paid. However, even with low fares, I still expect that the airline will be honest about reasons for flight delays, inform passengers of flight cancellations, allow passengers who booked business class to fly that way, show a modicum of compassion for passengers with special needs, allow anxious parents to find out the whereabouts of their children when their flight is canceled, make amends for blatant rudeness on the part of its employees, compensate passengers for lost or damaged baggage, and for heavens's sake, pay some attention to the helpful suggestions made by passengers! As has been shown repeatedly, in many, many cases, UAL often doesn't.

Why don't you try to do something constructive rather than simply criticize? (Alternatively phrased as, "Why don't you do something useful with your time?")

My initial attempt to be constructive -- sending United a polite letter of complaint with suggestions for improvement -- was essentially ignored. Many other passengers continue to face similar frustration. I hope and believe that publicizing United's mistreatment of its passengers can only motivate the company to improve. Fortunately, a good many readers do "get it". As one contributor to the site wrote, "I am really glad too that there are such amazing helpful caring people in the world, such as yourself, that can help the good people in this world in dealing with the predators and thieves such as United."

Aren't you catering to this "consumer is always correct" nonsense?

No, the consumer is not always correct. I receive many letters to which my reply (when I started this site) was along the lines of, "that wasn't United's fault." For those passengers, I suspect I provided far more satisfactory feedback than United's customer relations department, as I addressed their concerns individually, and did so promptly. Keep in mind that I maintain this site as a hobby in my spare time. Why can't United, which supposedly pays its customer relations people to provide this service, do the same?

Isn't your complaint with the deregulation of air travel.

No, I believe that companies should treat their customers with respect regardless of the level of governmental control over the industry.

But nobody's perfect. Don't we all make mistakes?

An honest mistake once in a while is quite understandable. However, when "mistakes" are made with regular frequency, they become a problem that warrants attention.

Why don't you have a section of your site for people who wish to compliment United?

I have a criticisms page for people who take exception to the contents of the Untied site. Of course, that is really what the pages are for. However, if United agrees to set up a section of their site for people to post complaints, and makes efforts to resolve these in a timely manner, then I would be happy to reciprocate.

I've flown hundreds of thousands of miles with United and never had any bad experiences.

I'm glad to hear that. Fortunately, most passengers do manage to complete their flights without incident, otherwise, the airline would no longer be in business. However, a quick look at some of the other letters this site has received should indicate that your good fortune does not extend to every United passenger.

Your website is out of date. Your complaints database doesn't include complaints from the last month. You are missing the names of two new United VPs. You haven't added a story about UAL's new slogan. The airline industry statistics you quote are very old.

Maintaing this site is a formidable task that I have endeavored to continue in my practically non-existent spare time. If there are areas of the site in need of updating, please inform me and I will add them to the queue. However, unless somone is willing to offer funds for a part-time employee to take on the work, I cannot provide any guarantees on timely updates.

With respect to statistics, however, I do try to remain current in the interests of fairness. I depend on the U.S. Department of Transportation's Air Travel Consumer Report for much of this information; their annual reports are only made available several months after each year's end. In terms of criticism regarding my compilation of safety statistics, please read this information.