The last time we flew on United, one of their employees at the gate was absolutely obnoxious; another was polite and helpful, which is really the least any employee should be. The flight was miserable, largely because the flight attendants seemed to be deliberately acting to make it so. At two o’clock in the morning, nobody wants the lights on, nobody wants coffee, and nobody wants the attendants running up and down the aisle asking if you want anything. The attendants know this, because they were not doing any of that in first class, where the lights were out and everyone asleep. I suspect United has policies to make coach miserable, to incentivize customers to buy an upgrade.
Other airlines we’ve flown on over the last year have been less unpleasant. American was okay; Virgin and Southwest were very nearly good.
The TSA at one end was obnoxious; at the other end they were not obnoxious, which is as close to good as they ever get. There’s little to be done about that.
Often I consider buying from a business that has just sustained a big customer-service black eye, on the theory that they’ll be exerting themselves to do well, and their prices will be a little lower as customers chose their competitors. In the case of United, I won’t be doing that. Their obnoxious employee at the gate, the (I think deliberately bad) service on the last flight, and other incidents like this make me think that this is their business model, and will remain so until they come up with another model — no easy task. Also, the president of United gives the impression of being a lying weasel who can’t figure out what lie to tell. It’s hard to imagine him fixing things. So I won’t be flying United, and their CEO’s apology tour isn’t going to change that.
Arma virumque cano
Now, a reminiscence. In the early eighties I went to an Army recruiting station to enlist. I’d called the recruiter first, and he seemed quite keen for me to come in. When I got to the office, the recruiting sergeant said to a young man who was sitting there being recruited, “Get up and let Mister _____ sit down.” Welcome to the Army, kid. He got up, and I sat down, initially thinking this looked like a pretty sweet deal. On later reflection, I suspected what was done for me today would be done to me tomorrow, and I was right.