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24 Glaring Problems With United Airlines (That Execs Hide From The Public)

United Airlines is back in the news these days, because a man named Theodore Liaw believes that the airline was guilty of negligence related to an incident in late October of 2018. Liaw is convinced that United Airlines covered up the real reason for an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Canada, according to People.com. This United Airlines Trans-Atlantic flight did not go as planned. It was an ordeal for passengers and crew alike.

After the emergency landing, the passengers had to stay in their seats for 16 full hours while waiting to board another plane. While the outcome of this legal complaint is as yet uncertain, this isn't the first time that this airline has gotten bad press.

The company's slogan, "Fly the Friendly Skies", does send a positive message, but this beleaguered airline tends to get plenty of negative feedback from customers. Of course, some people may be satisfied with the services that the airline delivers. Happy customers don't get nearly as much media coverage as unhappy ones.

The airline has been around for 92 years. Nowadays, its main hubs are situated in Washington-Dulles, San Francisco, Newark, Los Angeles, Houston-Intercontinental, Denver and Chicago-O'Hare. United Airlines has codeshare and alliance agreements with a host of airlines all over the world, including Air Canada, Eurowings and Air China.

Anyone who's curious about why United Airlines is often the subject of criticism should read every entry on this list. There are some aspect of this airline's operations that aren't exactly common knowledge.

25 Its Corporate Culture Needs Major Improvement

Chicagotribune.com

Corporate culture sets the tone for employees. Some companies, including Google, are renowned for positive and inspiring corporate cultures. Others are known for having corporate cultures that leave employees feeling frustrated and undervalued.

According to a recent report from Forbes.com, United Airlines has a serious "culture problem". The company will need to improve employee engagement, training and motivation in order to deliver better service to customers. A series of public relations problems have put the corporate culture at United Airlines under a microscope. Hopefully, positive changes will follow...

Some annoyed United Airlines employees vent online, at anonymous message boards. These staff members feel overworked.

24 People’s Pets Are At Risk

Time.com

An unfortunate accident involving a pet on a United Airlines flight underscored the fact that customers who bring pets onboard may be putting their beloved animals at risk. A flight attendant insisted that a pooch spend a flight in the overhead compartment, rather than in front of the pet owner's seat, according to the Nytimes.com website. This is actually against United Airlines policy.

This story didn't have a happy ending. It was a worst-case scenario. Losing a pet is tragic and this shouldn't happen to anyone. When news of this incident spread, United Airlines' customer service failings got plenty of attention.

23 Endless Waits On The Tarmac Are Always A Possibility

Latimes.com

It's bad enough being stuck in a plane during a flight, especially in economy class. It's even worse to get trapped in the plane that's resting on the tarmac. There's not much to do on a parked airplane. Space is tight and tempers tend to get short. Patience erodes.

United Airlines received criticism when an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Canada led to a 16-hour wait for passengers. Trapped in a plane on the tarmac, passengers must have longed for the creature comforts of homes or hotels.

In another fiasco, on another flight, passengers traveling from San Francisco to Sydney had to sit on a plane on the tarmac for 7 hours, according to Nypost.com.

22 A 2010 Merger Caused Mistrust Between Staff And Management

Ibtimes.com

Corporate mergers are often hard on employees. They fear for their jobs and fear change in general. Sometimes, these fears are justified. According to Consumerist.com, the 2010 merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines was a rocky one. Many years after the merger, United's new CEO had to step in and publicly address the problems. The CEO's apology tour on behalf of United Airlines began in 2015 and it was long overdue.

Employees were described as "disenchanted" and the new CEO wanted to fix the problems. Judging by recent problems, employees still have issues with United. Customers also had issues with the airline after the merger.

21 Overbooking Policies Have Changed

Liveandletsfly.boardingarea.com

In the airline industry, overbooking is a hot-button topic. Customers who buy plane tickets dread the prospect of being pulled off of their flights as a result of overbooking practices. In 2017, United Airlines responded to fierce criticism of its overbooking policy by making some changes, according to TMZ.com.

It's important to understand that the overbooking policy wasn't eliminated, as some press about the situation seemed to imply. The policy was altered, so that crew couldn't remove passengers to accommodate United Airlines crew members, unless crew presence on flights was considered essential to airline operations.

It's still possible to get bumped from a flight, but it'll probably happen at the gate, rather than on the plane.

20 This Airline Gets Tons Of Complaints

Theodysseyonline.com

In the Internet Age, there's really no way for big companies like United to hide bad reviews from the world at large. Even when poor reviews are addressed and some of their negative impact is neutralized, new bad reviews may pop up like daisies.

United Airlines' PR team does prefer to focus on the positive. Most corporate PR teams do. Focusing on the positive is a good way to push the darker stuff into the shadows. The official United.com website focuses on promoting the benefits of a re-imagined app and a reward mile loyalty program, rather than addressing a 3/10 overall rating at Airlinequality.com.

19 Flight Attendants Are Often Short-staffed

Travelandleisure.com

In December of 2018, flight attendants employed by United Airlines started picketing outside of airports, to show their disapproval of proposed staffing cuts. According to Cnbc.com, flight attendants felt that planned staffing cuts would negatively impact customer service and safety.

The proposed change was about reducing the amount of United Airlines staff in each business class section of each plane, by a just 1 flight attendant, for international flights only. United Airlines staff who post at message boards often complain of short-staffing, so it's no surprise that the proposed change sparked a protest. It would make short-staffing problems even worse.

18 The Airline Stopped Offering Bonuses To Employees

CNBC.com

If you want to lower morale, be sure to stop offering bonuses to your employees. It will work like a charm. United Airlines went this questionable route to boost its bottom line, and employees were as enthusiastic about having the possibility of receiving bonuses taken away from them as you might expect.

According to Bizjournals.com, employees of the airline were "shocked" when the existing bonus system was replaced by a new, lottery-style system. Employees freaked out. Apparently, the concept of needing to be lucky enough to win a prize in a quarterly lottery wasn't too appealing. United shelved the lottery plan due to negative feedback.

17 Passengers May Be Dragged Off Of Flights

Spokesman.com

We already touched on the changes to overbooking policies. They were implemented because one passenger was dragged off of a United Airlines flight. He didn't want to get off the plane. He was injured during his battle with security officers who wished to remove him from the flight that he paid to be on, according to CNN.com.

Obviously, this famous incident greatly harmed the reputation of the airline, and triggered a lot of media exploration into the whole overbooking issue, at United and at other airlines. When the passenger refused to give up his seat in this April 2017 incident, law enforcement had to be called in to help remove him from the plane. Friendly skies, indeed!

16 This Airline Doesn’t Make The Top Ten List For Safety

Popularmechanics.com

Finnair grabs the top spot for 2019 in terms of safety, according to Jacdec.de. United Airlines isn't even in the top 10. To compete with the safest airlines (other top ten airlines include Air Europa and Emirates), United Airlines will need to make some changes. Some of the worst incidents with this airline were the result of the hijacking of United Airlines aircraft on 9/11.

The link between the airline and 9/11 may, sadly, be one reason why some people don't feel one hundred percent safe on United Airlines planes. Turbulence issues, blown-out cargo doors and uncontained engine failures have also caused problems.

15 If You're Really Ill, The Flight May Continue

Heavy.com

Pilots are the ones who make decisions about whether or not to press on or turn back if passengers experience health problems. To be fair, these decisions are sometimes very difficult to make. A pilot needs to assess the well-being of the passenger and weigh that against the needs of all other passengers onboard, as well as an array of safety and logistical factors.

In 2006, a United Airlines pilot decided not to turn a flight around when a passenger had health issues, according to Newsweek.com. If you run into health issues during your flight, your pilot will need to decide what to do.

14 A Child Had To Fly On Mom’s Lap

Cbsnews.com

In summer of 2017, a mother had no alternative but to hold her two-year old on her lap during a United Airlines flight, according to Usatoday.com. She had paid a thousand dollars for her child's seat, but the airline sold the seat twice. The mother bought her son's ticket first. Then, the airline resold the same seat to a standby passenger.

Rather than fixing the mistake in favor of the woman and her son, United Airlines had the woman hold her child on her lap during the flight. It was not a comfortable flight for mother or child and mom wasn't too thrilled with the way that United handled her issue.

13 Pets May Need To Endure Long Containment Periods

Post-gazette.com

If you're planning to fly with your pet on a United Airlines plane, be sure that you understand the airline's pet cargo regulations carefully. Educate yourself so you'll be able to make wise and informed decisions. Be aware that some pets may need to endure long containment periods.

Caring and responsible pet owners need to know that a USAtoday.com article from 2017 stated that one-third of the worst-case scenario outcomes for pets on planes over the previous five years were on United Airlines flights.

While the airline is trying to make positive changes, the record is troubling. It's something to consider before you make a final decision about which airline to book with.

12 Mechanical Problems Are An Issue

Chron.com

Of course, all airlines need to deal with mechanical problems. In fact, a lot of airlines have a lot of the same problems that United Airlines has. We're not trying to single out this airline for criticism, but to present facts about why this particular airline tends to get more negative publicity than most.

According to Bloomberg.com, a United Airlines Airbus A320 with a crew of 5 and 79 passengers experienced engine failure after departing from Southwest Florida International Airport in 2018. The jet needed to turn around and head back to the airport. The flight had been bound for Newark, New Jersey.

11 Emergency Landings Are A Risk

Denver.cbslocal.com

With air travel, there is always the risk of problems, including emergency landings. United Airlines has developed a reputation as an airline where these types of landings are sometimes needed. That's one reason why United Airlines isn't at the top of the leaderboard, safety-wise.

During the winter holiday season in 2018, a mechanical issue on a United Airlines flight meant an emergency landing in San Francisco, according to USAtoday.com. There was also that Goose Bay emergency landing we discussed earlier, which has led to a lawsuit. Bad press about emergency landings does tend to add up and make people wary of airlines.

10 Software And Hardware Systems Go On The Blink

PBS.org

In 2012, thousands of travelers were delayed because of computer outages within United Airlines networks. The airline had to deal with grumpy customers during a time when it was trying to bounce back from negative commentary over similar glitches in previous months.

The 2012 outage caused two -hour delays on flights all over the world, according to Rutlandherald.com. Stranded travelers got snarky by posting about their frustration with the airline on their personal social media accounts. In 2012, the airline had a trio of significant problems with their software and hardware. Customers were in disbelief that total system failures like this could actually happen.

9 Late-arriving Flights Frustrate Customers

Videoblocks.com

United Airlines doesn't have the best rep in terms of getting flights in on time. There are plenty of complaints about flight delays, baggage delays and all of the rest of it at Consumeraffairs.com.

It's true that most airlines get this kind of heat online. It's not exclusive to United Airlines. However, on top of the bad publicity over emergency landings, mechanical problems and bad customer service, it does tend to have a negative impact. This airline has had a lot of problems. It's not really a beloved airline at this point in time. Maybe it will become more appreciated in the future.

8 The New iSolve Program May Not Solve Everything

Skift.com

The United Airlines iSolve system will be launched soon. It's designed to give flight attendants the power to offer air miles to customers who are being inconvenienced in some way, according to Texasmonthly.com. The implementation of this system means that customers may, in theory, access miles while they are still in the air.

This system sounds great. Unfortunately, it's probably not going to solve everything. There will be rules and flight attendants will need to be judicious in terms of how they hand out miles and use the complete iSolve interface. The system sound promising, but may not be a cure-all for PR problems.

7 Their Stock Plummeted In 2017

Fortune.com

After a customer was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight in 2017, a lot of people unloaded their shares. They didn't want to hold stock in United Airlines. The fallout from the situation was severe from a financial standpoint, as well as a public relations standpoint. Shortly after the incident, the airline lost 255 million of its market cap, according to Marketwatch.com.

Last year, the airline rebounded a bit, but it's basically still a work in progress. United doesn't want you to know that Delta's still beating them, in terms of dollars and cents, but United is really trying to catch up.

6 Getting Flight Upgrades Isn’t Always Easy

Businessinsider.com

Customers have complained about the fact that it's hard to get flight upgrades via United Airlines. If you're a serviceman or servicewoman, wearing your military uniform to the airport may help you to get a free upgrade that makes for a more comfortable flight. Otherwise, your best bet is to become a member of the airline's Mileage Plus program, according to USAtoday.com.

Using a credit card that is affiliated with the airline may also put you in line for rewards that you may apply towards free flight upgrades. Naturally, there are tons of rules and regulations. Read the fine print to understand your rights.

5 Air Vents On Flights May Need Deep Cleaning

Travelwireasia.com

United Airlines and other major airlines don't necessarily want their customers to know that air quality may not be optimal on their flights, due to dirty air vents and other issues. Tray tables and seatbelt buckles are also parts of airplane cabins that tend to be very dirty.

People are known to get sick when they fly frequently. This isn't always due to dirt in the cabin, though, or dirt in the air. It's a humidity issue. Humidity on planes is ten percent lower than humidity in homes, according to Time.com, and the added dryness sets the stage for illness.

4 Some Planes Are Getting Old

Airlinereporter.com

Planes cost a bundle and some of them continue to be used even when they are getting on in years. Of course, they are maintained by mechanics. They are inspected by engineers. Nonetheless, they are not brand-new vessels.

The good news is that United Airlines announced an upgrade to its planes during 2016, according to Hub.united.com. The airline made plans to buy twenty-five 737-700 airplanes from Boeing. The new planes began to be delivered during the close of 2017. If you want the most modern amenities when you fly, and feel safer in new planes, do some research and choose flights on newer United Airlines planes.

3 Your Plane Ticket Is A Contract

Denverpost.com

Did you know that a ticket from United Airlines is actually a contract? A lot of people assume than plane tickets are not contracts, but that's just not the case. Airlines, including United, try to keep this important fact hush-hush.

To find out your rights, go to major airline websites and punch "contract of carriage" into their internal search engines. When you do, you'll have plenty of fine print to wade though, which will alert you to your own responsibilities, as well as the responsibilities of the airline. Contracts of carriage include important facts, such as how the airline will deal with lost baggage issues.

2 The Food Is Mediocre

Hejorama.com

Airplane food is not usually the best. Most people, including me, definitely manage their expectations when it comes to airplane food. They expect little so they aren't disappointed. Like most airlines, United Airlines gets some shade for its plane food. There are Tripadvisor.com reviews of this airline's food which are not positive.

You can bring your own food onboard if you want to, as long as you follow the airline's rules. As a general rule, I try to avoid meat on flights, as I find it's the weakest link in the plane food chain. But vegetarian meals tend to get snapped up fast, and I never remember to order them in advance.

1 You May Be Denied An Exit Row Seat

Nbcnews.com

One passenger with Down's Syndrome was denied boarding involuntarily, according to Inclusionevolution.com. A flight crew at United Airlines decided that an Eagle Scout named Sean Cross would not be allowed to occupy an exit row seat on a flight that he had a valid ticket for. The reason was because he has Down's Syndrome. Sean was with his family and his family fought for his rights. The resulting argument led other passengers to yell at Sean and his family.

Not a nice situation! Sean lost his exit row seat because the airline flight crew felt that he might not be able to assist in the event of an evacuation.

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