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United CEO and Longtime Director Says Board Missed Signs of Airline’s Decline

CEO of United offers insight to airline's issues since its merger in 2010. ( More...

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Seth Riklin 4
I also used to fly Continental all the time time from IAH. United's investment bankers nickeled and dimed the airline and service to death. I have friends who are pilots for UAL, and have heard the stories first hand about how horribly UAL has treated it's employees, all to drop a few more pennies to the bottom line. I now fly exclusively SWA domestically. It is the only airline where I get the feeling that almost all of the employees are happy to be there. I will take an unassigned seat with a happy flight crew over an assigned seat with a rude and unhappy flight crew any day.
hou1crj 9
No shit! I use to fly Continental about 90% of the time and could go non-stop to most cities from Houston. Then they bought, aka merged with United, and moved the headquarters to Chicago, which wasn’t a good move, as higher cost of living and crime, but then again, I believe Continental was the company bailing out United.

Now, booking a flight from Houston, United doesn’t even come up on my radar. Their non-stop flights are usually $100-$200 higher than the rest of the airlines, if it not already booked up, since using a smaller plane. I couldn't even book a same plane 1 stop or non-stop to Anchorage last year, which was a staple in the past, depending on what time of the year, for the non-stop.

Another pisser is that United removed their non-stop Houston to Paris, and now we get saddle using Dulles, Chicago, or Newark, as a connection to Europe. Oh I can fly to London, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt non-stop, but not Paris.... but even those flights are higher price than other airlines. Kicker here is now to Europe, I might need to stop twice, if not going to one of the cities I mentioned before. Yes, I know there is code sharing; however, I just book directly with those airlines, to get a nice 1 stop connection.

So now I am taking Southwest airlines and AA (US Airways) out of Houston, which US Airways has helped out AA, as far as product, which usually I look to go through old US Airways hubs like CLT or PHX, and avoid DFW at all cost. Also, I am taking Turkish airlines to Budapest this year, business class, 1 stop for way cheaper I could with United.

In the end, since the merger, they managed to drive a customer who used them about 90% of the time, to use them twice in the last 5 years. Oh by the way, the United staff are far more rude, compared to the helpful Continental staff and the new website for bookings now sucks, which is reason I took Southwest last week to New Orleans!
Ric Wernicke 5
United fell apart long before the merger with Continental. The sharp pencil boys (accountants) destroyed the service a nickle and dime at a time. They eliminated items like the button hole in the dinner napkins, priority bags (they had the tags, just no service), and no ground staff after you left the gate.

When they bought the Pacific service from Pan Am they reached the apex of passenger treatment with Royal Pacific Service, but allowed the business model to sink below that of an intercity bus line.

After 9-11 the situation at United went from bad to worse. Passengers dropped from client, to customer, to adversary status, and was treated as such by staff. One could receive more cordial service at the DMV.

In these times there is a cat and mouse game going on with fares, misdirecting websites, and no where to find concise rules and lowest fare classes. The fees are also problematic. Everyone has different bag policies, boarding marching instructions, and food that runs from silly to stupid as far as value goes. Even the First Class food is less appealing than the "chicken or beef" economy offerings of the 60's and 70's.

Oscar should take a few flights on Emirates or Singapore in economy and mandate staff to emulate it on every United and United branded flight. United First can be fixed later.
rdlink 2
Pretty much what I was going to say. I got tired of being treated like a piece of meat as a Premier Executive, and walked away from UA about the time of the merger. Been using SWA domestically since, and couldn't be happier.

On SWA we all agree we're on a bus in the sky, and everyone, including the flight crew has a good attitude. Cheaper, more efficient, cleaner airplanes. And nobody promises something they can't, or are not willing to deliver.
josh homer 3
DFW resident here. Southwest is the worst option. Just priced DFW-MCO for September. $240 with AA, $450 with Southwest. Plus, I like seat assignments. I do hear the complaint you have with United often. Continental was a GREAT airline. It sucks United dragged them down.
glen krc 2
As for SWA vs AA, I guess it depends on your particular circumstances. I just checked DAL-MCO for mid-September and found some nonstops at $84 each way (and some $84-$104 on Fridays and weekends). And that includes 2 bags. In my experience, if you're reasonably attentive to checking in 24 hrs in advance, you're likely to see the plane less than half full when you board. And for an extra $15 each way, you're pretty much guaranteed a prime seat.
Air France non stop IAH-CDG :)
honza nl 1
Turkish Airlines? Those who celebrated as a hero the flight crew who flew a 737 into the ground here at Amsterdam Airport; simply because they thought it was not necessary to look at any instrument.....
Darin Lee 1
Couldn't have said it better myself. Worst merger in aviation history. 1K Int'l Biz flyer now barely making silver. All due to my departure from this pathetic airline. Turkish to Europe and Ana to Asia all from Houston. And almost always for 30-40% less than UA.
Agree. I can't stand United !!
n9341c -1
Those SOBs removing your personal non stop flight from IAH to CDG! Didn't they contact you first? And you couldn't get a booking on their other flights? They MUST be doing something wrong if their planes are so full. BTW, if you use a codesharing flight, you'd get the same flight you'll be taking anyway "by booking directly with those airlines". ONLY YOU WOULDN"T GET THE MILES, dumbsh**, but hey, you sound like a really experienced traveler so you must know what you are doing.

Oh and good luck with Turkish. Renowned service! Say hi to the Muslim Brotherhood when you make your connection in ESB or IST on your way to BUD. I hear they love Americans over there
hou1crj 2
Oh btw, I still get United miles on Turkish airline when booking direct with them. United just don't get the revenue. If United improve their service, then they might get my money again. Until then, SWA and AA will get my money with occasional jet blue, frontier, and delta... And maybe even spirit.

I vote with my money and support American companies 99% of the time.

I am so sorry to hear you live in fear of Muslims. They will not stop me from living life.
bruce forbes -5
Your an idiot!
srobak 5
"you're" an idiot, idiot. :)
Mike Elrod 2
Us old guys remember when Piedmont/Allegany (others) merged. The spin was Piedmont would bring up the quality of the others. How'd that work?
I remember well. I used to fly Allegany all of the time between D.C. and Bradford. Yes, that merger didn't go well at all.
ken young 1
When Piedmont obtained gates at KEWR, I tried them for the first time. Fare was reasonable. The service on the flight to KCLT was fantastic....I was sold. Never took any other carrier on that route again. Then they were gobbled up in a merger. The air came out of the balloon....
Many of the regional carriers prided themselves on good customer service, point to point routes and reasonable fares. The good old days.
Now the big dopey clumsy carriers are little more than cattle cars with turbine engines.
The only thing that matters to the big airlines now is the value of the stock
Until UAL gives ALL employees customer service training they will never compete. So sad for the once our number one airline.
DaveRK 2
Living near Cleveland and Continental having CLE as a hub was great. I travelled 3 weeks out of the month on business from 1992 to 2001 and could get anywhere. Being Gold or Platinum didn't hurt.

Seriously did any frequent flyer see the United-Continental merger as a good thing?

Since I no longer travel for business, I only go between CLE and MCO or RSW. Whatever airline has the lowest fare, gets my business.
jeff slack 2
I was a Platinum flyer with Continental. I am not even Bronze now.
I go out of my way to avoid United.

Possibly the worst merger ever has created the worst airline ever.
Mike Elrod 0
I was also Platinum with CO. Now 1K with United. With CO a global upgrade coupon was just that, a get out of jail free. With United it is only waitlist and I am always #1 that just barley misses the cut. If you have a reward for your "loyalty" then give it to me. Or don't. This lottery system makes me feel like a beggar.
Dwight Albers 1
I've been saying this since the early years of the merger. Where is the BOD? Glad to see it acknowledged from the top and know I was not clueless when I've made this claim for years!
Amano Naomi 0
I have same feeling. Especially, recent moves: A) Cut out JFK from served airport. To New London or such eastern NYC working locations, Armonk-NY, New Haven-CT, Danbury-CT, etc. Reason I was told is JFK is NON Profitable. B) EWR concentration: NJ high-way system is very hard to drive, and airport are mess. As rent-a-car user on ground, EWR is last airport, I use. So lately last 14 chance I used only 2 trips w United. These 2, I try to check what I feel is still true or not. And still dangerous driving way use NJ side high-way. UA do not think passenger's choice & safety on airport access on ground. C9 Lately they changed mileage counting system, more link to paid air fare. This will be the killer to UA. They pulled last line of code.
Most are I suspect x-CO side executives, because UA side exec are more on employee's benefit protecting after merged. So, understand why x-CO side drove company's new plan. But they are not international in sense. Plus another typical problem is Airport Authority officaial and xCEO had under table deal, for seeking UA side requests pass thru EWR use. This was reason x-CEO was moved out.
Too many passneger NOT first thinkings and acts were in place, now.
This will be interesting to see how much passenger could influence to airlines as new historical business case.
BTW, lately I was on EWR-SFO flight, they passed can box, with amenity kits. These way to use money does not help. More onto better equipments: like 787, fundamental competitiveness improve area, they should use money.
Anyway, I will stay w them, to see couple years more. But my subordinates are almost all, business class flyer, are gone. They started use AA because JFK AA has larger flight choice.
UA/CO merge was bad combination is so far true. Sad seeing these everyday.
Alan Raymond 0
I've wondered whether or not the Obama connection with Chicago may have influenced the decision to make United the controlling interest in the "merger". Continental was so much better. I'm 1K & million miler and seldom get the complementary upgrade.


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