There’s a new New Yorker article that’s getting lots of play, “Why I Left United Airlines”
Most of the complaints in the piece are complaints about the airline industry generally which are then used as a general indictment of mergers.
And while I think that mergers generally fail to deliver on their promises to shareholders or customers, I’m not sure that United-Continental alone proves that and throwing in mergers in other industries anecdotally in a short piece serves to make the case either.
For the most part, how you feel about the article will track your general mood affiliation with United and with airlines writ large.
Nonetheless, this is a claim that I do believe:
The United merger is a grand example of a consumer sinkhole—a merger that proves to be not just a onetime event but an ongoing disaster for consumers (and shareholders) who suffer for years after. I wasn’t the only one who noticed the airline’s descent. Since 2011, United has piled up a mountain of consumer complaints (according to one report, only Spirit has more per passenger) and has repeatedly tallied some of the worst quality rankings in the nation, trailing even discount airlines like Frontier and AirTran.
Is there anyone who still flies United that do anything other than roll their eyes at this?
I believe that both United and Continental are worse airline operations, and less enjoyable to fly than they were before the two carriers were integrated.
What I don’t know is the counterfactual, what either one would be like today if the merger hadn’t proceeded. I’d guess that United might have merged with US Airways. United’s Glenn Tilton was finally open to leaving, the stumbling block in past merger discussions with US Airways was that Doug Parker wasn’t going to get to run the combined entity. I’m not sure that would have been better for United.. although it’s an interesting thought experiment because it’s hard to imagine American and Continental as merger partners.