Soon United Will End Service And Require Passengers To Put Away Laptops Earlier

United Airlines will require cabins to be prepared for landing earlier in order to protect cabin crew from injuries. Starting December 1, flight attendants will have to be belted at their jumpseats, prepared for landing, at around 10,000 feet when the double chime sounds.

An internal memo shared shared by Live And Let’s Fly explains the move,

This new standard operating procedure (SOP) was developed by the collaborative hard work of multiple departments, including Inflight, Flight Operations, AFA, ALPA, Corporate Safety and was approved by the highest levels of United leadership. United conducted Line Operations Safety Assessments (LOSA) with the help of AFA and ALPA. This included pilots observing turbulence SOPs in the flight deck and flight attendants in the forward and aft cabins. These observation narratives and other data were analyzed to help create our new SOP.

At lower flight altitudes, the pilots are conducting approach maneuvers and aircraft sensor data has shown an elevated risk for turbulence. Flight attendants have sustained significant injuries in the final approach phase of flight, and data indicates a higher risk when they are not buckled in at this point. Simply put, it’s not safe to be up. The goal of this new procedure is to reduce flight attendant low altitude injuries.

This change requires final passthroughs of the cabin earlier. The final “please prepare for landing announcement” will come prior to United aircraft descending to 10,000 feet so that crew can finish their duties and be seated by the time the plane hits 10,000. For customers this means,

  • cabin service will end earlier
  • beverages will be collected earlier
  • seats will have to be placed in their upright and locked position earlier
  • carry on bags and personal items will have to be stowed earlier

For awhile I used a convertible notebook instead of my more traditional ultraportable laptop. I don’t care about using a tablet most of the time. The only reason I liked my Lenovo Yoga was so that I could move into tablet mode during takeoff and landing when you’re supposed to have laptops stowed.

I frequently want to eke out every last minute of productivity from my flights. Even though the size was probably larger than it should have been to continue use, when converted into a tablet that’s the mental bucket crewmembers always put it in and none ever asked me to put it away.

I’ve been back to a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon, and while noting that not all crew enforce laptops away, I always put it away when asked to do so and then just switch to my phone. I don’t like the idea of putting the laptop away earlier than necessary. Here it won’t be for landing as much as ‘earlier so that flight attendants see it’s away before they themselves sit down’. Notably, other carriers do not see a similar safety issue.

I especially don’t like the idea of putting my laptop away earlier on a United flight, because those are my least productive flights. Internet on United is generally worse than on Delta, JetBlue, American, Alaska – and even Southwest.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Brian – the one in a million time they do that, yawn. They’re in flight waitresses, plain and simple. Shut up. The level of “medical training” they have is a three-day course at most.

  2. @ Alex Gill

    You have misapprehended the American character until now.

    Americans have long taken pleasure in the misfortunes of others, and in fomenting those misfortunes. Mark Twain called it The United States of Lyncherdom. Physical lynching is now illegal, but a glance at online discussions shows the glee Americans take not merely in disagreement but in disembowelment. Americans are the least kind people on the globe and have the world’s highest incarceration rate to prove it.

  3. It amazes me that people cannot sit quietly for 30 minutes while the metal tube that is 10,000 feet in the air is brought safely to the ground. Just think pleasant thoughts, or practice mindfulness, or count your blessings, or snooze a bit. Surely we collectively can go without writing down what we are working on or drinking a soda for that brief amount of time?

  4. Bravo, United! I am a retired United flight attendant. If this policy had been in place 10 years ago, I would not have been injured, resulting in eventually having to retire 5 years ago. In flight waitresses? Hardly!

  5. To those of you that think your FA is only a “Waitress in the sky”
    The next time you need oxygen or an AED…..
    I’ll make sure to bring you a Coke!

    Signed .. a 20 year Flight Attendant!

  6. Yes, it’s about all of you and nobody else. The same conditions that are unsafe for you are unsafe for the crew members. As for the author who doesn’t like having to put his device away when it’s really not necessary, it is necessary for those other than yourself. For those making offensive remarks regarding the flight attendants, why don’t you try saying it to their face. Then let us know by what mode of transportation you reached your destination.

  7. Safety first everyone else comes second . Too much whining and privileged people these days . Common courtesy is a total joke and it’s all about me and my bubble . These people are a waste of oxygen eaters !

  8. Seems like there is a clear consensus on this this site for support of airlines implementing policies supporting safety of crew members serving passengers. Even if FAs must expedite final cabin service, and, if necessary, skip hot towel service in first class. God Forbid.

  9. Wow. I saw the first few paragraphs and thought this would be an article commending UA for doing the worst thing. Instead, you call them out and make first world complaints about productivity. An airplane isn’t your office in the sky!

    Also, welcome to the 21st century, where your smartphone — you know, that thing you can keep out all flight — can do almost anything your laptop can. It can certainly write better commentary than the drivel you put at the end of this article!

  10. No wonder so many Americans are stressed out. Take those extra minutes to relax and freshen your mind for the day. What did the people who can’t turn their devices off do before they had any?

  11. You’re such an anti-union Boomer. Your generation really needs to die out already. Our Country would be much safer with a higher life expectancy. This is exactly what Delta does and I never hear you complain about that? Gtfo with your Boomer entitled articles. Go fly a private jet if you want to do what you want, when you want, loser.

  12. Sam – thank you for proving that you entitled little children are actually the problem. Get back to us when you pay the taxes we do or make the contributions we do.

    Oh, and pay your student loans back deadbeat.

  13. I thought you were complaining about something that was terrible. You complained about something that could save your life. Not everyone wants to live unsafe. You should mind your own business and let everyone enjoy safe travels.

  14. @Sam
    Union membership has declined in virtually all developed countries since the 1950s, and they survive in the US mostly for government employees because politicians spend other people’s money. It’s not even a partisan issue. The GOP had a chance to create private airport security after 9/11 but chose to create a huge new bureaucracy which became unionized. About half of government workers are unionized.

    Only 6% of non-government US workers are in unions, and workers are no longer are forced to pay dues to unions they don’t want to join. It’s no boomers who are less likely to like unions. Younger workers aren’t drawn to the corruption and regimentation of unionization. Mostly unions just transfer money from other Americans to union members. That’s so easy to do when the transfer is done by taxes. Unions continue to make America less competitive in sectors where they are strong. But overall, private sector union membership continues to decline due to worker preference. Boomers are mostly retired and don’t participate in union membership elections.

  15. This reply is for Walter and all the idiots who think flight attendants are only sky waiters.

    Me sincerely hope you will experience a medical condition while you’re flying and your “sky waiter” won’t save your life because the world doesn’t need another ignorant bitch like you.

    Now you STFU and put ur laptop away before i shove it so far up ur loose gaped ass!

    Once again thank you for choosing United airlines.

  16. Dike – you’re an illiterate twerp. I doubt you have the training to put a band-aid on. You certainly don’t have the training to take me on. Now go get me another drink and a sandwich, waitress.

  17. People don’t listen or follow directions anyway… everyone feels entitled! Most flights anymore people are pounding on their laptops as the plane is landing, so once again no one cares about anyone but themselves, and it’s disgusting. And for those of you who disrespect the FA were you raised in a barn. Shame on you. Every time I board a flight and see what they have to put up with I appreciate the fact I don’t have to do what they do as it’s a tough thankless job.

  18. Awwww you have to put your laptop away earlier? Awwww no more Apple juice in your wittle sippy cup before landing??? Awwwww sorry it makes you upset!!!! Don’t cry wittle gwown up baby!!!!!

  19. I find it interesting that so many people are commenting that “oooh this is not a big deal” putting your laptop away 10 to 15 minutes earlier. I’m not stressed about ending service early, or the flight attendant needing to sit down. Whatever is necessary for their safety is fine with me. But the majority of people who fly frequently do so for work. I have flown over 70 flights this year on United and have been a loyal 1K. Many of those flights are shorter than 1.5 hours and one of the benefits of flying a short route is that you can focus entirely on work for a bit of time. Being able to work in an uber to the airport, and on the airplane is a huge benefit for me, and would certainly be less of a benefit if I need to continue to put my laptop away earlier.

    I doubt many of the people who are making fun of those for needing to put their laptop away early are flying often or in business class often. Planes are very much an office in the sky for people who fly frequently. Why not relax the laptop rule, and keep wi-fi on below 10,000 feet?

  20. After 9/11 the double chime went to 18k. Remember? It wasn’t changed back for a long time. As someone who gets up to start working at the 10k mark, while we are still climbing, I’ll just have to do the opposite for landing. So many other things to worry about.

  21. It’s the entitlement for me. Screw the flight attendants safety so I can finish up a report on my laptop. Also, can I have a cup of water while FAs are doing safety checks and boarding or use the restroom right before takeoff? There’s this thing called being proactive and possibly getting things done the hour or the time before boarding a plane. FAs can only do so much when there’s 4 people providing service to 175+ while being in compliance with FAA mandated rules. So no it’s not being lazy but rather keeping everyones safety in mind including their own.

  22. I think you’ve got it wrong, Gary. United flight attendants are not happy about this change, and it has nothing to do with level of service. Flight attendants do not like being banished to their jumpseats any earlier than necessary. They would rather be in the galley, putting away their belongings, or grabbing a quick bite to eat after the last service. This change is actually a cost cutting move on behalf of United. With this new change, United will no longer be responsible for paying worker’s comp for OJI’s that occur below 10,000ft, if flight attendants aren’t strapped in their jumpseats. The flight attendants will now be at their own risk during this phase of flight. Instead of jumping to conclusions that this is a lazy union rule, it’s necessary to consider other factors. Trust me, flight attendants don’t want to sit down at 10,000ft. And that’s even more true on aircraft with jumpseats that are passenger facing. This is United’s cheap way to save a buck, by avoiding any injury claims that occur during descent.

  23. @Jeremy

    So you sneer at United for reducing injuries because injuries also cost the company money, The net of your comment is that it makes United management seem wise for doing what’s best for crew and stockholders. Do you also object to mandatory hard hats at construction sites because some workers like risk? No doubt construction companies save money by reducing bashed heads.

  24. For Walter and all of the others who try to hurl insults by calling the crew waitresses, and other derogatory comments. Funny how you think that is an insult. A waitress—as well as other service providers, is a legitimate profession, and without them you would be left to serve yourself. Restaurant workers, airline staff, dry cleaners, grocery clerks and others who coddle you in your privileged life are exactly what is required to enjoy your privilege and money. Your ugly disposition says more about your lack of knowledge about how the world works, than it does about the people you disparage. I guess your parents had zero class also, as they didn’t teach you this from a young age. Don’t mistake the people who serve you food, and other services are powerless. Even at the finest steak houses a steak occasionally hits the floor. I certainly hope they wouldn’t employ the 3 second rule to someone as charming as yourself.

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