Things You May Not Have Known About United Airlines

Christopher Elliott visits United and files an interesting report.

  • The number of elite passengers on a flight factors into the flight’s priority during weather and air traffic delays. (I believe that generally the number of connections, and whether connecting passengers can be re-accomodated, takes on a greater importance.)
  • The flat tire rule still exists, if you miss your flight but show up at the airport within two hours of your scheduled departure, you can stand by for the next flight at no charge. No guarantees you’ll get on to that next flight, but there’s no charge to be re-accomodated if you can. Of course it might still be worth making a same-day confirmed change before missing your flight.
  • United keeps Economy Plus because it’s profitable. Unsurprising, but has been interesting to watch the evolution. When Economy Plus was introduced, airline partner elite members got access to the seating for free. Then they took it away even from full fare paying passengers. Combined with one-class planes operated by TED such as Washington Dulles – Las Vegas, you had surreal situations such as full fare first class London – Washington Dulles passengers being asked to ‘buy up’ to economy plus for their DC – Vegas segment.
  • Dehydration affects taste buds more than altitude, but since different people drink different amounts of liquids onboard catering can’t fully adjust. And they don’t test how meals taste inflight before introducing them.
  • United claims telephone hold times, which were truly awful after the March 3 reservations system cutover, have settled down:

    Super-elites phoning United have their calls answered within 10 seconds. Elites wait about 45 seconds. Regular travelers? About 80 percent of the time, their calls are answered within two minutes.

Read the whole thing.

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. The is a BJ and I am shocked it’s being reprinted here so uncritically. One wonders why the real facts about United aren’t being more widely reported and reprinted. Here’s what the Tactical Traveler column at said on Friday:

    This shouldn’t surprise business travelers: United Airlines continues to deteriorate. Its July operational numbers are even worse than during June, which an internal memo called “challenging” and which outlined to an alleged series of quick fixes.

    The changes aren’t working: More than one in three mainline United flights in July ran late. The worst-in-the-nation airline ran up an on-time rating of just 65.7 percent. That’s nearly 15 points below Delta Air Lines, the best-performing legacy carrier. It’s also ten points below American Airlines.

    United also cancelled nearly 1,200 flights in July, three times the number dumped by Delta and more than double the cancel rate at American. United’s 20,000 delays in July are nearly double the rate run up by American and a third higher than Delta.

  2. I find it difficult to pay too much attention to anything Chris Elliott say. The tone of his piece resembles something out of the UA PR department.

    “But Maria Walter, the airline’s director of merchandising and revenue optimization, says she and others at United begged for a reprieve. What if she should upsell other economy class passengers into Economy Plus? Would they consider saving it?” The tone of his article seems to indicate that E+ was on the chopping block right before the merger. Hasn’t UA been selling E+ seats to non-elites for many, many years? I can remember them doing this since at least 2004. Or is there something I’m missing??

  3. I wonder what the GG code is for the flat tire rule?

    Also, TED is dead. Let TED rest in peace, cuddling next to the tulip. RAR.

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