If United Airlines wants to be, as Jeff Smisek puts it, “World’s leading airline,” treating international first class passengers like they are flying in steerage (or worse) is not going to cut it.
This recent account posted on Flyertalk of an experience in United First from Washington Dulles to London nicely illustrates my point (if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, I’ve highlighted the key parts):
It started when I boarded and opened the mini-bin above my seat. It had one very small bag in it–the size of small woman’s handbag. An FA immediately came over and shut the bin and told me I could use any other bin than that. She then walked away–having had enough time to close the bin but not enough time to take my coat whilst she was there. If you’re going to make personal crew use of a bin, why not take one from over the crew rest? This FA accessed this bin and grabbed the small bag once after take-off and one other time before landing.
PDBs were served immediately upon boarding, the usual 45 minutes before take-off. There were no refills offered and nobody came through and cleared out the used service items. Then we have a ground hold while a mechanic comes on board. Instead of offering refills to FC pax or clearing the service items, both FA’s took their seats and pulled out reading material. Only when the mechanic left and we were getting ready to push back–now over an hour since we boarded–did they come through and clean-up. They did, however, miss me; I handed over my plastic cup when they came through later with nuts.
Meal service was efficient and accurate. No complaints. They weren’t mean but they certainly weren’t friendly or smiling.
With my sundae, I typically hold it in my hand and put away my tray table whilst watching my movie. Same thing last night. As is often the case, I fell asleep, since it was now after midnight.
When the captain made his “good morning” announcement and we were 40 minutes out from landing, I woke up to find my half-consumed port, linens, flatware and sundae bowl from the dinner service still with me at my seat. Noticing I was awake, I was asked if I wanted breakfast. I asked for a diet coke with lemon. When my diet coke with lime arrived, the FA realized she had nowhere to put it due to my dinner dishes. She cleared those away without so much as a comment, apology or acknowledgment.
The whole experience only served to remind me why, when I get to buy a FC ticket instead of use a SWU, I don’t bother with UA. I’ve been a 1K for over a decade and this was truly a new low.
United–please don’t dismiss this account. Please understand that I hear stories like this all time. Understand that when I flew in United First from Washington to Frankfurt I also experienced subpar and unprofessional service.
The sad thing is United can be amazing–simply amazing (like on my flight with Terrence from Dulles to Las Vegas), but they are consistently inconsistent and that is why people have a negative connotation of United Airlines and why it is difficult to justify purchasing a first class ticket.
Take the anecdote above. Clearing aways dishes and leaving the overhead space for passengers are such simple, elementary things. There is no excuse for slip-ups, especially as so many of UA’s FAs have been on the job 20 years or more. No matter how slick the seat or IFE is (and I do like UA’s seat and IFE), people will not pay for first class when they they are treated more like an annoyance than a valued guest.
Is anyone willing to defend this type of poor service?