Monday, November 13, 2006

United Airlines, Like American, Is Lousy

My trip to London on United Airlines Business Class, at a discount fare of $2,995 round trip was worth the money only if you wanted to sleep most of the way.

The only thing worth it on the trip was the seat, which reclined backward into a seat which made sleeping very comfortable, and was, of course, wider than a coach seat.

But the United check in in both Los Angeles and London was highly confused and disorganized, the food was mediocre, about what you would have gotten in coach a few years ago, and the stewardesses often surly.

United's "fruit and cheese" plate for a snack after eight hours without food, was the kind of thing you might have expected would be fed prisoners at a maximum-security facility.

When I asked a stewardess for a glass of water, she protested, "When you got on board, you told me you didn't want anything."

And when I asked for assistance in getting the seat back to an upright position, another stewardess cracked, "I won't break my back to help you."

It could well be that round after round of salary decreases have made the stewardesses very bitter and not at all desirous to give good service. In any cases, United has outsourced its service. The stewardesses aboard our flight were all British, and, judging from their Cockney accents, lower class British at that. Even the pilot for that matter had an English accent. A fellow-passenger remarked that, after all, the stewardesses had thankless jobs. But these jobs weren't so thankless when they were paid adequately.

I was also quite astonished, when I returned, to read a Jennifer Oldham article in the L.A. Times about how well Lydia Kennard was doing running Los Angeles International Airport.

In fact, the airport's crowdedness, slowness and overall dysfunction seems to have increased. With the United flight 935 on Sunday, it was the same as with American coming back from Boston on Oct. 18. We arrived early, but no gate was open, and by the time the airplane was at the gate, it was late. It wasn't as late on United, but still...A well run airport would avoid such hangups.

Before Oldham writes her next article on how well LAX is doing, I suggest she take a flight or two through the airport.

London's Heathrow Airport, by the way, does not have quite as stringent security checks as Los Angeles. In London, they never examined the soles of my feet, let my wallet and watch go through without comment, and gave me only a cursory pat-down. (I have a defibrillator now, so I'm always patted down). I thought this a little strange given the fact that just the day before the director of the British intelligence agency, MI-5, said there were 1,600 terrorists operating INSIDE Britain, but perhaps the British do practice ethnic profiling and only really give the Arabs a close screening.

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