Another Day, Another Bad Experience. Yup, I’m Flying United

by Anthony Losanno
Unhappy Face

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I’ve written a lot about my issues with United Airlines. The food is generally awful (I’ve even questioned if UA cutting it out in First Class is a bad idea). Service can be hit or miss (this is true of all airlines, but some flights are uniquely United). Wi-Fi works around 50% of the time. And, even its new entertainment system with Bluetooth connectivity isn’t so great. The United Clubs℠ are also far behind Delta’s Sky Clubs® in quality. I flew United again today and found out that my usual issues all reared their ugly little heads. These are first-world problems for sure, but it would be nice if United proved my outlook of flying with the airline wrong every once in a while.

United Club IAH C1 1

It started with a visit to the United Club℠ in Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) near Gate C1. I wanted to stop by to grab something quick to eat. Well, let’s just say I stayed five minutes before heading back out the door hungry. The lounge was overcrowded, dirty, and not someplace pleasant. The photo above is where I found a place to sit and it was the cleanest open area. To be fair, there was a woman working really hard to clean up, but it was too much for one person to handle.

United Club IAH C1 2

Even the cleaning robot was taking a break.

United Club IAH C1 3

The coffee machine was out of order and it was time to go.

UA Delay

We boarded on time and were sitting on the toasty plane all ready to go. An alert popped up on my phone. I checked the United mobile app (which is great by the way…UA gets many points here) and found that we were now delayed because our pilots were coming in on another flight. Okay, that happens. But, we were flying to John Wayne Airport (SNA). The airport has an 11:00 PM curfew and if we were too late it would be an issue. We ended up being only 20 minutes late, but this seems like an unnecessary stress at one of United’s hubs.

UA Dinner Beef

Once onboard, it was time for dinner. I preordered the Beef Brisket. Well, I won’t be making that mistake again. It tasted every bit as bad as it looks. It was so dry that I think the flight attendant started cooking it earlier in the day, maybe in Sydney or Hong Kong. I could barely get my fork to pierce one of the desiccated cubes of “beef” before I put it down, ate the roll, and called it quits.

United Wi-Fi Not Working

The Wi-Fi worked about 20% of the time. The purser told me twice that it was working on her phone, so it was fine. Another passenger and I asked her to have the captain reset it. She begrudgingly gave in and after about 25 minutes more it started to work. It dropped a few more times, but was a bit more stable.

The things I look for in a flight are schedule, comfort, Wi-Fi, and something decent to eat. United delivered on schedule with only a slight delay, but failed on every other front. From the lounge to the Wi-Fi, it was not a pleasant experience, but what I have to come to expect when flying United. I buy First and Business Class tickets and only want the service and amenities that I’m paying for on the ground and in flight. United fails to give me what it promises.

Anthony’s Take: United has a great route network and an awesome mobile app. Aside from that, I’m at a loss for other nice things to say. I’m looking forward to my Delta Air Lines flights home later this week.

(Featured Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen.)

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Chuck February 21, 2024 - 8:35 am

No shortage of fools willing to pay for First Class these days and UA knows this so they offer an awful product.

Lara S February 21, 2024 - 12:54 pm

Curious- how did you get access to the United Club on a domestic first ticket? Do you pay to get access/belong to the Club/use a single visit pass? If so I would be incredibly outraged if I paid or used a voucher to access that nonsense.

I usually travel internationally in business (that I pay for) and access Polaris Lounges so don’t use the United Clubs very often but when I have tried to access on a domestic only flight, even in first class, even as a 1k, I have to use a pass to get in. That is why I ask how you got in. At this point, based on everything I have heard from lots of travel bloggers, I’ll just go to a Priority Pass restaurant or pay for a decent dinner in the airport rather than use the United Clubs or eat a United meal. (and if it is any comfort I’ve found their international food in business to also be less than ideal which is why I eat in the Polaris lounge first).

Frankfurt Airport Lufthansa
Anthony Losanno February 21, 2024 - 1:55 pm

I have a United Club membership that expires soon.

Jonathan February 21, 2024 - 1:16 pm

The exact reasons I stopped flying United pre-pandemic. What you described is not unlike my experience; crowded lounges, a largely demoralized in-flight and ground crew, outdated aircraft interiors, and spare/non-existent service. Now I stick with Delta/KLM/Air France. Not that they’re perfect but many notches above the poor standards of UAL. And here I thought UAL was beginning to lift itself outside of its rut.

Frankfurt Airport Lufthansa
Anthony Losanno February 21, 2024 - 1:55 pm

It’s the same reason I dropped from many years as GS and now focus on Delta.

MM February 21, 2024 - 1:54 pm

Many years ago, I got so fed up, and told myself never to fly United again, I am so glad I did because I see nothing has changed (for the better). The problem is deep in a corporate culture with zero motivation and infinite mishandled management decisions, tough to change course to be honest.


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