About the only thing worse that getting to the airport for a 6am flight is discovering that the flight has been canceled.
I am flying down to San Diego today for the Graphing Social Patterns conference, and wishing to be early I booked a 6am flight, which arrives at 7:30. Out of SFO there are precious few options for shuttle flights, so I had to break my no-United rule… and once again I am reminded of why this airline has so successfully raced to the bottom in customer satisfaction.
Flight #38 was canceled due to a “mechanical” issue, which to United frequent fliers will ring all to familiar. In their quest to restore their financial condition, United has done a couple of things that are nothing but bad news for travelers and United employees who have to stand on the customer service front lines while United executives cower on private jets well ensconced from the inconveniences of dealing with their customers.
First and foremost, anyone who has flown SFO-JFK, or other popular routes, in recent years will notice that United has been flying smaller planes that maximize butts-in-seats. While efficient for United, a 5 1/2 hour flight in a 3 class 757 is no picnic, especially if you can’t get seating in “economy plus” (which is really just standard non-United legroom).
Secondly, United is flying older planes and suffering more maintenance issues as a result. It’s anecdotal at best, but the number of mechanical issues on my United flights over the last year (through Nov. when I stopped flying them) was disproportionately high. Today, my first United flight in a long time, suffers a mechanical issue that cancels the flight.
Both of these factors are a big reason why I’m flying Virgin America to JFK tonight, and on every other trip I look first for a non-United flight.