A tale of two airlines...years after the merger

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Canadi>n, Jan 29, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. Canadi>n
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    Canadi>n Gold Member

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    I've been a UA 1K for about six years, ever since I started putting most of my non-AC STAR flights into MP as Aeroplan began its own downward spiral. It's also meant flying a lot more UA both within NAmerica and overseas. Since it had no major routes into Canada, never flew CO until the merger though the majority of my flights have been on ex-UA planes/routes/crews.

    This week I had a chance to experience both airlines and found CO so far ahead of UA that it was actually like flying two different airlines! Flew a UA 777 from ORD-HKG-SIN-HKG in business and found the experience among the worst premium cabin experiences ever. I've never been a fan of the "new" C lay flats installed on the UA fleet. I find them cramped and lack any functional space for work or storage, not to mention any privacy. 2-4-2 is absurd when most airlines have gone or are going to 1-2-1. The front/back facing seats mean you're always staring at someone across the aisle, or they're staring at you! Nor is there a privacy screen between you and the person next to you in each seating pair. You can see what others are watching on their screens, and they can see what you're watching. The foot insets are too small to store anything in, and the shelf under the video monitor is too small to hold anything practical. Crews provided a blasé service going through their paces. The only segment I found bearable was between SIN-HKG since the seat next to me was empty and I finally had a bit of space and partial privacy.

    Then I flew HKG-EWR on a CO 777. What a difference! There was both space and privacy in a 2-2-2 configuration. The seat had functional storage and workable surface areas. And the crew was friendly, helpful and appeared to enjoy going through their paces. So while I endured the flight to Asia, I quite enjoyed the one back. I've actually shunned UA metal business class, preferring an E+ seat with an empty one next to me to wasting money and SWUs to upgrade. Unless I knew the flight was a CO one where the additional cost of W was actually going to get me a premium hard and soft product.

    Having moved much of my flying to AA in the past couple of years, I find even it's old international business product to be superior to the current UA product (on ex-UA metal). With DL having gone to 1-2-1 and AA undergoing this transformation, how can UA justify the product it provides on most of its wide body fleet? Can F be so lucrative that ex-UA planes have not been converted to ex-CO C seating standards?
     
  2. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    And now you know where all of the CO fanboy whining came from when the merger happened. Those that were loyal CO customers (myself included) really dread some of the UA birds. I actually have my first pmUA J flight this weekend (pmCO 764 on the eastbound TATL leg, and a pmUA 777 on the westbound TATL leg)... and I dread the very points you made. Those J seats with the front/rear facing seem horrible on paper and I doubt I'm going to like them any more when I sit in them. FWIW, I also continue to find pmCO crews nicer and more attentive than the pmUA ones that I've flown with... both domestic and international.

    Everyone blames Jeff for trimming costs and destroying the tulip, but I really don't get what all the fuss was about. To me, CO had a much better product, and all the "tulip" had going for it was history... Tilton did more to destroy the tulip than Smisek. The biggest merger challenge in my mind was the culture... something that still isn't unified. You can spot pmCO and pmUA people from a mile away.
     
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  3. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Since the merger...

    I have had good flights with PMUA crews and bad flights with PMUA crews.

    I have had good flights with PMCO crews and bad flights with PMCO crews.

    I (a 1K... for two more days) don't think I fly enough to have a scientific basis for making a determination whether there is a meaningful difference in the level of service that is purely attributable to whether the former employer was PMUA or PMCO (there could be other factors, such as "southern hospitality" or average length of service with the company or ... hell, my own mood).

    Given that PMUA J >>>> PM-anything E/E+, I am not going to complain about a lack of storage options when I am fortunate enough to be much more comfortable than the vast majority of the passengers on the plane. Sure, the PMUA seats could have designed better. And maybe if I spent (my own) money on actually buying premium class tickets, I might see it differently. Alas, I don't and I certainly don't ever dread a flight in PMUA J... even if I end up in the middle of the four seats. Because, you know, I have survived a couple of those "middle of the middle" long-hauls on Lufthansa... in coach.
     
  4. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    While I appreciate and very much respect your perspective @HaveMilesWillTravel

    But i don't think the criticism that @Canadi>n brings up is invalid. In comparison with other airlines, including pmCO, 772 J seating arrangements are really bad. They're not acceptable for the cost. It's not that anyone is necessarily "entitled". theyre better than sitting in Y! But someone paid $500 in Y and I paid $7000 or more. And everyone else does a much better job arranging and buying the seats. And we have a right to want UA to do better.
     
  5. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Yes, I understand, which is why I said:

    "Sure, the PMUA seats could have designed better. And maybe if I spent (my own) money on actually buying premium class tickets, I might see it differently."

    It just doesn't upset me personally (enough).

    And actually, one of my least comfortable UA-J experiences was in the single middle seat of a PMCO 764. I just couldn't get comfortable (foot space? cabin temperature? my own mood?) and the service wasn't particularly attentive, and strangers were passing by me on both sides (and, oh the horrors, presumably looking at MY screen!).

    And yet, even though I didn't get much sleep, I wouldn't have wanted to trade with anyone in coach. And yes, it was an award or GPU flight; I very rarely pay for J because it usually isn't a good enough value proposition for money coming out of my own pocket.
     
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  6. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    There are good and bad crews on both sides of the company. And every other airline flying.

    I don't love the sUA seat but I don't mind facing backwards and still sleep better there than I coach elsewhere. If that's the choice to make I'll take the proper schedule on UA on any type in C over a bad schedule on other airlines.
     
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  7. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Still beats LH
     
  8. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    I love LH! Flying them next week on the wonderful 748i. I really like the J product and I sleep so well for the overnight segments. I know others aren't a big fan, but I am :)
     
  9. Xyzzy
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    Xyzzy Gold Member

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    Regarding the PMUA and PMCO seats discussed above, they are essentially the same seats but PMCO birds have a slightly newer version. Seats have a loooong lead time.

    The 748i has the new LH J product. The older LH one is rather :rolleyes:.
     
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  10. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    I'll consider myself lucky then. Next week is my 7th segment on the 748i in the last ~9 months. Fabulous plane.
     
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  11. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    And my offer to become your lackie and schlep your bags around the globe still stands :D
     
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  12. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    you can say that again. Old LH J is a bit crap. Belongs in the batcave.
     
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  13. IMRU

    IMRU Silver Member

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    I've had good on both subsidiaries. I do think that the sCO seats fit my needs better, and certainly make the experience feel a bit more special. That all said, I like both seats better than some of the newer seats I've tried. I'm a pretty light sleeper, so I've really found problems with both Swiss and LH: for Swiss the foot wells are not insulated at all, and you spend the whole night listening to the person behind you moving around. The LH seats are incredibly loud. Everytime my seatmate adjusted his seat, the gears were unmistakably loud.
     
  14. chitownflyer
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    chitownflyer Silver Member

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    The 2-4-2 C layout on the sUA planes was a poor design and choice of C cabin layout. However, the sUA C cabin on the upper deck 747 and the 767 are fine. United did introduce a good lie flat C cabin, but it is becoming a dated product. I really like the sCO C cabin on the 777. On PMCO international flights, there was an appetizer and desert cart which gave one a choice of items and even allowed a desert alternative of petit fours instead of ice cream sundaes. What I am curious about is whether UA will look for a new C cabin like AA is installing with a 1-2-1 seating arrangement.
     
  15. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    UA is confirmed to be working in a new C product. Unclear what it will be, but lots of indicators it is happening.

    The petit fours went away because that's now a differentiation for F. Plus the 3-cabin galleys didn't have room for it in C. Same reason the cheese is pre-plated.
     
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  16. Xyzzy
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    Xyzzy Gold Member

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    Teh s:(up suffered teh same fate... only in F now.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2015
  17. ssullivan
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    ssullivan Gold Member

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    And that's why UA will be better off once it kills GF. This business of lessening the BF product to create differentiation between BF and GF is nonsense, and isn't making customers happy, nor is it really helping UA's bottom line. Kill GF, use the space it currently takes up to help create a BF cabin with no middle seats, and then beef up the catering and bedding, and they'll have a solid product that can be competitive. But the longer they keep GF on life support, the longer it will be until we see some real improvement in their international premium cabins.
     
  18. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    There are just enough GF markets making money that I doubt it goes away completely in the immediate future. But I do expect to see it continue to scale back.
     
  19. Dublin_rfk

    Dublin_rfk Gold Member

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    Could things go better? YES! Given the differences in attitudes and metal I believe that things could be much worse. Does anyone remember the aborted UA - US merger? Am I the only one who sees US as a no frills / discount airline with massive attitude issues?
     
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  20. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Probably not. After all, these forums are an echo chamber.

    But I flew US a few times while they were in *A and they seemed to run a (domestic) operation that got me from A to B without drama or issues. Sure, I didn't get upgraded as I might have on UA, and perhaps they served drinks in F in plastic cups (no idea), but I had no issues. The crew was really not noticeably different from the average UA crew.
     
  21. Dublin_rfk

    Dublin_rfk Gold Member

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    No echo intended. As my local Flughaven is a US hub I have used them more than I care to. Over a twenty year period. Upgrades were nonexistent either as a US non chairman or under *A as 1K.
    Differences of opinion have led me to the position that if I Absolutely Positivity Have to get there and US is the only way, I will hold my nose a take a ride. If I can wait a day for a *A FLT I will. (Please note similar opinion on USPS)
     
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  22. Canadi>n
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    Canadi>n Gold Member

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    Not sure your 1K status would have anything to do with upgrading on US flights. This would only come into play in an opup situation, which on domestic flights heavy with US's own elites, would never happen under its CPU policy. US did not extend CPU benefits to UA elites, as it is currently now doing for AA elites.

    I didn't fly much US when it was in STAR, just a pretty routine YYZ-LAS-YYZ in coach, and one or two domestic segments in F. The F was no different from UA's domestic F, though plane did have wifi at the time (UA was just inheriting the CO fleet and none of its own aircraft had wifi). No meal, but it wasn't mealtime and a relatively short CLT-PHL flight. Anything else on US was CRJ200 shuttles with no F and little difference from UA coach. Being an AA flier too, I don't really find much downgrading of service levels in F since US took control.)
     
  23. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    Me, too. The memo that started playing in my head after a couple of those experiences was "this is a not a real airline". Maybe I was spoiled by being a 1K, and I know I'm judging from too few experiences, but US's level of customer service absolutely did not measure up.

    I have actually used US more often since they left *A (generally on BA Avios redemptions), and I'm finding them tolerable, though that "not a real airline" message hasn't quite died out yet.
     
  24. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Customer service? I check in online, get to the gate at SFO, board in whatever group was assigned to me as *G, settle in my uncomfortable coach seat, we take off on time, the FAs serve a drink or two, advertise their credit card, I watch a movie or read a book on my iPad, we land on time in PHX or CLT, I get off the plane and that's that. No drama, just transportation. Pretty much what many people on other airlines experience every day, too. Just not the drama most people on MP or FT seem to experience.
     
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  25. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    I'm glad US worked well for you.

    Maybe it's the drama that makes an event tempting to write about. Most of my travel experiences are pretty mundane and drama-free, and you'll never hear about them. But even a mundane, drama-free travel day usually involves some interaction with humans. "Please check this bag." "May I please enter your ever-so-exclusive lounge?" "Please scan this boarding pass and let me board this flight." Often we don't even use words for these interactions. And even marginally less routine travel days ("my first segment arrived two hours late; would you rebook my next segment?") definitely involve some humans.

    In US's *A days, those very ordinary interactions had some notable aberrations from what I experienced on other airlines. And the nature and density of these aberrations was high enough to give rise to the "this is not a real airline" memo.
     
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