We were on to United years ago. Anyone who tries to turn Gershwin into a jingle is in trouble right there. That was just a short step from turning Gershwin into Muzak, which it promptly did as well. Then it turned out the airline was in the sardine-packing business. The only way passengers could survive on the UA flight we boarded to Munich in 2011 was to take an overdose of barbiturates, though drugged sleep the entire way over in conditions of severe cabin oxygen deprivation meant permanent brain damage even before the jet lag kicked in.
A few weeks back one of our agents had to fly to the West Coast. United was the only flight available. It was all set to board at Dulles when came the announcement — sans a single word of apology or regret — that the flight would be delayed two hours if not more and that it would be leaving from a gate on the opposite end of the C concourse. There, by the way, went anyone’s connection at LAX, unless another one might be available five hours after landing.
Why the sudden delay? United was waiting for the arrival of a new crew, which from all indication was scattered all over the country and had to be lassoed and shipped whenever need for pilots and navigators and flight (sic) attendants arose. Herding cats: now that’s an interesting way to run an airline. It’s a miracle United had four crew members all set to be shipped in a single package to Louisville from Chicago the other fateful day.
Our agent’s return from the West Coast was a further harbinger of that nightmarish flight. Connecting in Denver, our man held a boarding pass that said 20D, an exit row with rare leg room (economy plus!). So who was seated in his prepaid seat upon his arrival at said seat? A woman with a boarding pass that also read 20D. And she had been on standby! But of course EOW agents always defer to the fairer sex, so what happened next? A United employee with all the charm of a TSA pat-down obsessive ordered him to go further back to a lone seat in the airless sardine section — or if he preferred, she’d be very happy to discuss things at the gate if the bilked passenger cared to disembark. She didn’t know it, but she was intuiting United policy by generously offering to “re-accommodate” the flummoxed former owner of seat 20D.
He should have counted his blessings. Usually, it’s creatures like that uniformed United prison guard who threaten violence or worse against uppity passengers (you know, the kind who expect their purchased seat to remain theirs for the duration of a flight, including takeoff). The use of blue-jeaned KGB goons to yank passengers out of seats they’d purchased and drag them off the plane for alleged non-compliance was a new turn. Not only did the doctor in the Chicago crime emerge bloodied and concussed, but like a Clinton operation run by Betsey Wright and Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton, United compounded its crime by immediately smearing the victim of its brutality. He was probably told he was lucky he wasn’t immediately locked away on some sudden parole violation like that hapless Coptic video maker who was officially blamed by Hillary-Obama-Rice officialdom for the terrorist attack in Benghazi in 2012.
What might United think of next? Pushing unfavored passengers off a plane out of a suddenly opened door at 30,000 feet?
A nice public culture we’ve got going here. At least one good thing can be said about Mr. Oscar Munoz. For singling him out this week, no one will accuse us of rounding up a usual suspect. In granting an EOW prize to an Oscar, we continue to go above and beyond to ensure that we fly right.
We’re just not going to fly United.