I’m Sure It’s Not Just United. It Just Seems To Happen More Frequently

I don’t hide the fact that I enjoy flying American Airlines more than United.  I’ve generally found the customer service to be much better at AA.  They consistently go out of their way to make sure my travel experience meets or exceeds my expectations.  Sure I’ve had disappointments, but the number I’ve had on UA is far higher.

On a recent UA flight I had a couple of things happened.  Neither really bothered me all that much, but both struck me as just setting the wrong tone.  Our flight was delayed approximately an hour, so everyone was hanging out in the gate area waiting to board, including a United flight crew in uniform heading to another flight (sometimes referred to as positioning or deadheading).

The flight was not full, there was a decent amount of middle seats available.  Generally speaking, when a UA flight has empty seats in Economy Plus (a section of the plane near the front with more legroom, generally as a paid upgrade or free to elites) they make an announcement letting customers know that if they want to relocate to one of these seats there’s a charge to do so.  Most of my flights lately have been full, but with this being less than full one of the flight crew did in fact make that announcement.

I was seated in Economy Plus, an aisle seat.  There was someone in the window seat, but the middle seat was empty.  Shortly after I sat down the flight crew that was traveling as passengers boarded.  They all sat down in the middle seats in Economy Plus.  I wasn’t 100% sure if they were assigned those seats by the gate agent (I suspect so) or just sat there when they got on the flight.  While I know there are crew rest rules for longer flights that dictate where employees can sit, I don’t think there was an applicable rule that meant they sat in E+ when available.

I was expecting a full flight as usual, so not miffed that the middle seat was occupied.  However, upgrading your employees instead of/before customers just strikes me as the wrong methodology.

Shortly after the flight attendants sat down one of the flight attendants walked back from the front of the plane with some bottles of water out of the carts for the flight.  He distributed one to each of the flight attendants seated in coach and then walked back up front.  Again, I don’t really care, I bring my own water.  Ironically, though, one of the passengers sitting in the back of first class asked for a drink.  The flight attendant told him they weren’t doing a pre-departure beverage for first class since the flight was running late.  I don’t think the passenger had seen him walk by to bring the water to the flight attendants.

Neither of these is really a big deal.  I guess I was slightly inconvenienced by the flight attendant in the middle seat, but I expected to have someone there anyway.  It just continues to strike me that the airlines in general (and United in specific) don’t think of customer service the way a lot of successful businesses do.

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