Dear United, It Shouldn’t Be This Hard

An interesting thing happened on my recent 5-hour United Airlines flight.  No, the internet didn’t work flawlessly, though that is the subject matter.  I did what I normally do when I board an early morning flight.  I took a quick nap and then pulled my laptop out to start working.  

What happened next has happened dozens of times just in 2019, let alone years past.  The internet wasn’t functioning.  Now, I said this was an interesting story.  Since I’ve talked about how poorly the Wi-Fi works each month this year (in January, February, March, April, May, June, July and August) that’s nothing new.

I asked the flight attendant if the Wi-Fi wasn’t functioning.  She said they were having some problems.  She then asked the guy sitting in 1B if he was able to get connected.  I couldn’t hear the answer, but it was clear it wasn’t a pleasant one.

The flight attendant came back a while later to tell me they would be refunding everyone their money for Wi-Fi purchases today.  I asked her about those of us with subscriptions like me.  She replied that she had no idea.

A few minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was a man sitting in 3D.  He asked me if I was able to connect to the internet.  I told him I wasn’t, and what the flight attendant shared with me.  We shared our frustration about our lack of productivity.  He finished the conversation with “It shouldn’t be this hard.”

He’s right, but he’s far from the only one who thinks this way, at least on this flight.  The gentleman in 2A overheard our conversation and noted that he doesn’t even bother buying Wi-Fi on United flights anymore.  I guess you could argue that helps solve United’s problem of dealing with complaints.

Without soliciting any feedback from a single passenger, I watched 3 passengers complain in a matter of minutes.  Add me to the mix, and that’s 20% of the first class cabin on this flight.  I’m pretty sure 1C was annoyed as well, but didn’t join in our discussion.  I have to imagine that those upset passengers represent a pretty solid amount of revenue United hopes to retain.

The Final Two Pennies

It’s time to listen to your customers, United Airlines.  I’m not the only one chirping about this consistent issue.  It takes time to upgrade poorly functioning equipment.  But, it’s been years.  I appreciate that you improved our upgrades.  The small gesture didn’t go unnoticed.  However, it can’t make up for the lack of productivity.  After all, I’m a business traveler.  I expect to be able to conduct business when I travel.  Apparently, so do my fellow passengers.

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My goal in life is to fill my family’s passports with stamps, creating buckets of memories along the way. You’ll find me writing about realistic ways for normal people to travel the world, whether you’re on a budget or enjoy luxury. I also enjoy taking us on the occasional detour to explore the inner workings of the travel industry.

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    1. They obviously believe it’s working better. When I asked for compensation, they only offered 2,500 miles, a drastic reduction from previous times when Wi-Fi didn’t work. When I pushed back on the amount, they said, “I’ll definitely pass along your feedback so we can improve compensation for inoperable wi-fi.”

    2. No need for a refund request when you were never able to complete the purchase transaction in the first place…. Very frustrating. I have to fly cross country several times a month and lose hours of productivity.

  1. The airlines have enough to worry about with making sure that they can actually get their passengers to their destinations and making sure the planes are kept in an airworthy condition. Adding new equipment to all of their planes would be much more costly and time consuming than you might think, and for some older airplanes, may not be practical to begin with.
    For now, you may just have to hope that you get flights on newer model airplanes which should be more accomodating and better equipped to handle newer technologies such as in flight internet.
    Personally, I think you should reflect and be glad about the fact that these airlines can provide you with a reliable way to travel across the world to do business and make these memories. Its a pretty big feat each day and luxuries such as those are definitely not priority over daily operations and maintenance

    1. Um……if the airlines offer the service, they should offer a reliable one. They chose to add the new equipment. They didn’t do that out of charity. They did it so they could earn money from the service. If they can’t provide a reliable service, then they shouldn’t be charging for it.

  2. why do you keep giving your money to United….They are dreadful and yet United Flyers seem to think that this will change….Delta rarely has problems with the Internet…Just sayen!

    1. John, it’s a painful choice, but usually the right one. Frequently, United can get me home to my family sooner. So, while the Wi-Fi is dreadful, I choose them for the schedule. The only problem for them is that I never choose them when schedule isn’t the main driver of choice.

  3. Gee, doesn’t anyone fly JetBlue? Their “wi-fly” always works great throughout the flight (except when leaving the US on flights to the Caribbean) and it’s FREE! Maybe if United made it free there would be less complaints and certainly no refunds and less bad customer PR.

  4. PERFECT AIRLINE SPEAK! “It’s better because fewer refunds”. NO, it’s so terrible that many of us stopped even trying. I’m glad to gain a little insight into airline management minds. Explains why airlines keep shooting themselves in the foot.

    1. it happens so often and I am so busy I forget to ask for refund.. AND they think “it used to suck and now it sucks less” is a real argument. Ha

  5. I have entire real time no delay Instant message conversations with colleagues on Teams, Slack etc IF they are flying other NON- United Airlines. They can get email, IM, send sizeable emails etc. United I pay for wifi and forget to make a stink later to get my money back with customer service because that takes too long. Useless..

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