Booking 6 out of 10
United’s booking engine works very well. The Booking process is logically laid out and flows well. My major annoyance was that there was a significant fare difference for passengers whose residence was in Australia and those whose residence was in the USA. I have encountered this on other occasions with both United and American Airlines. This difference seems so arbitrary and Australian customers generally have no work around. If you try and book the American fare with an Australian credit card, it redirects you to start again.
Check in: 8 out of 10
I looked at my seat options. The only seats available were a couple of middle ones and the very back row! YAY! Not. I grabbed a back row seat. When I checked in online, I again searched for a better seat but everything had gone. Back seat it was. At Los Angeles Airport, I used a machine to complete my check in. This time, the seat map would not even show up and a message appeared suggesting I ask for assistance. There was a woman who was helping a man through the check in process. It took them five minutes to complete this. Five minutes which felt like an eternity.
Her initial reaction was to treat me as if I was a stupid person. After all, she must get a lot of customers who have no clue how to use the machines. Her reaction changed when she found herself at the same roadblock. What I appreciated is that instead of pointing me at a far off desk and telling me to see another agent, she led me over to the check in counters and continued to serve me. Top Marks! There was a better seat available on the flight. It was aisle seat exit row which suited me perfectly. The trouble is on the first sector it was 21C and on the second sector it was 21D. The agent took a lot of trouble to try and get me these two seats. One issue, is that, these seats needed to be paid for $77 extra for each sector. If I had been able to get one of them for the whole flight, then I would have paid only $77 total. The workaround meant she got help from another agent, made a phone call, cancelled my check in, and checked me in again snagging those seats for a total price of $77. Worth it!
Boarding: 8 out of 10
With my Economy Plus Exit row seat, I was in group 4 which means I boarded very quickly. I was able to stow my luggage and grab a seat. The plane was totally full.
On Board: 6 out of 10
The Airbus 319 had three types of seats
- 8 First Class Seats arranged 2/2. Seats had a 38″ pitch and 20.5″ of seat width. Customers in First were served complimentary drinks on boarding and free lunch. All for an extra $600
- 35 Economy Plus Seats with 35″ pitch and 18″ width. United’s Economy Plus offers early boarding and more room but no other benefits compared to Economy
- 72 Economy Class seats with 31″ pitch and 18″ width. Both Economy types were arranged 3/3
Take off: 6 out of 10
The first flight from Los Angeles to Chicago was meant to leave at 1139am and ended up leaving at 1238pm due to late in bound aircraft. The second flight left 14 minutes late for no apparent reason. My flight UA 420 was advertised as an Airbus 319 travelling from Los Angeles to Rochester via Chicago. The puzzling thing was we deplaned at Chicago and then boarded another identical A319 at a different gate. How can it be the same flight when it is a different plane with a different crew? The wonders of airline scheduling!
Entertainment: 2 out of 10
There were no individual TV screens, which is what I expect on United domestic flights. For those, one needs to travel Frontier, JetBlue or Virgin America. There was also no wifi. There were LCD TV Screens in the aisles but I paid no attention to them and some channels of sound which I also ignored. Laptop power? Forget it!
There was not even the option United has where it allows passengers to listen to air traffic control on channel 9 of the inflight audio. I know pilots don’t always turn it on but for me it is one of the best features of United!
Meals: 5 out of 10
The cabin crew did two runs with drinks. On the first run, they sold two of the meal box types, that the airline offers. They also had some snacks. I chose the Savory Pack for $7.49 (which came with the decidedly unsavoury Nutella, a Raspberry Vanilla Fig Bar and Fresh Dried Fruit!). Interestingly, my Australian Credit Card did not work in the on-board machine so I used my American card! Is this a conspiracy?
Landing 10 out of 10
We caught up on time to do a perfect landing into Chicago. On the second sector, we landed a minute behind into Rochester. With no luggage I was at my shuttle, five minutes after de-boarding. Unfortunately the shuttle had to wait 36 minutes for the one other passenger who not only had luggage, he managed to get lost in the one terminal 22 gate airport.
My Flight Rating: Overall 59% (2.9 out of 5).
My Overall rating of United Airlines: 3.4 out of 5 (based on my 71 United flights)
Skytrax Rating of United: 3 star
Negatives: Entertainment system, No wifi, Booking engines biased against Australians!
Would I fly them again? Yes – if I had to! Not a United convert.