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United Passengers Revolt After Stranded for 3 Days in China

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A United Airlines flight from Shanghai, China, to New Jersey should have taken just 13 hours, but it took some folks three days to make that trip, after a firestorm of protests, threats, even violence. (news.yahoo.com) さらに...

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n7224e
If I had been one of these pax, it would take more than a full credit and $1000 towards future travel to get me on another United flight.
lelandscats
Per the 2011 AQR report: "Continental and United, which have since completed their merger, where the lowest-rated legacy carriers, coming in at No. 11 and No. 12, respectively".
Enough said.
JD345
JD345 11
Evidently, that makes them No. 23
mgsegal
You need to go behind all the fallout and ask yourself why such "mechanical situations" occur more frequently and more severely with some carriers than with others, all adding up to reliability issues from a passenger perspective. Management is usually at the root of all these issues, because it is management that makes decisions about maintenance schedules, maintenance content, and contingency arrangements in the event of failures. Contingency arrangements usually means building redundancy into all the key provisions needed to assure reliability in the event of trouble, but this costs money because resources are tied-up usually doing nothing but waiting for trouble - the whole purpose of it. If airline managements want to operate cutting corners on all the choices that would lead to reliable, quality service, they will have to be prepared for angry, frustrated passengers - passengers who they lose or who never use them in the first place. None of this is some kind of random accident. It happens because managements make choices that increase the probability of such trouble occurring. In a cut-throat competitive environment the race to the bottom happens very quickly, but fortunately there are better airlines charging higher fares because they put the resources into superior quality operations.

[This poster has been suspended.]

WALLACE24
That is certainly true, up to a point. All I know is that if other United planes came and went back to the US and those people were left sitting it's a wonder there wasn't more violence. Watching other people get on the same airline heading back would get your bloodpressure up. Some pretty poor pr work here.
pnschi
pnschi 1
Nope. At best, you get what you pay for. In most cases, this one being an extreme example, you get way, way less than you pay for.
jchen2
A round trip ticket from the US to China costs twice as much today on United as it did two years ago on Continental. It doesn't look like the service has doubled in quality in the intervening time.
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 1
Our round trip tickets to from mainland US to Hawaii cost almost twice as much today on Alaska as it did ONE year ago on Alaska. A lot goes into the pricing and as everyone knows they change not just day to day but sometimes moment to moment. Bashing United on that issue is lost on me.
IdahoSteve
The only United passenger stranded longer was Tom Hanks in the movie "The Terminal"
Pigweed298
This is an example of how business, left to it's own devices, treats people. And, we want to elect business friendly politicians to Washington, so business can get even better at abusing us? Hmmm.
WALLACE24
Well, that was handled perfectly! NOT
WALLACE24
I believe in the old days the carrier would buy you a seat on other airlines if the delay was excessive.
mhlansdell00
Yup. They used to have exchange agreements between them, but that was when they were regulated by the ICC. That was a while ago.
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 1
The "old days" are just that - history. Businesses unfortunately can't be run the way they used to be. I'm not defending the way this was handled - obviously - no one can. Of course there were a number of different options, but doing it like the old days isn't one of them. A lot of people who have those memories want to relate today's problems to the old days, but that's trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. New solutions are required for new times.
WALLACE24
I wasn't really saying that's what they should have done. Believe me, I know the old days are gone, and not just in the airline business. United's problem here was they didn't have a solution. Then they tried to throw some money at it to save face. I would guess most of these travelers were way more interested in time than money. A couple extra days in the jet age probably won't work for winning friends and customers. lol
Doobs
You know...it's sad that we even have to have this conversation because it's out of our control. I believe in the aviation industry and I believe that it is safer being in the air than on the ground. Don't do the "Blame Game". It is what it is and deal with it! Doesn't matter what Airline your booked on. If that airline had the same mechanical...there would be the same result! Mayhem!
mgsegal
It absolutely does matter what airline you are booked on. Performance and reliability differ significantly between them. I'll fly a number of European and Asian carriers any day over any of the major US carriers or Air Canada. Poorly managed companies do not have to be poorly managed companies. Customers can set standards by carefully selecting who they fly with and not taking the defeatist position you are espousing here. It's a competitive market and consumers set the bottom of it by how much garbage they are prepared to accept.
Doobs
Benson, I think you should talk to Mark about Management issues. What management does at times doesn't make sense to me...I'm just a "worker ant"! A "worker ant" can't question the doings of the "Queen Bee"!
Cycreek
SW flys out of Hobby, United out of Bush. United contends that allowing SW to go international from Hobby will damage the current inter. traffic at Bush. They contended that this would hurt other inter. services as well as theirs. One airport official remarked that he did not see them walking awayfrom any profitable flights.

Some CONT. crews wear yellow bracelets saying EXCON.
Kasumarae
Not quite as much of a delay, but the United 21 Manchester-Newark route had a 6 hour delay on Sunday due to some of the crew not resting enough the night before. According to my close friend who was going home, there was an absolute outrage, lots of swearing and a lot of yelling. I felt sorry for the crew who were there honestly, it wasn't their fault that the management is atrocious. I will give them their due though, they gave passengers meal vouchers, phone cards and also compensation of 20% off their next flight anywhere that they fly or $125 off a domestic US route.
CaptainXavier
Got used to it in my country, even changing the route to another city without further notification
mhlansdell00
I'm a little curious. I read about this fiasco in another venue and the last delay was because the flight crew didn't have enough hours to fly out. How does a professional airplane driver and his trusty assistant not know how many hours he has available. I've been working those regulations for what seems like a hundred years and I've always been able to tell anyone who asked how many hours I had left within 15 minutes, without looking at my time log. The entire flight crew should have been off duty when the aircraft was turned over to maintenance for two days. Everyone I've spoken to is blaming United's problems on an outmoded scheduling system. It looks to me like it's a management problem.
Doobs
Well said, Mark. Try telling that to 300+ irrate pax. People develop a hearing a mental understanding problem when they are put in this type of unfortunate situation.
mgsegal
I agree - I'm not condoning or excusing it and I get rattled too when I've been a victim of this stuff - I'm only trying to elicit understanding about why this rubbish happens and is far more pervasive (but less dramatic) than we would like to believe. Minimizing the risk of this happening to oneself means making very careful choices of carriers.
pnschi
pnschi 1
First prize: $1000 towards future United travel.

Second prize: $10000 towards future United travel.
Doobs
You may be critical of U.S. Airlines but what about the U.S built aircraft most people in the world are flying in. Thankyou, Boeing! And yes, mechanicals happen. Most airports do not have maintenance facilities, therefore, they have to fly in a part for that particular airplane from the closest facility. Not to mention, find an aircraft to transport the part but find a crew to fly the part to the destination. Most airlines keep their fleet flying. An aircraft is not an aircraft if it's sitting in a hanger in BFE.
Doobs
I'm not saying that I condone the behavior of the "Ground Personel or the Official Authorities". Again, it is what jurisdiction that the aircraft is disabled. And the local ground personel and/or official authorities, react differently to situations that we, as US citizens, are not accustomed to. Don't "spit" on the ferry going to Kawloon. Never done it but I don't think I want to find out what would happen if I did!
mrippe
mrippe 1
AHH !!!
united strikes again. i don't know who is in charge at corp, but i think that it is time to find someone who knows a little something about airplanes/airlines
caus what he is/isn't doing is killing what once was a good airline

LarryQB
LarryQB 1
I'm a fan of AA. My family was involuntarily denied boarding on US/CO two weeks ago because unfortunately they live in Houston so there's not a lot of choice.
Doobs
I'm over it, as well. It's so true that people have these high expectations and when those expectations are not met...that's when all hell breaks loose. It isn't just the airlines but unfortunately, in every day living. I, personally, don't set expectations because I don't believe in a perfect society. I don't expect people to think the way that I do. This forum is a perfect example! Mark, I thankyou for your insight and what ever your travel plans are, be safe, polite and try to contain frustrations. Stress is a major killer. Good Day.
Doobs
Mark...just a final note. You don't want to fly United...United probably doesn't want you. You sound so bitter and no matter what a company does to try to accommodate...it's never good enough. Just follow the "6 P's".
"Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance"! Try getting rid of this "It's all about me mentality". It won't get you anywhere.
Doobs
You know Mark...you seem to be a very educated, well spoken individual. You also sound like several passengers who I have encountered in my 30+ years of dedication to United...and I, personally, was very proud, wearing the unform and representing a company that I worked for. You sound like you have to be in control all the time and if that control is taken away from you, you become very frustrated and angry because all of a sudden you feel vulnerable and scared because your control of the situation is all of a suddden non-exsistant. If you are so passionate about aviation and it's on-time departures and arrivals...not to mention inflight entertainment and rewards, if you're flight plans are not the way you want them to be...get your butt into United Headquarters in Chicago and apply for a CEO job. Like I said, you are very well versed and I think you fit the profile to a tea! More power to you!
mgsegal
Dee, it is good to hear you had a proud and satisfactory career with United. That is good and perhaps more than many employees think of their employers in the contemporary environment, so all the more power to you too, and I mean that sincerely. As well, let me be clear that I don't need or want to be in control of anything - much less United Airlines. Life is too short. I've only been flying as a passenger of a great many airline companies since 1956, so I have a long memory of what was and what is, and a clear perception of the highly varied landscape in the here and now. So much depends on our expectations and what we are prepared to live with. I've exhausted what I have to say on this topic, so I'm done with it.
Doobs
Unfortunely James, those "good old days" don't exsist enymore. Sad, but true.
WALLACE24
Yep. That's why it might take 3 days for a daytrip.
Cycreek
This is the same United that is currently pissing and moaning because Houston is allowing SW to enlarge their facilities here in order that they can service Mexico, Central and South America. Within hours of the announcement United laid off a large group of employees. Since then they have announced the ending of service from here to New Zeland. They failed to mention the route has been a money loser for some time.
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 1
I know I must be missing your point. Would you be good enough to explain? Thanks.
Doobs
I have to disagree, James. Money is always going to be an issue. And it cost United a lot of $ to get the part, find and pay a flight crew, pay the fuel costs and landing fees and compensate and accommodate a full B-777. Not to mention the cost of the existing crew members who stuck it out until they were illegal to fly. Now, with that said, I would much rather know that the aircraft I was flying on was airworthy and I had a crew that had their FAA regulated rest. Safety is always number one with United. I think a lot of people often forget how important that is in the world of commercial aviation.
WALLACE24
People get on jets to go fast. They will never walk away happy after being stranded for a couple days. That is an eternity in the jet world. They will expect the carrier to reroute, charter, comandeer, or steal another bird. At that point they could care less what it cost the carrier. Just saying.
billhorton7
Agreed. That's why they call them "scheduled" flights. I think Mark Segal's point is that with proper planning, maintenance, and spare parts (and these all cost $) delays like these can be avoided. It just costs a little more and most flying customers are willing to pay a little more to make sure the flights are safe and on time.
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 1
Agreed. The public counts on the airline to get them where they're going when it's supposed to. They don't want excuses.
mgsegal
Yes, safety is #1, but perhaps it's useful to think about how it's most likely approached. The probability of failure of every system in the aircraft is studied and known. The risk of failure as a function of various levels and kinds of maintenance programs is calculated and costed with complex computer programs doing failure analysis and maintenance optimization routines. Optimization in this context means trading-off at the margin between reliability and cost, taking account of the cost of the consequences using probability analysis. Huge amounts of money are at play with maintenance, so this should be very scientifically approached in the airline's own interest. For example, and talking hypothetically, they know in advance that there is only say a 1 in 1000 chance of spending say 50,000 looking after a plane full of stranded people, hence the probability-adjusted cost is 50 dollars; but the next level up of maintenance to reduce that probability of occurrence below 1/1000 will cost them 100,000, which is a definite and way more expensive, so they'll take the risk of inconveniencing people. Safety isn't necessarily being jeopardized, because the kinds of failures subject to these routines are the ones that get revealed just before passengers are being boarded on the aircraft. I've seen this so many times, there is really no other explanation; it is man-made, not random. So no, we don't get killed, but we do get treated like a giant roulette game in terms of reliability, because taking certain chances saves them money. Where managerial judgment comes in is the extent of this sophisticated gaming that will be tolerated, and poorly-managed bargain-basement airlines will play the probabilities more aggressively than better-managed more expensive ones. I'd like someone from a major airline maintenance management team who really knows this business to chime in here and tell me if I'm wrong about any of this, because I don't think I am.
billhorton7
@Mark. I understand what you are saying and I think the probability should be taken at face value here in the US. When you are flying to a destination across an ocean, then I think you should weight the probabilites against the customer inconvenience AND the loss of revenue while that plane sits at the airport waiting for a part. It's a 2-part problem and not just the cost of paying for the inconvenience of the passengers. Difficult to ship parts that have a higher probability of failing should be pre-positioned overseas to get the plane back in service as quickly as possible. That's how you continue to make money.
mgsegal
I agree and I would expect the airlines are doing this in their calculations.
Doobs
Yes, Benson. Explain. Don't get it...SW owns Houston!
andytyler
I'd rather be delayed for days than be forced on a plane with a mechanical problem. I found it hilarious that the most rowdy passengers were Chinese...not to sound racist or anything but thats hilarious.
Cactus732
Cactus732 -2
Passengers are stupid...if the plane is broken the plane is broken, trust me airlines don't break them on purpose because every second a plane is sitting on the ground it is hemorrhaging money. Fact of the matter is it's simple economics if they start bumping other passengers then instead of 225 lots of compensation they then get into the best part of 700 for the 3 days. Basically if I were the captain some of the passengers would not have got on the plane at all, let alone get on a receive huge amounts of compensation for their troubles.
WALLACE24
Simple economics yes, United wanted the cheapest way out.
chalet
chalet 4
You sound suspiciously like a United employee. Do you know what brand loyalty means. OK, United just lost forever hundreds of potential passengers for future flights, not only those on that plane but people who read about this awful mess which of course had also read the recently issued ranking of airlines which, surprise, surprise, place United way down in the list and, surprise, surprise, all main Far East airlines are at the very top. 'Nuff said.
WALLACE24
United had options. They all cost money. They chose the cheapest way out.
pnschi
pnschi 1
Or maybe an employee of an "online reputation" service?
robertl30
Why aren't airlines required to have a plane on standby at each airport? These "maintenance" problems are ridiculous. If my phone, car, or computer breaks I go to the counter and get a new one swapped in. Not much of a service industry if they're not providing, um, service.
mgsegal
So if an airport is serving say 40 airline companies, you would have 40 planes parked out there waiting for a problem. Have you considered the operational implications and cost of such an idea?
robertl30
i don't know... maybe they could share? I mean, something should be done. I've had to wait over 6 hours for a "maintenance issue". This doesn't happen to any other kind of transport. Do cruiseships not set sail? Can you ever not get a taxi or limo? If one breaks, another shows up. CRJs are cheap. Or how about a bus? Why weren't the folks bussed to the next town over so they could get another flight? who ever heard of a 3 day delay? crazy.
mgsegal
Yes, 3 days is crazy and United is a crap airline, but one also has to get real. Cruise ships DO NOT set sail with any major mechanical issues they know about beforehand. There is kind of cost difference between a taxicab and Boeing 747. CRJs can't fly from Shanghai to Newark, and if you've ever been to China you'd know that there's a long distance between Shanghai and the next airport with international air connections to the USA. The issue is about preventing these kind of mishaps and when they happen, making alternate arrangements with other carriers having spare seats so passengers can fly out of the same airport, even if it means spending more money. But being a crap airline United doesn't appear to do that.
devsfan
Good question....Here's the answer... A bus train or ship cannot fall out of the sky at 450 kts killing everyone on board and anyone on the ground at the point of impact.
SmokingKoala
imho u.s. airlines are the disgrace of the skies ... all of them.
mcollyer
UAL 87 = Keystone Cops MO
mgsegal
I never fly with any US airline and I minimize use of Air Canada. They all suffer from mismanagement and resulting maintenance problems that cause flight delays. Many Asian and European carriers are far superior all round.
russianaviator
I have NEVER supported Delta airlines for there lack of timing. Also there flight attendants and service is awful. I now support Soutwest. They sing for u and do other special stuff.
faborange
A song and other "special stuff" won't get you to China on Southwest!!!
robertl30
I agree. SW is great. Free entertainment lightens the mood on nearly every flight. They are very customer service focused.
russianaviator
wow passengers are so ignorant these days
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 1
One man's mob is another man's democracy.
WALLACE24
I'll bet that was a short lived democracy in China!lol
deafsea
deafsea 0
Can't blame some passengers who were angry because they may already have a plan such as wedding, etc... but United could have a way to improve to provide a better service.
Doobs
I believe in compensation for the passengers in a mechanical situation. Flight Crews follow FAA flight regulations and cannot deviate from those regulations. I know a situation like this is very frustrating but I can't condone the behavior of many of these passengers. In some jurisdictions, those rioting passengers would be accomodated alright! In jail with Department of Corrections "Food Vouchers"! And if it happened on AA...the same behavior would have been displayed. Doesn't have to be United to create a riot!
pnschi
pnschi 1
You say nothing about not condoning the behavior of some of the people on duty.

From the article: "They [airport officials] grabbed him by the tie, and they pulled him physically across the counter and started slapping him," said passenger Pat Sinko, describing what happened to another passenger."

Why are so many "lock 'em up and through away the key" types willing to excuse bad behavior when it's committed by a business?
WALLACE24
It's ok cause it's in china. Lol
thomasdilbeck
Sounds as though the passengers' protest delayed the flight until the crew ran out of their FAA mandated duty period. The Americans perhaps better understood what was going on and the old adage "cooperate and graduate" applies.
THRUSTT
THRUSTT -1
It's Boeing and they ain't going!!!

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