Fly United Airlines… and understand true misery

I recently flew from Wellington to Cancun to attend a wedding in Playa del Carmen.  I bought the ticket a bit last minute, but found a good deal from United that was about $500 cheaper than the next option.

Maybe I have been spoiled by living in New Zealand where they don’t take your shoes away and forbid you bringing water on a flight, or force you to pose nude in submission to “federal regulations”, but I had forgotten how hellish an experience flying can be in North America.

The 30 hours each-way trip certainly reminded me.

I understand that the TSA are just doing their job.  There are literally thousands of people passing like sheep through sensors and detectors, and those people probably get really fucking annoying after a few hours of shuttling the masses around, but do the TSA need to be so goddamn tetchy and dyspeptic?  You can just see the misery brewing beneath their eyes.

Flying United was truly awful.  The last few trans-Pacific flights I have done were on Air New Zealand.  Air New Zealand tries to make the 13 hours Auckland-LA flight as painless as possible, the flight attends smile and they give you free decent beer, nice NZ wine, and edible meals.

When I first boarded the United flight from Sydney to LA they started out by showing us a video about how United has “top industry expert chefs”.

After I got my meal I couldn’t help but think the video must be some kind of cruel joke.  Are they delusional or just pathological liars?  The “food” they served us was more vile than the cold pet food available in refrigerated sections of New Zealand supermarkets.  Breakfast consisted of a roll that was rock hard and tasted of plastic, leathery potatoes and watery eggs.

With the new addition of the DirectTv service, United now forces you to watch hours of Lincoln commercials on domestic flights, unless you pay $7.99 (for flights over 2 hours) to access the range of “quality programming” available from DirectTV. You cannot access any flight information or other programming from the screen located approximately 8 inches from your face.  Nor can you turn it off, until after the plane has reached its cruising altitude and then, you may only do so by pressing the brightness “down” button several times until eventually the screen goes dark.  Not exactly intuitive.  United is essentially forcing people to be bombarded by advertising on a flight they have already spent hundreds ($2,200 in my case) on.  I found that irritating beyond end.

Have you ever seen a United flight attendant smile?  I don’t think so.  All they can do is growl in your direction and throw soft drinks at you.

If only O’Hare wasn’t the airport closest to my mum’s house, I could swear off United forever.

I really hope they realise how awful their service is make some changes.  It makes me feel inhuman to fly United.

However I did get to see Chichen Itza, and go to a beautiful wedding.


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