Korifaeus Magazine

••• The Big Brother's, oops, i mean Apple's Gazette ••• A Sophisticated Periodical with Panache and a Sense of Humor

United Airlines’ price gauging

United we stand ?
by Korifaeus

I used to be a big fan of Continental Airlines, which was, as far as i’m concerned, the best U.S. Airline. The flight assistants appeared better trained than those of other airlines, with passengers being treated with respect, regardless of flying first class or coach.

One of the reasons they tried harder was because they were non-union, thus could lose their job were complaints brought against them, as opposed to union workers, whose union stands behind them even if their performance is less than mediocre.

A good friend of mine has to fly first class because he’s 6 foot 7, unable to sit in the tiny seats made for average size people. Good thing he can afford it, otherwise he’d have no other choice than sit in a seat with his knees stuck to his ears for several hours.

He, too, flew Continental exclusively, as did many of my friends and acquaintances. We’d try out different airlines on occasion for comparison, share our experiences.

No doubt the worst major airline we could all agree on is American Airlines. It’s coach seats are too small and since we’re all between 5 foot 10 and 6 foot 7, it was not unusual for the taller ones to end up with banged up knees and many of its flight attendants are just plain rude. Regardless of how friendly one is, “accommodation” does not appear to be in the dictionary of American Airlines.

When sitting on an aisle seat (coach) one is unable to take a relaxed nap, without having to fear that the flight attendant bumps a sticking out knee SO HARD, with his/her cart speedily pushed down the aisle without the flight attendant paying attention as to where he/she is going.

This happened to me not once, not twice, but several times during coach flights with American Airlines. I was shook up by a crush to my knee, ending up with a bruise. Did i receive an apology for the oversight ? Nope.
She had the audacity to fault me for having had my knee stuck out. Well, pardon me for dozing off.
Ever since then i make sure to get a window seat regardless of the airline i’m flying with and never flew American Airlines again.

With no breakfast or lunch served on an east to west ( NY – California) American Airline coach flight, one is given the choice to buy a sandwich for $5.00 ( this was in 2008). The only sandwich American Airlines offered was ” Ham on raisin bread” for $5.00. No joke.

My friend Jon, who’s Jewish, experienced the very same thing. He doesn’t eat pork and the only sandwich offered was “Ham on raisin bread”. No lunch for Jon. He never flew American Airlines again.

I don’t eat pork either, not for Religious reasons, but because i just don’t like pork. But what about those not eating Pork due to their Religion – Jewish or Muslim – or what about vegetarians/vegans, etc. ?
Why not offer a turkey sandwich, or a fruit salad ?
I find “ham” a poor choice for an international Airline, not taking different Religions into consideration.

Having had our experiences with different major airlines, we all ended up flying Continental Airlines, exclusively. The ticket prices were fair and affordable and even Stan, with his long legs ( being 6′ 7 ), could fly for $1600.00 first class and stretch out his legs.

Stan’s excuse for flying first class = the only thing money can buy is comfort and flying comfortably is about the only luxury he grants himself, thus why not. He works hard for his money.

The service was always impeccable and then came the day that changed everything. Continental merged with United Airlines. (Or was it a take-over ? ) Prior to the official merger one could easily tell which flight attendant was from United and which was from Continental. The friendly and accommodating ones were from Continental, the arrogant, to the point of “rude”, were from United. Some employees of Continental even wore bracelets stating, ” Ex-Con”, which was quite humorous. It was apparent they weren’t too happy about the merger and neither we’re we, the frequent Continental flyers.

The worst was the ” price gauging” – especially in first class.Trying to buy a ticket, even change a return flight by telephone, was as though one is bargaining at a Moroccan Bazaar.

Being told about the price gauging several times, not just by Stan, the one with no other choice than fly first class, i asked Stan to give me a call next time he buys a ticket by phone, so i can listen in on the conversation via conference call.

He did and i was stunned. He had already bought a first class ticket, which is fully refundable and could be changed any time, but needed to stay in California for another week, thus tried changing his ticket, without extra charge, of course.

First he was told his ticket was not a regular first class ticket but a Z class. In order to change it, remaining in first class, he’d need to pay an extra $700.00 dollars. He then explained to the Continental phone person that his ticket doesn’t say anything about Z-class, nor was he told he was getting a Z-class ticket. He’d bought a regular first class round trip ticket for $1600.00 as he always did. ( This was last year).

He thanked the person on the other line, then called Continental again, speaking to another person and was told ” No problem”, his ticket was changed to another date. Telling the accommodating person about his previous call, which he was sure was recorded, he was told it’s ” very strange”.

These price gauging tactics have become standard since the merger of United Airlines and Continental. Fast forward, Stan needed to buy a ticket from NY to California, thus called me last month, so i could eavesdrop via conference call, before making his call to Continental Airlines.

Request: A first class ticket, one week in advance.
Suggestion by ticket seller of the official Continental Airline Telephone number: ” The only ticket we have available for that date and time costs, $ 3.600.00.

” That’s very high”, replies Stan. ” How come ?”

” That’s the current price for a first class ticket”, he’s told.

Now Stan pulls a bluff and says: ” But wait a second, before i made this phone call i checked on your website and a first class round trip ticket is listed at $2600.00.

” Oh, wait a moment, i just see that there is a flight available for that price. “, replies the person of Continent/United. “But it’s a Z class.”

” Not according to your website” states Stan. “It says nothing about any Z class. What is Z class anyway ?”, he asks.

“It’s a special offer”, he’s told.

” And why doesn’t it state anything about special offer on your website ? It only lists your list price for a first class round trip ticket.

” Ah now i see, the computer sometimes shows different numbers. I don’t know what’s going on with the computer sometimes. There it is. You’re correct, it’s listed at $2600.00.”, he’s told.

Stan asks why the prices have jumped so dramatically, with him having been able to buy a ticket for $1600 in the past, and so on, to which he’s told it’s because the gasoline prices have gone up. He buys his tickets, it’s a regular first class, changeable and fully refundable. No mention of Z class.

Had i not witnessed this myself, i wouldn’t have believed it, quite frankly, because it sounds more like hoodlum haggling rather than ethical business practices of a major Airline.

Is this how United Airlines wants to continue doing business ?
If so i can guarantee that they’ll lose their Continental flyers who’re used to exceptional service.

I want Pan Am back.
Those were the days.



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