Friday Fives – every answer is United Airlines


What is a filthy business tactic you know that everyone should be aware of?

This is one you may not know about – airplane tickets, websites, and cookies.  I learned this from my brother, who flies for a living.  If you go to a website and look up fares for a destination… then leave… and come back to that site… the rates go up!  Basically, they know you have shopped and around and still came back to them.  They know they have you.  Scary, isn’t it?  Also… brilliant.  To get around it, he’ll change browsers, or clear his cookies.

What is unethical as fuck, but is extremely common practice in the business world?

What isn’t?  To me, business ethics is like ‘compassionate conservative’.  Does it really exist?  Here is a great point.  My brother is a HUGE Wal Mart advocate.  I don’t shop there, personally.  I am fortunate that I can shop places that pay living wages and benefits (like Costco).  He points out that Wal Mart’s job is NOT to be ethical, or even to take care of their employees.  In the strictest since, they are a business.  That means it is their job to make as much money as possible without breaking any laws.  Business isn’t about morals, and neither is capitalism.  If you are ‘public’ company (which means you have shareholders)… your responsibility is singular:  to make as much money for your stockholders as possible.

What has been the best corporate Darwin Award? A decision made by a company that basically killed the business.

Oh man, United Airlines tends to win this award every week.  The best would be ‘United Breaks Guitars’.  The story in short:  guy sitting on plane looks out window and watches guys abusing his guitar case as they load it in the belly.  When he next sees his guitar (a Taylor, NOT cheap)… it is busted.  He told United, and they basically told him to eat a bag of dicks.   Being a musician, he made a song and video about it, called ‘United Breaks Guitars’.  It went viral, and the publicity cost United millions.  Someone did the math, and pinned it around 180 Million.  Please, enjoy these links.  It is very very well documented.  I am MORE than happy to spread the humiliation further.   I wrote a piece called ‘United Airlines Sucks’ about a decade ago.  Don’t even remember what I was bitching about.  But, that post is one of my most popular, and has thousands of hits.

Yeah, this story has it’s own Wiki page.

Really, any time you read a story about gerbils being forcibly flushed down airplane toilets (a child’s pet, for god’s sake!) or doctors being dragged off planes and beaten, or dogs jammed in overhead bins left to die… you just know it will be United.  Funny thing is, even if it isn’t United… that is the first thing we all think.  So, the damage is done.

It seems people google the term ‘United Airlines Sucks’ pretty darn often.  Let’s just stop and enjoy the song.  Oh, and this incident changed the goddamn laws of the United States of America.  A bill was passed that mandates guitars are to be allowed on board the plane (as opposed to below, in cargo)

Ok, full disclosure.  Maybe they aren’t the worse people on Earth.  They did deny a lady from boarding with an ‘emotional support peacock’.  Thank god, those birds are assholes.  So is anyone who needs one, and thinks they should fly with one.  Obviously, this whole emotional support _____ thing is out of control.  I guess I could see the ducks and pigs and dogs… but someone had to draw the line.

 What companies make you wonder ‘how are they still in business’?

 Well, United.  I’ll have to get back to you on that.  The thing that bothers me most about business is apathy.  I am not even surprised by malice.  Apathy, though… confounds me.

 What company has forever won your business?

 I can’t think of any.  This isn’t to say there aren’t any.  Costco is one I am pretty loyal to.  Not just great prices and free samples all the time, but they are notorious as a good and fair employer.  Being the liberal that I am, that stuff means a lot to me.  In our society, you vote with your dollar.  It is more powerful the letters or rants or blogs.


Friday Fives – flying edition

Are you afraid to fly?  Do you enjoy it?

Love to fly.  Flying to me is like a dog’s relationship with cars.  Hate security and almost everything about the airport.  Super duper stressful.  Flying, though, it awesome.  What’s not to love?  Cruising across the sky at 700 miles an hour while sitting on your butt sipping whiskey and watching movies is about the best possible way to spend an afternoon.  Then, once you sit up, you are on a different part of the Earth.  Pretty great if you ask me!

What, for  you, is the over/under on what is drivable vs better to fly?

8 hours is a perfect cut off.  Doesn’t mean I won’t drive further.  We drive to Phx at least once a year, and that is about 15 hours.  We have that drive mastered.  We used to stop half way (Albuquerque) for sleep.  Now, we plow straight through.  Each person drives a full tank.  Once your tank is empty – stop for fuel and potty and snacks and now you get a four-hour break.  Now, if this were an entry about driving and road trips, I would do 500 words on why jerky is essential for car travel.  This is about flying, so let’s stay focused!   So, why drive 15 hours to Phoenix if I could fly there in 90 minutes? That is about other aspects – like having a car when we get there, having flexibility on schedule, and being able to take the doggies with us.

Any great flying/airplane stories?

This one.  I wrote about it before, so am just linking it here.  Short story is this.  Pilot told us we were held up due to a broken engine and some paperwork.  Then, 20 minutes later he said “we are clear to fly, we fixed the paperwork”.  Gee, that’s great and all.  But … uh… what about the engine, mister?

Any terrible flying/airplane stories?

Yeah.  Years ago we were heading to Florida for a vacation.  We had a super bad flight, because of a storm we hit.  Super bad.  Terrifying.  The plane shook, those masks came down, people were crying.  I was absolutely positive we were going to crash.  At that moment, I made peace with my death.  I literally sat there and thought “I have had a great life, I am with my great friend and my wife.  I have no regrets.”  But, we didn’t die.  When we finally arrived, though, the pilot was overheard to say it was the worst turbulence he had ever experienced.

Now, this hasn’t sworn me off of flying at all.  That is just part of the risk.  However, I would bet more than a handful of people who were on that flight never got on a plane again.  No one did anything wrong, though.  That is just the deal with zooming across the heavens.

People used to dress up to fly, and it was a privilege that people looked forward to.  With that said, what is the future of air travel?

it certainly has moved to a lowest common denominator.  However, that isn’t the airlines fault.  That is the consumers’ fault.  This is our own creation.  I don’t see anything getting better anytime soon.  Another thing it seems is that pilots aren’t the best anymore.  It used to be that airline pilots were ex military.  They had all flown Vietnam and had seen everything.  They also made a TON of money.  Pilots were rich, and you want your pilots rich.  Just like doctors.  Those pilots in that fatal crash in Buffalo were overworked.  They also had to moonlight because they couldn’t make a decent living just being pilots.

Again, I am not going to blame unions or big mean corporations.  This comes down to you and I – being cheap.

So, in summary, I love to fly.  However, a quick search shows I have a long history of also complaining about them.  See here, here, and here.  And, I can’t walk away from a story on flying without including this great video – United Breaks Guitars!

Airlines – why don’t they fight for us?

Update at bottom 1.13.17

I was reminded of flying the other day, and what a pain it is.  Many people like to say “I don’t fly anymore, it’s too much hassle and too much money.”

I know you have heard this, too.  What is especially a concern is all the stupid rules:  no liquids, no shoes, no explosives, no jackets… it goes on and on.  Each time the TSA puts a new rule in place, like that strip searching/naked xray/ or grab ass pat down thing… it makes flying a little less appealing.  it also means you have to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours ahead.  So, each time they change the rules there is a pubilc uproar.  People get their Facebook statusii in a twitter.  Even lawmakers demand an end to the bullshit like this.

That isn’t why I write.  My concern is this:  there is one person we NEVER hear from when this bullshit gets pulled – the airlines.  Every stupid rule must cost them millions.    Yet, they stay silent.  My theory is not that they feel the skies are safer.  Nothing of the dance you do in the airport would have stopped 9/11.  The terrorists had fake bombs, and ceramic knives.  You can still get through the airport with these things.  Ceramic knives won’t show up on Xray.  It is, effectively, pottery.

So, why don’t the airlines even pretend to fight us.  They have lawyers and publicists and big planes.  Think of the customer loytalty an airline could score if they did an ‘open letter to our customers’ about what bullshit the TSA is… but they are working to make us safer… bla bla bla.  I mean, we know United doesn’t care about youFact.  But, Frontier is good people, and i like Southwest, too.   Southwest rocks because they don’t charge you bullshit fees to change plans.  If you spend $300 on a ticket, and decide not to go… you have a $300 credit with Southwest for a year.  Try that with anyone else.  Southwest hates fat people, though, something awful.

I mean, all airlines do, because weight is fuel which is expensive.  But, Southwest should just put out a commercial declaring jihad on fat people, like they declared jihad on fees.

I should keep things in perspective.  Louis CK was right.  Everything is amazing, and nobody’s happy.  Watch now!



Update 1.13.17 – here is a PERFECT example of what I was talking about when i wrote this a few years ago.  I guy had his name spelled wrong on his plane ticket.  Called to have it fixed.  Easy, right?  10 seconds with a cursor in a database?  Airline wanted to charge him MORE than the cost of a full ticket.  Need a typo fixed?  $300, please!  He found a beautiful work around just to screw with, and shame, the airline.  Read about it here.

This is why we only fly Southwest when we travel, even if it is a bit more.  You can change your flight anytime, for NO penalty.  NO bullshit with them.  Also, no bag fees or soda fees.  So, that is absolutely worth an extra $20 on a ticket… for that piece of mind.

Now I remember

You know, I have been so busy this week with remodeling my kitchen that I almost forgot to take some time to hate United Airlines. No worries, though, they stepped up to the plate like champs… as they always do. See, United went bankrupt a couple of years ago because of super bad management. Super bad! Don’t tell me it was after effects of 9/11, or any of that horseshit. Southwest kept flying and kept making money. Anyhow, United demanded the government bail them out and pay all of their debts. The government, wisely, told them to f themselves.

So then United, in an effort to prove how horrible they are… canceled all of their employee’s pensions. This leaves the Federal Govt (ie; you and me) to pay for these pensions for long time employees. Problem also is that the pensions would only be paid out to lifetime employees at about 40% of their original promised value.

That was then, this is now. We don’t worry about them anymore because we fly Southwest Air now to Denver. Guess what United decided today, with the company still failing in bankruptcy, and still nowhere near ever making a profit?

United CEO could get $15 million in stock

Three executive vice presidents at United would pocket restricted stock and options worth $6 million each, and four senior vice presidents would each receive equity grants worth $3 million. Thirty-one other company officers would each get $750,000 in grants, and 366 other managers would receive $100,000 in equity.

Wow. I mean, just… WOW. The company went teets up, laid everyone off, went into bankruptcy, reneged on the retirement for all their employees… then gave the suits Millions. Come on, what the shit is that? No wonder the company can’t stay aground, they are too busy paying off management. Long story short, don’t fly United.