Are many United pilots particularly bitter this year?

Of my 10 mainline United flights so far this year, precisely TWO have had Channel 9 on. That’s a whopping 20%. That’s probably just my bad luck, but what I find really disturbing is what a purser told me on a flight over the weekend. The purser mentioned that as s/he (I’m trying to avoid too many details here) was in the cockpit to relieve the pilots, and the captain mentioned that they were trying to decide whether or not to slow down on approach and request an alternate runway so that they would get in 20 minutes late, and thereby go illegal and not be able to fly the next day.

There’s not a whole lot I can say in response to that, other than expressing my disgust at such an attitude. Come on pilots, your management team sucks, but how the hell could you even consider doing such a thing? Not only are you letting out your issues on the passengers, but you’re also wasting a lot of fuel. In this case, not only would my flight have been late arriving, but the departing flight they were supposed to take the next morning would have been delayed by hours while they find a new crew (this is not a station where they have reserve crews).

I’d like to emphasize that this doesn’t necessarily represent a majority of United pilots, as most are great. Still, it seems to be a growing minority…

Filed Under: United
  1. The only term that comes to mind for that behavior is “sabotage”.

    Clearly, though, the pilots on this flight are complete idiots, as they are sabotating their own livelihood.

  2. Well said, Oliver. The whole approach some people take towards their jobs is downright frightening. I don’t know any other industry where so many people have complete disgust for their job, and often show it towards their customers.

    I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I remember the tour we got of United’s maintenance facility back in September of 2007, and how friendly all of the mechanics were. They were genuinely happy to see us, thanked us for our business, and couldn’t have been nicer. It’s kind of scary that the employees that never interact with customers are also the most consistently friendly.

  3. I ‘ve done two UA ATL MRs this year. Second one yesterday, third on Friday. I can only remember CH 9 turned on one segment for sure. (I really should write those things down for future stats math.) Very disappointing. Thought it was me and my luck, but apparently not.

    On the upside of my latest flight experience, my DEN-LAX purser and FA noticed my “Glenn’s Gotta Go” wristband. They were quite pleasantly surprised I was/am a regular old passenger.

  4. As a former flight manager with United who knows the minds of pilots and fight attendants very well, take this second hand rumor with a large grain of salt. Flight attendants often hear pilots banter back and forth and too often take casual hypothesis from pilots as gospel. I’ve had many a complaint come across my desk from the flight attendant side complaining about pilot conduct which in most cases turned out to be a large case of misunderstanding.
    I would ask a question. Did the flight actually land twenty minutes late? I would guess no. As a pilot I also know too that it is physically impossible to add twenty minutes to a flight just by changing runways at an outlying field. At Chicago, sure, but not a less than busy airport. The only way to do that is to go in to holding circles over the airport and that would get you fired even today.
    I think it was a case of the pilots wishing they could add twenty minutes to the flight and the flight attendant misunderstood the context.
    Bear in mind at United the domestic pilots work very hard and get very tired. And don’t argue with me on this unless you really understand the flight work rules and FAR’s that they abide by and endure. Many of them are not so much angry as they are burned out physically. I won’t go into why it translates out this way but how would you like to work over 270 hours a month. Not fight hours — people hours.

  5. All I know is that I got 100% hit going between Denver and Singapore in early January (Denver – San Francisco – Narita – Singapore – Narita – San Francisco – Denver). I was beginning to think that things had changed but I guess not in reading some of the responses.

    Well, as Lucky as done in the past, I made it a point to thank the Captain for turning it on and in all cases, it was met with “Thank you, I hope you enjoyed it”.

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