Worst purser in a very long time…

My big trip isn’t off to all that good of a start. This evening on my flight from Tampa to Washington, I had quite possibly United’s laziest purser. To start, his announcements were bizarre. I’m not quite sure how to describe them, other than that I was scratching my head at the way he was making his announcements.

The “bad” service started with him taking meal orders, though. As he took meal orders, he simply said “chicken or pasta?”

Now, typically I try to go with chicken because it’s a bit healthier than pasta, though I wanted to know what kind of chicken dish it was, which I thought was a reasonable request. I refuse to eat United’s “chicken and vegetables,” which is inedible, while their thai chicken dish (or almost any other chicken dish) is quite good. So I said “what kind of a chicken dish is this?” to which he responded “chicken.” I said “yes, but how is the dish served?” He responded with “that’s all they tell us, how am I supposed to know?” Um, I dunno, how about you lift the lid of one of the plates and take a look, like every other flight attendant?

The nuts were also cold and cookies weren’t served. The aisle flight attendant was exceptionally nice, but the purser seemed to “own” the galley, and he wasn’t about to spend time baking cookies.

As I went to the bathroom towards the end of the flight, I passingly said “no cookies tonight?” to which he responded “the flight is too short.” Miraculously, he had plenty of time to eat one of the leftover meals, and we didn’t see him for the last hour of the 1hr45min flight.

Here’s to hoping Terrence is the purser on my next flight…

Filed Under: Travel, United
  1. What is it that you don’t like?

    Do you really like cookies and hot nuts, or are you so obsessed with ‘the routine’ that you simply get annoyed when it is broken?

    If the second case is true, you might want to lighten up a little bit. There are worse things in the world :-). Why get yourself worked up about things like this??

    Have a drink 🙂

  2. how old was this guy? some of the very senior people at united act like they don’t want to work anymore.

  3. Ben- I was on your flight! I was in row 4. I thought that was you (blue shirt and went into RCC after landing) but for some reason thought you’d be taller (sorry!). Anyway, truly was a lazy crew. Ordered a beer and they brought be a glass…..like I couldn’t have the entire can?!?

  4. @ Hulagrrl210 — He was actually relatively young, maybe 40ish?

    @ Pauly — Hah, I’m six feet tall, how tall did you think I was? Might have been slouching a bit since I am still fighting a cold.

  5. @ Pauly — Were you the person that called my name? I knew I heard my name and turned around, though there was no one there. Hope it was you so I know I’m not going crazy…

  6. Did you write to United? Not seeking thousands of miles…but simply asking management to speak to this FA and remind him/her of their service program.

  7. When I fley envoy class from PHL-AMS we were served dinner and that was it till breakfast, had to walk to the galley if I wanted anything. Flight attendant sat, watched a movie, and ate her meal. It was even worse flying back to the states in coach class. We went 4 hrs with absolutely no service. They just sat in the galley having a grand old time. We all started to form a line in the back for drinks.

  8. With airfares increasing every several days, they better clean up their act. I think heated nuts and warm cookies are just as important as the entree. Many people would like a FA position in this awful recession.

    If they can’t maintain a standard in First class, we all may just turn to more video conferencing, rather than flying to a meeting. Right? I really think all domestic FA’s need to be trained by people from SQ or Thai Air.

    One of UA’s many million milers,

  9. @David, that’s when I start playing (using) the call button. It’s the only way to ‘self-correct’ the system if/when it’s broken.

  10. I have very well experienced the same. How are these FA’s in #1 command of the service execution on a flight? It is 5x more expensive to attract a new customer as it is to retain an existing. It’s beyond me how they still have their jobs.


  11. @JRL

    Have you ever tried, as a manager, to fire or even discipline a union worker?

    It might actually cost less to get new customers than to deal with the arbitration and litigation costs (let alone strike costs). Add to that the merger uncertainty (e.g., seniority list integration) and senior management has probably made it clear that upsetting the union, right or wrong, is forbidden. Some employees realize this and are taking advantage of the situation.

  12. It is possible to fire union workers like any others, I have done it. Its also difficult to judge the performance or career of an employee by one incident. If the FA was having a difficult day then they should have the possibility of being excused. Everybody has a difficult day.

  13. This is funny stuff. You really do have to scratch your head. I have had similar experiences on other carriers, particularly when it comes to the food. Some airlines go through a lot of work (and money) to have “celebrity” chefs design their meals for some flights and the FA’s do it an injustice by saying “beef or pasta”

  14. This is one major issue with United. When the service is good, it can be excellent, but it can also be atrocious when service is bad!

  15. @Wouter – I agree. Why sweat the small stuff? I mean, warm nuts? C’mon….anyone that is going to stew (and initiate a blog post) about nut temperature is going to have a heart attack at age 45.

  16. I’d be miffed, too. And it’s not that he’s “sweating the small stuff” – my take is that the issue is moreover the poor attitude of the Purser. I mean, most FAs even in Y can at least tell you in general what the dish consists of. And even if this one hadn’t looked, a more polite and professional response to Lucky;s question might have been “I’m sorry I didn’t see” or something like that…rather than “How am I supposed to know?”

    Though if they can’t be bothered to serve the little extras that come with F, what’s the use in having F? TPA-IAD has never been “too short” when I’ve been on it, for cookies. They crank those out in no time at all.

  17. This is one of those posts where I’d like to comment, but it will ruin my Senate confirmation hearings in 25 years, so I have to make up a fake name.

    If you are supposed to get warm nuts and fresh cookies, then that’s what you should have. Nothing ruins a nice trip like an F/A with an attitude. We all know it. Some F/As turn on the charm and some just treat you like a dead fish from the moment you step on board. I have tipped F/As as much as $20 for a genuinely nice trip and there are others I’ve just wanted to murder. Jack Welch had it right, you should fire the bottom 10% every year. Anybody who lies about the trip or uses the time to sit around eating his own dinner needs to go.

  18. Lucky-You’re an experienced traveler–why didn’t you take this guy aside as you left the plane and say something to him in a nice but pointed way? His response/reaction would have been very interesting.

  19. Welcome to the Y experience in United for awhile now. (Well, actually it’s gotten quite a bit better on my trips in the last 6 months). Mostly, one tries not to make an FA upset. A good trip was being ignored. The normal trip was getting chewed out only once in a trip.

    Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’m guessing the cookies were for him to take home.

  20. Agree with the comments about the lying FA. There should be no room for liars in a cut throat service industry but unfortunately it appears that there is.

  21. “He responded with “that’s all they tell us, how am I supposed to know?””

    Those Singapore girls probably point to this and laugh when they see him.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *