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Here’s the thing about unexpected airline emergencies and layovers: Most passengers — assuredly not all, but most — understand that sometimes, ish just happens. And passengers are, generally, reasonable human beings who want airlines to err on the side of safety. We’ll take the temporary inconvenience of a butchered travel itinerary over any chance that we will, you know, crash.
That said, there is a right way — and a very wrong way — to handle flight diversions. Guess which model United Airlines followed over the weekend? (Hint: Its PR team probably didn’t get a lot of sleep this weekend. Or they were sleeping on the job — depending on how you look at it.)
On Friday night, United Airlines Flight 958 was en route from Chicago to London when the craft was grounded “as a precaution” because there were “some lights on in the cockpit.” (That’s what one passenger told CNN, relaying the captain’s initial information. A United spokesperson has since described the incident as a “maintenance issue.”) Just as it was beginning its Atlantic crossing, the plane u-turned and landed at a remote Canadian military base in Goose Bay, Newfoundland. And here’s where the real nightmare began: for 20 hours (!) the 176 passengers whiled away in military barracks where overnight temperatures slid into the 30s, many spending the night in rooms without heat and supplied only with a pillow and simple sheet – no blankets. (Also, it’s reported, without towels for showers, depending on where in the barracks you happened to be placed.) Passengers weren’t able to access any extra or spare clothes in their luggage, which remained on the plane. They went half a day without food — breakfast was eventually served around 8 AM — and more upsetting to most, without active communication from the airline about what was going on. Tweets sent from passengers suggest that they went many hours without hearing word about what was going on and when they’d be updated on next steps.
Adding perceived insult to injury, crew spent the night at a nearby hotel, and showed up fresh-faced to the scene in the morning. (“The crew must rest to continue the flight,” United responded via Twitter to one irritated passenger. This is not untrue, but passengers may have felt less slighted if they all had heat, at least.)
In-Flight Dining / In-Flight Comfort / United / United Airlines / Airlines / Airline News / In-Flight Meals / → All Tags
Hungry travelers, take heed. Your summer travel just got that much better if you’re heading overseas with United, as the carrier is upgrading and improving some of their in-flight food and beverage offerings.
Eating beforehand is probably still a solid recommendation for those flying in coach, but it does sound like United is making some kind of effort to provide economy passengers with a little more than the usual cabin fare. Beginning June 1 the carrier will introduce a three-course meal — or their version, at least.
Things will begin simple enough with some kind of variation of cheese and crackers. Main course options will include things like Tuscan ravioli and udon noodles with stir-fried vegetables, and all these entrées will be accompanied by salad and bread. After
choking things down making a happy plate dessert will be provided, as gelato, mousse, and ice cream will all be in the rotation.
You know that famous admonition against “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater”? Here’s an updated version for 2015: “Don’t shout ‘I could totally hack your onboard systems’ in an airplane!” (Modern life, amirite?)
On the other hand, maybe you’ll think that United Airlines overreacted when it stopped Chris Roberts from boarding a flight over the weekend. Roberts, a (very) prominent online security systems researcher and founder of One World Labs, a Denver-based firm that helps clients identify potential cyber threats, was supposed to board a Saturday flight to San Francisco for a security conference. According to the AP report, Roberts wasn’t originally told why he wasn’t allowed to board the plane, but will be sent an explanatory letter shortly.
But it appears, says everyone, that this was probably a response to a tweet Roberts sent last week while flying United, when he joked about hacking into the plane’s systems to deploy the oxygen masks.
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Let me preface this review by saying that, these days, when an airline gets my family and I safely to our destination, it was a successful flight and I’m deeply grateful. Get me there on time to boot and bonus points ensue.
But, we do have the choice about which airlines to fly and one can’t help comparing the amenities that are offered and extra fees that are charged when spending hundreds of dollars (or valuable airline miles) on flights.
That said, we flew United Flight 1251 to Montego Bay from Chicago O’Hare April 4 - which arrived safely and on time so the major tenets of a good flight were, indeed, accomplished - and the WiFi wasn’t working, the crew ran out of immigration forms, there were no free snacks (no surprise here), and the ones they were selling ones were rather overpriced (Pringles for $3.99, for example).
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Good news for those who enjoy an in-flight happy hour, as once again United Airlines is reaching into the craft beer cellar and picking out a new selection.
The airline is continuing their partnership with Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company, as this time it’s the Goose IPA that is being loaded into the beverage cart. This is beverage option number two from United and Goose Island, as they have already been serving up 312 Urban Wheat Ale for a little bit of time. Eventually the Goose IPA will replace the former option, as United looks to rollout the new ale worldwide throughout April.
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Just the other day United was on our radar, as the airline was talking about the newest additions and what not to their United Club menu—like pita chips. Now they are back once again, as United is trying out some new ideas when it comes to the boarding area.
Over at Chicago-O’Hare the carrier is changing things up within Terminal 1, as gates B4, B8, and B10 are getting the new look. Stuff like new seating areas, mood lighting, more power outlets, and even gate agent podiums are all part of the new look. We’d imagine it’s been decades since any thought or design has been put into the boarding area over at United, so we’re thinking that change is a good thing.
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United Club, the airline's airport lounge brand, is upgrading and improving their food and beverage. But don't get too excited. Yes, it's better than their former offerings, however, it’s still very much lacking when compared to an international lounge.
Some of the new options include an oatmeal and Greek yogurt bar during the morning along with scones, cereals, and other goodies during breakfast. (Excited yet?) Different soups will make an appearance during the afternoon hours as well as hummus, salami and cheese, and something they’re calling a Mediterranean Salad—think wheat berries, peppers, tomatoes, and black olives. (See? We told you not to get too excited.)
These goodies will all be free for members, but they are thinking about offering up some food-for-sale options later this year.
The United Terminal at Chicago O’Hare International Airport just got a little artsier.
“City Windows,” a permanent art installation has been unveiled near gate B19, It was created by Chinese artist Qiao Xiaoguang and it’s pretty awesome. So awesome, it might not make us so pissed off to fly United anymore.
The ancient art of Chinese paper cutting was used to create a panorama of iconic images from Chicago and Beijing. The images highlight landmarks like Navy Pier and the Willis Tower in Chicago, and Tiananmen Square and the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. The display symbolizes the deep friendship and cultural and business connections between Chicago and China, and can also be viewed from outside the airport when approaching the terminal.
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Wow—it’s been years and years since United first put WiFi on a muthafunking plane, but now that it's 2015, United is finally set to offer WiFI on their regional jet fleet. The cramped legroom and claustrophobic conditions will feel less so, as you’ll be tweeting, streaming, and posting from here to there.
Aircraft like the E170, E175, and CRJ700 will be heading into the hangar, as Gogo InFlight’s ATG-4 advanced air-to-ground is to be installed, hopefully by summer. Not only can travelers expect the usual WiFi offerings, but these planes—thankfully—will also score a slice of what United calls their “Personal Device Entertainment” giving access to movies, television, and other goodies right from your own mobile screen.
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Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of all the new route announcements that come our way, so we’ve complied a little bit of a rundown below. As long as you can afford the fares, this should definitely help add to your passport stamp collection.
There’s still some government stamps and seals to be had, but it does sound like we’re well on our way to a new option from All Nippon Airways. The plan is for ANA to do the nonstop thing beginning on June 12 between Tokyo-Narita and Houston. The daily service will operate thanks to some Boeing 777-300ERs, and if you’re looking to book things or cash in some miles—expect eight seats in First, 52 in Business, and 190 in Economy.
New Boeing birds are on the move beginning next year, as LAN Airlines is sending their 787-9 between New York-JFK and Santiago, Chile. The new route will start doing its thing on July 20, so start planning your vacation now. Utilizing this stretched version of the 787, LAN will be the first carrier to offer up international service down to South America from JFK using a plane such as this. There are 313 seats in total, so we’re sure you can find one that fits you well.
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Sometimes it seems like everyone around you has the newest, best smartphone, and soon that feeling will include all the flight attendants onboard United Airlines. The carrier just announced that they’re ordering a boatload Apple's freshest offering to aid with in-flight service efficiency.
United was sold on the awesomeness of these little—well, big—devices, as the carrier is bringing the iPhone 6 Plus to 23,000 flight attendants. It's not a holiday present, however; the iPhones will be used to record retail transactions and other purchases aboard flights. Access to corporate email, intranet sites, and even policies and manuals will also be accessed through the new phones. United is even ditching the traditional printed safety manuals, as everything will now be right on the screen.
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A few weeks ago, United began trialing a program at Newark Airport. It essentially allowed frequent flyers to redeem those hard-earned MileagePlus miles for food in some restaurants in the terminal. While it might be cool to just swipe your boarding pass and pay from your account, at about 1,000 miles for a glass of wine, the conversion rates aren't the most favorable.
This got us thinking that there are plenty of other United products better worth the miles than an overpriced meal in an overpriced airport restaurant...