I am never flying United again.

So we’ve all been there. We all know that the airline industry is full of criminals and idiots, but what happened to me today was by far the most insulting thing I’ve ever endured directly from airline staff.

It’s 70 degrees in Denver today, and it was 70 degrees in Santa Cruz when I left. Reasonable clothes for such weather would look a lot like what I was wearing: flip flops, shorts and an awesome is_automattician() t-shirt. Now, admittedly, flip flops were a poor choice, but traveling today sounded awful anyway so taking my shoes off at the airport just didn’t really seem like an appealing option.

Upon reaching the plane, I started to worry it was going to be too cold for me since I had dressed so lightly. I sat down, put my stuff away and settled in. Since we weren’t moving, I was warm enough and my worries of being too cold subsided. I even turned on my air after a bit.

As is the case most of the time, when we started moving to take off, the A/C kicked on again, this time full-force. After a few minutes of climbing to our cruising altitude, I rang the flight attendant when I was able because I’d quickly lost warmth and was now worried about the short 1-hour flight from SFO to LAX (I have no idea why I had a layover in LA but whatever).

I had crossed my arms tightly over my chest and it would have been clear to anyone that I was cold. In fact, the flight attendant himself made a crossed arms gesture and inquired as to my warmth, to which I responded that I was freezing. I didn’t really hear his response and since he immediately walked past my seat, I started to try to piece together the syllables I’d heard him say into something having to do with warming me up. I convinced myself he was going to maybe turn the A/C down a bit and bring me a blanket?

How wrong I was.

You see, United only offers blankets to first-class passengers. I’m going to type that again, and in bold this time:

United Airlines only offers blankets to those passengers who have paid an exorbitant price to fly from SFO to LAX in the First Class cabin. I’d learn this later.

Now, United is free to do whatever it wants, business-wise. It’s pretty clear that it does, often relegating us Economy and Economy Plus passengers to the status of in-flight prisoners. Now we aren’t even afforded the comfort of a blanket when the plane is fucking 60 degrees. But I digress.

It surprised me to notice that the same flight attendant who’d responded to my little bell ring was now pulling the beverage cart to the front of the lowly Economy cabin passengers. Since I was in Economy Plus, I was asked first what drink I’d like. Perplexed by the lack of action on his part regarding my comfort, I once again inquired about a blanket and was even more perplexed by his response which was simply “We don’t have blankets.”

“We don’t have blankets.”

What? Your plane’s A/C is about to frost over my glasses and you don’t offer fucking blankets? Frontier Airlines tried to charge me $1.99 for a Coke the last time I flew them and now United’s telling me they don’t having motherfucking blankets. At any price.

Alright, fuck it. It’s gonna be a cold flight but I can manage, I think. Pretty soon though, I needed to use the restroom. It occurred to me as I got out of my seat that it might be warmer in the restroom but it wasn’t my primary goal. Upon entering, a warm flow of air buffeted me as I immediately made the decision to stay in the bathroom for the remaining duration of the flight. Fuck these United people, I thought.

I obviously didn’t intend to camp out in the bathroom for the entirety of the flight, no matter how short. But okay, I sat there fully clothed for a good 10 or 15 minutes (not an unreasonable amount of time to spend in the restroom, I’d wager) until I could feel my fingers and nose again. I stood up to check my hair before heading back to my seat (I am a vain, vain man), and in the process was interrupted by someone sliding open the lock to the restroom from the outside.

The door opened a crack, I made some kind of exclamation I’m sure, and the mysterious figure opening the door said “oh” and quickly shut it again. Feeling furious and violated, I slammed the lock back home. My heart was racing while I tried to figure out what just happened and since I was about to leave anyway, I started to go back to my seat.

I scowled my way halfway back to my seat and abruptly turned around. It’d just occurred to me that the flight attendant had opened the bathroom door, not another passenger. Confused and livid, I marched back to the front of the plane and asked the only person present if she’d been the one opening my door from the outside. She said that yes, she was, and that she was making sure there was someone in there.

I hope you’re making the face I’m making at that statement because it just makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

Furious, I told her never to do that again. She told me I needed to use the back restroom for the rest of the flight. Like an indignant child, I told her no.

I’m not proud of that last bit but fuck it. You cannot simply:

  1. Set the A/C of your plane in October to below 70 degrees. This plane was easily below 65.
  2. Tell Economy passengers that you don’t even have blankets, when the problem agent who greets me at the gate is going to tell me they’re reserved for First Class passengers.
  3. Open the motherfucking bathroom door because you’re fucking curious as to why it’s locked.
  4. Be completely unapologetic and cold when you’ve just violated someone’s privacy at your place of business, which is in the sky.

So this whole thing has done a great job of showing me to the nth degree just how bad United’s customer service is. They have systematically installed a customer-hostile culture that repeatedly stomps on your rights as a passenger, a customer, and a human.

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: airlines are run by criminals.
Flickr Photo by iambents