One of the trips that I made last year, led me from Newark, New Jersey to Washington D.C.. On that occasion I used United Express, the regional airlines of United Airlines. The flight was part of an international business class ticket from Tunis via Frankfurt to Washington D.C.. As always, I made a little video about it for my Youtube channel that you can find right below. In this article I will give you additional information about my United Express Experience:
So I arrived at Newrk’s Liberty airport after a nice flight in United Airlines’ new Polaris business class in their Boeing 777. After immigration, I wanted to collect my belongings and continue my trip to Washington. D.C. with United Express. At first everything went on as expected. I did the check-in and went to the United Airlines lounge, which I was qualified to visit due to my international business class ticket.
The lounge wasn’t bad, but it was nothing special either. While it was crowded there was still enough space for everyone. After my lounge visit I went to the gate -- and there the problems started. The plane was there, but the crew wasn’t. It had to come with a different plane and that plane was delayed due to a thunderstorm. At that point I thought “well, let’s wait a bit and it will be okay”. At the same time I noticed that the sky was changing to an unusual color. The flight was postponed again, so I went back to the lounge, where they let me in again. Hours passed. And then finally, the crew arrived and boarding began.
Delay due to weather
At this point it became dark outside. Once boarding was complete, we started taxiing to the runway -- and stopped shortly afterwards. It rained cats and dogs, the wind blew so heavily that you could feel the airplane shaking and there were intense lightnings all over the place. That was a real thunderstorm! And we waited. And waited. And waited. The crew handed out some drinks and snacks. After a few hours (!) on the ground, the storm was over and you could see airplanes departing. Well, but we wouldn’t. The pilot announce that according to some FAA regulations the crew was not allowed to continue the trip and the flight was canceled. We went back to the gate, got our luggage and had to rebook our flight.
When the problems began…
Now United Airlines showed its disorganized and customer-unfriendly side. It was pure chaos. There was no separate check-in counter available for business class and status customers, so you had to either wait or be very quick. I was quick, but what happened next was a total and utter joke on behalf of the ground staff.
I wanted to get another flight on the next day -- as early as possible. “Why would you want that?”, was the answer I got back. “Because, I want it that way!”, I said and thought “Why is it your business anyway?” The lady looked up different flight options and stated that there were no early morning flights available and I had to go at 5pm or so. I accepted, because I had no other choice. I could not check what she said because the battery of my phone died and I had no proper internet connection anyway.
When I asked if they offered any assistance with hotels, she refused. She then replied it is due to weather and for this reason you don’t get a hotel, a compensation or anything. That’s true, the fact of the matter is that we only got into the thunderstorm, because the crew showed up late. I didn’t want any money from them anyway, just some help with a hotel reservation, because I assumed the would be full pretty soon and my cell phone didn’t work.
Anyway, I found myself a lousy motel and when I was there, I checked the available flight options for the next day. And what I saw there really struck me. There were indeed flight in the morning with United Airlines and there were seats left. Is this how my United Express experience ends -- in frustration? No, I always look for solutions to fix a problem.
I rushed back to the airport, it was around 3am, not angry, but wondering why the lady didn’t offer me those flights. She wasn’t there any more and as it became late, I had to run around the airport to find a United Airlines representative that could help me.
The lady I found, was the complete opposite of the one before. She wanted to solve the problem, too, and within minutes I had a new flight on the next morning.
As for the flight itself was uneventful and I was actually allowed into the lounge once again. I recommend watching my video trip report about my United Express experience. The whole story serves as an example as to how one person can ruin your trip and your plans. While that was uncool, I also understand that United Airlines is a company with thousands of employees and my experience is not representative for the whole business.
So would I fly with them again? Well, if I have to. Not so much because that particular trip wasn’t so good, but simply because I’m not a Star Alliance member. If you want to see other trip reports, please don’t forget to visit my channel on Youtube. One more thing: There is a quick and eco-friendly travel alternative from New York to Washington D.C. that you may not have heard of. It comes without all the hassle at the airport and starts right in Manhattan!