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I know this is going to make me sound a complete cock.
I know I should be grateful to have someone pay for me to fly business class regardless.
But this isn’t actually about my ‘princess’ tendencies, it’s about how blind – or arrogant – some companies are in relation to the expectations of their customers.
I fly a lot.
I fly to stupid places for stupid reasons but what this means is that I have had the pleasure of experiencing a bunch of different airlines, sat in all parts of the plane.
OK, so I tend to fly with Virgin because – as many of you know – I have a personal relationship with a number of the senior people there, but that aside, when I think of the airlines that consistently offer the highest levels of service and hospitality, it is always the Asian ones that lead the way, especially when compared to the once undisputed leaders of customer service – America.
This shouldn’t come as any surprise as I’ve been talking about this for years – be it planes or hotels – however nothing highlighted this fact more than my recent trip from Chicago to Shanghai upon United Airlines.
I was incredibly fortunate to be flying at the front end of the plane which, according to Zuji.com, costs approx US$6500.
SIX AND A HALF THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!
And that’s just one way!!!
OK, so it’s a 13 hour flight but that is a hell of a lot of money which is why you’d expect the airline to treat you like a King – but United is not like every other type of Airline.
Putting aside the fact the lounge at Chicago’s O’Hare airport was little more than a cheap motel in terms of it’s décor and facilities, the real shock came when I boarded the plane.
Sure there was a lot of space … sure it was clean … but the seats were, well fucking awful.
To be fair to them, when I flew to Chicago from Shanghai, I was in a plane with all the bells and whistles.
Sure the service – and the food – was utter pants, but at least there was a good entertainment system and a fantastic seat that turned quickly and easily into a comfortable – by airline standards – bed.
But coming back was an entirely different experience.
This was an old plane.
A very old plane.
Not only were the seats unable to do anything other than lean back a few inches more than a seat in economy, the inflight entertainment system was one of those ultra-old types where you ‘got what you were given’ and you had no control when you could watch the limited choice of movies, because they were all running at the same time and were all on a loop so when one film finished, you had to wait till the other film you wanted to watch started all over again because it was probably already half way through by the time you got to it.
I know this makes me sounds like I’m a poncy fucker – and maybe I am – but for over SIX THOUSAND US DOLLARS, this was a disgrace.
I don’t know whether it’s because United Airlines don’t have enough good planes or whether they think the people in China have no comprehension of ‘quality of service’ but regardless it’s fucking terrible, especially when Singapore Airlines offer a much more comfortable seat, better food, better service and well over [and I mean, well over] 100 channels of ‘on-demand’ entertainment IN ECONOMY.
To put that in some sort of perspective, my United, business class flight offered me 9 channels.
And each channel had been carefully designed to show old movies that weren’t very popular the first time they came out.
In all honesty, I can’t see how UNITED can charge the same amount of money for this flight as they do on one of their modern fleet.
Of course they don’t tell you at the time of booking you’re going to be on a plane from the 80’s – so by the time you find out, it’s too late – but in terms of ensuring their limited loyalty is pushed to the breaking point, this is certainly a good way to go.
But it gets better. Or should I say worse.
When I got on board the plane, a hostess came up to me and asked to see my ticket.
While she tried to do it nicely, at least by United hostess standards, it was pretty obvious she was checking to see if I belonged there.
OK, so unlike the other passengers – all dressed in blue business shirts, tan chino’s and brown brogues – I was an unshaven, birkenstock-clad, shitty jeans and crap t–shirt wearing mess, with weird tattoos going up both my arms … but to say I was insulted was a bit of an understatement.
“Don’t you think I should be sitting here?” I asked.
“Not at all sir …” she replied, “… I’m just checking you’re in the right seat.”
While I might be being paranoid, the fact I was the only passenger in the whole of the business class cabin that she asked to provide seating evidence makes me think I’m not so just to fuck with their minds, I added …
“I’m pretty sure I am, I’m a travel journalist so I do this quite a lot”.
The look she gave me was priceless especially as even she knew she couldn’t challenge me with any more questions.
Yeah, I lied – sorry – but they started it when they charged my company over six grand and promised me a ‘business class’ experience.
If this is the sort of standard American business people think is of high quality, it’s no surprise their country is so in the shit.
Sorry Steve & Lee, I’ll never stray from you or your partner again.
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