Posts tagged “united airlines”

Up in the air

Aka, a removable feast. Strong signs of cultural change as airline meals morph, evolve, and devolve. Compare my recent repast on United ($7 for the boxed snack set)

with the hot meal below, from a 1960s Braniff domestic flight.

It’s striking how much cultural norms and consumer expectations around hospitality in this context have changed – imagine handing that 1960s passenger the meal I got on my flight.

See more airline meals throughout the decades here.

Flying the sneaky skies


While checking in online for a United Airlines flight, you may be offered the opportunity to upgrade to Economy Plus. It’s likely that most people decline upsells in many situations, though. The default would be to click “no thanks” and move on to completing the transaction. But United has done some tricky and manipulative interface design. The bright yellow arrow with bold text placed on the right is almost irresistible. E-commerce sites have trained us to envision a transaction moving from left to right (granted that they’ve landed on that model since it corresponds to how we read and other cultural factors); it’s very easy to click on the arrow and make a purchase you didn’t want. It takes cognitive work to search for the preferred option which is a lowly blue-underlined unbolded text link off to the left.

Why would United do this? Sure, they can trick a few people into mistakenly purchasing an upgrade. But at what cost to the brand? Even if they don’t fool you, you’ve had to work to avoid being fooled, and the trust (seemingly an important brand attribute for an airline) is dinged.

Grab a clue, web people @ United…this is no way to interface with customers.

Folding the Land

Years ago, back in Boston, I had a housemate named Bitali, from Papua New Guinea. Over root beers in the kitchen one night, he described to me how when PNGers had a long journey to undertake, they would “fold the land,” to decrease the distance between their departure point and their destination. They would fold the land, and then just step over the fold and be at their destination.

After a recent San Francisco to Los Angeles trip on United Airlines, with multiple-hour delays in both directions (Not enough planes? Not enough pilots?), Bitali’s way of getting around seems even more appealing. And is it really any less plausible than climbing into an enormous steel bird to get where you’re going?

QA/validation not so important at United

A screenshot from the My Itineraries page at United. I’m trying to cancel a flight. Their FAQ suggests you can do it from their site, but I had all sorts of trouble on Friday and ended up sending them an email (nicely enabled from that part of the site, with automatic form filling with my ticket number and all that good stuff). It’s 5 days later and they haven’t canceled it or otherwise responded. So now I’m in limbo. Today I went back to check what itineraries they were showing for me. And here’s what I find – button and other interface text is replaced by labels in the code, probably variable names instead of their values.

Neither the bad service nor the poor attention to detail gives me a great feeling about United.


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