United Cancels More Flights—Staffing Issues To Blame?

Today United Airlines canceled almost 60 flights at airports around the country, bringing the airline’s total cancellations since December 23rd over 1,100 flights—far more than any of its rivals. United’s official excuse is weather, but according to the Reuters, pilots are saying United’s decision to scale back staffing has lead to the scheduling disaster.

United’s pilots union blamed management for the poor operational performance over the holiday period.

“They have pared employee staffing to the bare minimum, making them unable to respond to even well-anticipated weather events,” the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said in a newspaper ad that ran on Sunday.

United’s spokeswoman fought back, saying it has nothing to do with staffing:

United disputed ALPA’s claim, saying it had 115 more pilots in December than it did a year earlier. That equates to a 2 percent increase in the number of pilots, despite a 1.5 percent decrease in flying, United’s McCarthy said.

“United cancels more flights, pilots dispute cause” [Reuters]
(Photo: Drewski2112)

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  1. Mills says:

    How many days before they blame employees who called in sick (rather than deal with angry customers) for the cancellations?

  2. BugMeNot2 says:

    I was supposed to fly United on Christmas Eve, and my flight was canceled the day before that. When I asked, I was told by the customer svc rep that it was ‘staffing issues’. That flight was completely booked.

    I ended up getting a flight on Christmas but had to connect through Denver instead of going direct. I almost got switched to American for the second leg of my flight, and the American rep I was speaking to said that United had canceled a ton of flights and then sent a bunch of people over to American which caused them to have oversold flights and tons of people flying standby. What a mess, not to mention the money they lost. I won’t fly united any time soon unless I have no other option.

  3. wesa says:

    We flew back to Seattle from Denver on the 30th and our flight was delayed while we waited for a flight attendant from another flight. We also had to wait 40 minutes for someone to assign us seats…no one was at the terminal gate until the plane came in. When the passengers disembarked from the incoming flight, they had to open the doors themselves, no staff was present. The gate did not even show the flight information on the reader board until 5 minutes before the flight was officially supposed to leave.

  4. Echodork says:

    My Christmas Eve flight was delayed almost 4 hours due to their inability to “find a flight attendant.” Six hours in the airport with a one-year-old was… an experience I shan’t like to repeat.

  5. Skillzilla says:

    I flew United on New Year’s Day from Minneapolis to Chicago to Phoenix. Both of my flights were delayed, and Chicago was a mess. Two flights were leaving out of the same gate area, and one was so badly overbooked they were bumping almost everyone off. The staff could barely control the 200+ people they had waiting. As I was boarding my flight I thought there was going to be a riot – but I got out of there, so who knows.

  6. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    The United pilot’s branch of ALPA ran a full page ad in the Chicago Tribune apologizing to United’s passengers & blaming the airline’s thieving management for the problems.

  7. ToddBradley says:

    I was supposed to fly from Kansas City to Denver the day after Christmas. They canceled the flight on the 24th, but neglected to update either the telephone flight information system or the United.com website. So an airplane full of people showed up at the gate on the morning of the 26th, ready to board, only to find that the flight had been canceled two days earlier.

    Fortunately, I’d gotten an email on my phone and called to make new arrangements on the night of the 25th. I asked why the flight was canceled, and the phone agent said “crew issues.” I ended up having to fly from KC to Denver by way of Omaha, which a quick glance at the map shows isn’t a very direct path. I can’t imagine how much money United lost just on me to pay US Airways to fly me to Omaha, so United could fly me from there to Denver.

    Multiply that by a hundred some odd people on that flight, and it seems like it would be enough to pay for a few extra flight attendants.

  8. Womblebug says:

    @Echodork: You have my sympathies. I’d also recommend you avoid PHL at all costs. Every single time I fly out of there it’s at least a four hour delay. Often much more. They have a play area on D concourse, but that only lasts so long…

  9. Buran says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: Now that’s more like it.

    The real reason they blame weather?

    They can get away with not having to pay out the nose for their stupidity while they give the execs millions.

  10. TBT says:

    My parents were scheduled to fly on United from LaGuardia to Boise on Christmas Day. They got to the airport at 10am for their 2 pm flight…only to be told it had been canceled because “the entire flight crew didn’t show up.” 4 hours before the flight. The flight was fully booked, and United decided not to even try to notify anyone until they tried to check in.

  11. tostawife says:

    United cancelled our flight for the morning of Dec. 27 less than 12 hours before takeoff (due to a “schedule change”). They put us on a flight leaving 2 days later. When I called to try and get put on an earlier flight, I was switched to a Delta flight leaving the morning of the 28th, only to arrive at the airport and be told by Delta that United hadn’t issued my ticket. United told me their agent had messed up and rebooked us on a United flight for that morning. Our flight took off 1.5 hours late from LA after waiting for someone’s luggage to arrive. We missed our connection in Denver and were told that we couldn’t get put on another flight until Sunday night (that’s 4 days after we were originally supposed to arrive at our destination). We were told that there was nothing they could do for us becuase we used miles to book our tickets (apparently, it doesn’t pay to be a loyal United customer). We were finally booked on a flight back to LA and missed our entire vacation. United offered us no compensation, no appology, nothing. We used to be loyal United fliers, but after this experience, we will never fly United again, I will be selling all of my miles (since they appear to be useless), and will be canceling my United miles credit card. I have never been treated so horribly by a company. It’s certainly not a way to keep customers. It’s inexcusable for United to take 4 days to get us to our final destination (when weather was NOT the issue).

  12. Infoclast says:

    It’s pathetic that a major infrastructural backbone of the US is so poorly managed and constantly on the edge of bankruptcy. Can’t somebody do something? This is embarrassing.

  13. tomcatv1 says:

    This is kind of like the rail roads and trolley companys. When they wanted to kill passenger service they would cut that service to the bare bones in an effort to make it unattractive for passengers to use. United is probably thinking bankruptcy and just closing the doors is looking better and better. After all the idiots running the company would probably get their golden parachutes whatever happens.

  14. jamar0303 says:

    There needs to be a major shakeup in the US airline industry, and it needs to happen SOON.

  15. CaptainSemantics says:

    I thought on Christmas Day the United pilots were staging a sick-out. Granted, I got it from the rumor mill. As I was checking in for my Frontier flight from STL to DIA, the nice lady told me that they were expecting a delay. Weather in Denver was crap, so I kind of expected it. Small conversation ensues when I mention the United flight (STL to DIA) that was scheduled for around 2 p.m., but is on the boards as departing at 9 p.m. “Oh, it won’t be anything like that. United pilots are on a sick-out.”

    That’s when I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t flying United and sat around content that my flight was only delayed about two hours.