Filthy United Airlines! Disgusting Garbage-Filled Airplane Is Not Cleaned Before Next Flight Departs

How would you like to fly from Hawaii to Chicago in an airplane full of cigarette butts, candy, used tissues, pretzel bags, maxi-pad wrappers, crumbs, dirt, pens, balls of “goo”, and god knows what else just because United Airlines didn’t have “time” to clean the plane? We wouldn’t like it very much at all, and neither did Chris and his wife when they flew from Hawaii to Chicago last weekend.

When Chris and his wife were about to board the plane they were warned that it hadn’t been cleaned, but were assured that they would disembark the plane during a stopover in Kona, HI (KOA) while a cleaning crew cleaned up the airplane. That, of course, did not happen. From Chris’s letter to United Airlines:

After we arrived in Kona, HI, we were told there was not enough time for us to disembark the aircraft, and we would have to remain on while it was cleaned and the crew was switched. The boarding of the crew and cleaning staff prompted the following comments from United Airlines:

Lead Flight Attendant: “I’ve worked in this industry for 15 years and I’ve never seen a plane this dirty.”
Lead of the Cleanup Crew: “This is so bad I’m almost embarrassed.”

During the so called “cleaning” we were also told by the cleaning staff that they were told to “only clean empty seats”, which meant my wife and I (along with the 348 other passengers) had to deal with dirty seat pockets and cluttered leg room. They did not come through with a vacuum or another other devices to clean and/or sanitize the plane.

See the full gallery of carnage inside.

Here are Chris’s photos, with captions, along with the letter he wrote to United Airlines:

March 20, 2007

United Airlines
P.O. Box 66100
Chicago, IL 60666
Attention: Graham Atkinson

Dear Mr. Atkinson:

This past weekend (March 18-19, 2007) my wife and I were returning from our wedding anniversary trip to Maui, Hawaii. Unfortunately, this trip was probably the worst travel experience we’ve ever had. As
frequent vacation travelers (at least 4 times a year, many international), we have a fair understanding of how a flight should go, and this was not how a flight should go. Let me start at the beginning:

We boarded United Airlines flight 3 from Kahului, Maui (OGG) at approximately 2:30 pm Hawaiian Standard Time. We were warned that due to the plane’s late arrival from Chicago it would not have time to be cleaned before we boarded. We were instructed by the gate attendantsthat we would disembark the aircraft during our stopover in Kona, HI (KOA) while a cleaning crew cleaned up the airplane. Even that announcement did not prepare us for what we were about to see. Below are a few photos which I took using my camera phone prior to departure
from the gate (The quality is a bit poor due to being taken with a phone, so I will explain each picture with a caption below it):
This is the floor next to the window.
There are pieces of candy, popcorn and other mysterious items
This is the row in front of me.
There is a life preserver, a chip or pretzel bag and used tissues/napkins.
This is a different angle of the row in front of me.
There is an empty bottle, a pillow and some used tissues/napkins
This is the aisle to my left.
There is a Hawaiian Agriculture import form, candy wrappers and plastic wrap.
This is the aisle to my left again, but further down.
There is coloring book pages, a plastic cup, a ball of goo, a chip or
pretzel bag, a candy wrapper and a pen.
This is my wife’s seat pocket.
There is a sticker book, candy/food wrappers and used napkins/tissues.
This is the aisle to my left, looking back.
There is a used tissue/napkin and plastic wrap.
This is the row to the front-left of me.
There is forms, paper, plastic wrap, popcorn and a smoked cigarette
butt (circled in red).
This is my seat pocket.
There is a pillow cover, some sort of bag with something in it, candy
wrappers, and used napkins/tissues.
This is underneath the seat in front of me.
There is a used napkin, a used tissue (which was on my seat) and what
looks to be a used feminine hygiene sticker back.

Chris continues:

After we arrived in Kona, HI, we were told there was not enough time
for us to disembark the aircraft, and we would have to remain on while
it was cleaned and the crew was switched. The boarding of the crew
and cleaning staff prompted the following comments from United

Lead Flight Attendant: “I’ve worked in this industry for 15 years and
I’ve never seen a plane this dirty.”
Lead of the Cleanup Crew: “This is so bad I’m almost embarrassed.”

During the so called “cleaning” we were also told by the cleaning
staff that they were told to “only clean empty seats”, which meant my
wife and I (along with the 348 other passengers) had to deal with
dirty seat pockets and cluttered leg room. They did not come through
with a vacuum or another other devices to clean and/or sanitize the
plane. The only sanitization that took place was the changing of the
pillow covers. To add insult to injury, the lead flight attendant had
a conversation with another passenger that went like this:

Passenger: “The plane is so dirty I thought I was on an American
Airlines plane.”
Flight Attendant: “American has very clean planes, perhaps the
cleanest of all airlines.”

This is not good customer service and this is not how United should be
treating their customers. The planes should be cleaned and inspected
before we are able to board, even if it means a slightly late
departure. It so happens that the flight from Kahululi to Kona was
delayed anyway due to a mechanical malfunction. Why wasn’t the plane
cleaned then? Why are your employees saying that other airlines have
cleaner planes? Shouldn’t they believe that United is the best across
the board? Bottom line is, as your customer, we should have never
seen the plane in the condition it was.

But wait, there’s more…

Eventually, we ended up in Chicago O’Hare (ORD) at 6:30 am CDT, about
40 minutes later than our scheduled arrival time. As a result we
missed our connecting flight to Newark Liberty (EWR) on United
Airlines flight 634 departing at 6:35 am CDT. We went to the United
Customer Service counter located in Concourse A of Terminal 1. Once
we arrived at the counter we realized there was a total of 1 agent
working on a line of about 50 customers. When there was about 10
customers left a second agent finally came out. Our in-line time was
well over an hour. At the counter we were told that all direct
flights to Newark were already booked and oversold, the best we could
do was get on standby for those flights. The agent then proceeded to
book us on a flight from O’Hare to Washington Dulles (IAD) then to
Newark. Our final arrival time in Newark would have been 10:30 pm
EDT, a total of 25.5 hours later than our departure time from Kahului
and a total of 13 hours later than our originally scheduled arrival
time in Newark. This was unacceptable to us, as we knew from talking
to other passengers on the plane and in the line that many of those
passengers were traveling to Newark. We then asked the agent if would
could be put on standby for the upcoming Newark flights as well as the
other area airports, JFK and LaGuardia. The agent told us we could
only be on standby for one destination at a time. The information was
something we were prepared to hear, as we had heard it from the other
customers in line ahead of us. What we were not prepared for was this
agent’s attitude. She was rude and confrontational. She suggested
that next time we shouldn’t book a connecting flight so close in time
(there was 45 minutes between flights, mind you). We told her that we
booked the flight through United directly and they didn’t have an
issue with it, and neither did we as we had both made connecting
flights in other cities with less time. She then proceeded to tell us
that United would never book a flight at O’Hare with so little time in
between and that we must have told the booking agent to do so against
their will. Finally, I asked the agent if she could let us into the
Red Carpet Club lounge since we were going to be waiting in O’Hare for
much of the day. I figured this was an acceptable compromise
considering we were late arriving to Chicago due to United’s own
doing. She denied us saying that United does not give out day passes
to the lounges.

Why was United Airlines content with leaving all of those passengers
stranded in Chicago? Was it because you already had our money and
wanted to collect the standby fares knowing there were probably plenty
of people waiting for that flight? Why can’t we be on more than one
standby list at a time? Do you really not give out day passes to your

Finally, through my wife’s own persistence and running between gates
going to Newark and LaGuardia, she was able to get us tickets on
United Airlines flight 676. These tickets were obtained solely at the
expense of my wife and through no help whatsoever by United Airlines.

In conclusion, my wife and I are two very unhappy and very unsatisfied
United Airlines customers. To recount our experiences:

— We were allowed to board a disgustingly dirty airplane that had
just arrived from a 7.5 hour flight.
— Two employees of United Airlines stated they “had never seen an
airplane so dirty” and “were embarrassed” by the conditional of the
— We had to deal with a rude and confrontational United Airlines
customer service agent in Terminal 1, Concourse A of O’Hare
International Airport.
— United did not provide any comfort in the airport (via the Red
Carpet Club lounge) or assistance in getting home when we were late
arriving in Chicago due to a problem with the aircraft (which is in no
way our fault, or problem).

I trust you and/or United Airlines will take the proper action to
correct these issues and repay my wife and I for our experiences with
whatever means you and/or United Airlines feel necessary.

Feel free to write or call with any questions you may have regarding
this matter.



All we can say is “YUCK!” —MEGHANN MARCO

Christ writes:

Hey Gang,

About an hour after my story was posted on Consumerist I got a call
from the “Executive Office Phone Team” @ United. The lady said they
make all the calls in response to items sent to the Executive Team.
Since I did email (and snail mail) my letter to Graham Atkinson, I
suppose that is why they called back vs. some other customer service

Anyhow, here’s what we’re walking away with:

1) An official apology from United for the condition of the plane.
2) Two $300 travel vouchers for use on future domestic or international travel.

The lady I spoke with also said she was going to personally contact
the head of maintenance at both United proper and at the airports

My wife and I are both extremely happy with the outcome of this, and
are grateful to Consumerist (and Mark Ashley) as well as the
Consumerist community for all your comments and support.

Thanks again,



Edit Your Comment

  1. ToddMeister says:

    Personally, I would be more worried about the mechanical condition of the plane, if the visual stuff is so poorly maintained, what about the plane’s systems behind all the covers?

    This country’s slide into third world status continues…

  2. FastFords says:

    I agree the plane should be cleaned, but who are these people who are leaving the plane in this shape?

  3. Seacub says:

    Was this plane transporting livestock or something? What kind of filthy passengers were onboard previously?

  4. critical_matt says:

    Cigarette butts? Is this letter from 2007 or 1987? Pretty gross though.

  5. pdxguy says:

    Wow! All I can say is welcome to the new post-bankruptcy United Airlines. Unfortunately, the name is the same as the pre-bankruptcy airline but most everything else is different, missing, etc. (but in almost all cases not better). I can remember United years ago setting the bar for customer service etc. Nowadays, it is so far under the bar that United looking upward to see the bar makes it seem like a grate overhead.

    I live in the Denver area where United is a dominant carrier, but, despite a plethora of frequent flyer miles and having been a elite member as well, I click my mouse over to Frontier Arlines and enjoy flying with them instead.

    I think when the airlines, especially United, realize that it’s not all about the money. It’s often about the little things or the intangible ones – things like clean planes, seats that aren’t broken, nice customer service people, snacks, etc. Given a choice between low airfare with United and lowfare with another airline – I go with the latter and, in my case, that’s usually Frontier. But I’ve also had a few flights on American – and indeed their planes are clean.

  6. chrismar says:


    I am Chris, the author of this letter.

    This flight had previously arrived from Chicago. I’m not sure whether it was full of kids or livestock, however.

  7. ikes says:

    I am all for raising airline ticket costs and forcing these pigs back to geryhound.

    i am too young to have already lost faith in humanity…

  8. chrismar says:

    @ToddMeister: The funny thing is, there WAS mechanical problems with the plane. In fact, we were delayed for an hour due to some mechanical problem. The result was, however “The mechanical problem is not threatening and will be left as is until we arrive in Chicago”, as said by the Capitan.

  9. oudemia says:

    Exiting a Paris to NYC flight this past January from the back of the plane I was completely flabbergasted at what a damn wreck the passengers had left the place. I mean, it was just devastated and most of the carnage seemed to involve kids’ stuff. So certainly the plane should be cleaned, but, Christ, people, just because someone is coming in to clean up after you doesn’t mean that you ought to hurl Cheerios everywhere and stick lollipops to the carpet. Be polite.

  10. esqdork says:

    When I first started flying (in the ’70’s–OMG I sound like an old man), people dressed up to fly. Tickets were expensive and flying was a special occasion. This was before deregulation. How I miss those days. UA is partly to blame for not cleaning the plane, but what is wrong with people like the previous passengers who think they can behave like animals?

  11. andreadickson says:

    I used to fly United between Connecticut and Seattle. The stopover was generally in O’Hare and United never had trouble booking the flights nearly back-to-back.

    Oddly enough, United once sent me to Dulles instead of O’Hare, with only a 20 minute layover. It took me 40 minutes to get from one gate to another.

  12. Lewis says:

    Doesn’t SkyMall sell the Roomba?

  13. timmus says:

    I think these days people are more interested in a cheap ticket than a clean airplane. United Airlines is probably learning this. Look at how Wal-Mart is raking in the money, even though it’s a nasty, unpleasant shopping experience. The idyllic days of the 1950s and 1960s, where class and style were selling points, are over. It’s a race to the bottom now.

  14. Large says:

    I used to work for American Eagle at a relatively small LAX feeder station. We mostly dealt with 30 min. flights to and from LAX. Shortly after I started working there, we took on the ground handling for flights to and from Seattle operated by Alaska and then flights from Dallas operated by American Eagle. The Dallas flight was about an hour longer than the Seattle flight, but the planes would arrive from DFW in infinitely worse shape; they were simply overflowing with garbage, often times left in the aisles. I suspect that the AE flight attendants were more than partly to blame for the abhorrent conditions (often times they wouldn’t once go around to collect trash), but I also wonder about what kind of people took that flight. Some highlights of items that were found on incoming planes from DFW: used diapers stuffed in seatback pockets, hardboiled eggs ground into the carpet, used syringes in seatback pockets, nasty ass kleenex everywhere you can possibly imagine, and my personal favorite, condoms. And every night, myself and a few brave comrades had to clean that shit up with only gloves for protection. So cry me a river about candy wrappers and newspapers.

  15. Motor_Head says:

    @timmus: @esqdork:
    I started flying in the 90s (I’m a youngin’). I have to fly to see any family, and often fly international for work. After seeing the way other people dress and act, I decided to do my part in bringing back the romanticized good ol days. I always dress up, and always try to get First Class. I take extra care to treat everyone with respect. I go into my own little world and ignore the slobs around me.

    The last time I flew, there were no first class seats left on the flight back from Mexico City. I had to sit next to an older Christian missionary who was the rudest person I had ever met. But, hey, he was “saving” savages. Listening to him (he would not be quiet), I would just look longingly at first class and say “never again. never again”.

  16. ChiefDanGeorge says:

    I detest United, every flying experience is problematic with them. I’ve had one flight where the single toilet was not working. The best part was, the plane was delayed so they offered us free beer/wine/drinks. Well gee thanks, can I whiz in the sink then…..

  17. ptkdude says:

    I suppose it could’ve been worse: at least there wasn’t a used condom on the floor.

  18. Tallanvor says:

    Ugh. You can’t expect anything good when it comes to airlines anymore. You get airlines like US Air who won’t clean their feeder jets (flights between Raleigh and Charlotte, for example) at all during the day), and then you get airlines like United who will forgo cleaning a plane if there’s any delay, even if it means making passengers travel in a sty.

    I remember one flight I had (I think it was Delta, but I can’t remember now), was delayed, and so the plane wasn’t cleaned. It turns out the plane had previously been used as a charter flight for an NFL team, and it was nasty – a lot like the pictures. I wish I had known about this site then.

    But the previous passengers are also to blame. People who believe that they can just throw their garbage anywhere disgust me. –They’re probably the same people who leave their garbage in movie theaters and anywhere else, especially when there are garbage cans 10 feet away.

  19. WindowSeat says:

    The people that trashed the plane are the same ones that toss garbage out of their cars, stick gum on the underside of tables and talk on mobile phones in movie theatres. They’re the same ones who switch lanes on the freeway without signaling, bring infants to restaurants instead of hiring a sitter and take up two seats on public transportation and roll their eyes when you ask to sit down. In short, they are grown-up babies, all ego and entitlement.

  20. Franklin Comes Alive! says:


    So what you’re saying is… the average American?

  21. WindowSeat says:

    Pretty much…sigh

  22. wildhobo says:

    I have never understood the whole, “We used to dress up for flights blah blah blah” stuff people say. Yes I wear flip-flops on flights (I don’t have to take them off at security) and normally wear jeans and a t-shirt. I also don’t bother people next to me, don’t make a msss, don’t smell (normally), and am polite to all flight attendents. I have seen more assholes in suits on flights than I can even remeber. Maybe it is the attitude of the average person that people don’t like. If you want it like the good ole days fly first class.

  23. cabinaero says:

    I’m writing this as a United 1K flyer (100,000 + miles in a year) who is at the end of a 24-hour stellar customer and flight experience on United: That is not only disgusting, it’s unsanitary and a significant health risk.

  24. chrismar says:

    @cabinaero: I’ve never had a problem with United either, until this (unless you count the fact that you have to buy your food).

    In fact, the flight going TO Hawaii from Chicago was fine, if not good.

  25. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @ikes: Oh please, like disgusting behavior only belongs to a certain tax-bracket. Anyone who’s ever worked in an expensive restaurant or hotel can tell you that rich people are filthy animals just like everybody else — worse, perhaps, because they’ve always been able to pay people to clean up their messes.

  26. appleface says:

    @FastFords: people are slobs when they aren’t expected to clean up after themselves.

  27. kimsama says:

    This is just another example of why United is the worst airline out there. They always have incredibly rude ticketing agents. One time, I stood with a friend in line for FOUR HOURS for ticketing and baggage check-in for his international flight, and even though we got to the airport plenty early (4 hours before the flight, because of Supershuttle), and surprise, surprise, he couldn’t make the flight because of their incompetent slowness in moving the line. So, to try to get back to Narita that day, he had to get a ticket on a different airline (United only flew one flight a day there). However, the ticket agent was confrontational, rude, and delayed almost to the point where he couldn’t get another flight. She even at one point threatened “Don’t try to rush me, or I won’t give you the transfer. You just have to wait, so I suggest you like it.” Wow, United, way to go.

    Needless to say, I haven’t flown United ever since, and I will gladly pay any other airline more just to make sure United never gets a dollar from me. And for international flights, I always go with a non-U.S. carrier — the service is usually fantastic.

  28. cabinaero says:

    Greetings from Hong Kong, consumeristas –

    @chrismar: Ouch I forgot that ORD-HNL is buy-on-board (BOB) in coach. I don’t agree with that policy at all – catering in coach should be based on flight time. (There are international flights with full catering that are shorter than US flights to Hawaii.)

    The BOB boxes wraps, etc. aren’t terrible and, frankly, are going to be better than what you’d get for an equivalent increase in ticket price. They should, however, let you redeem a token amount of miles for onboard meals.

  29. zl9600 says:

    @cabinaero: 1K fliers get treated better, so I’m not sure I can take your experience as the norm. I know because I went from 1K as an overworked employee to a no-K with United. The degradation in service accompanied the degradation in elite flying status levels.

    My most recent United flight was a delayed one due to mechanical issues. Not that big of a deal, because I’m glad they caught it on the ground, ya know? But the rebooked flight I took had me in Economy Minus, the very last row of a 757.

    My first thought as I sat down in the loose row of seats and the smell of urine wafted about me: United is becoming no better than Greyhound.

    It’s not time to fly. It’s time to paint, re-upholster, tighten the f*cking screws on these old gray birds. I didn’t pay for a bus ride.

  30. sp3nc3 says:

    Boo to United for boarding paying customers on a plane in that condition, and double, no, triple-dog boo to the slobs from the previous flight(s) who were too lazy to clean up after themselves.

  31. ElizabethD says:

    Ew. The Greyhound bus I took halfway across the country two years ago (don’t ask) was much cleaner than this plane — and that’s not necessarily a good reflection on Greyhound’s cleanlines but rather a measure of how sloppy United was in this case.

  32. cabinaero says:

    @zl9600: Of course 1Ks get treated better. But we don’t get food in coach because of our status and we don’t get cleaner aircraft because of our status.

    The condition of that aircraft when boarded was simply unacceptable regardless if you’re 1K or just some random, no status pax on a holiday to Maui.

  33. chrismar says:

    @cabinaero wrote “The condition of that aircraft when boarded was simply unacceptable regardless if you’re 1K or just some random, no status pax on a holiday to Maui.”

    Which is exactly what I am. Perfectly stated.

  34. Nicholai says:

    You would think the people working on the plane would have asked the last passengers to clean up…… And I’m not even going to ask how the cigarette butt and feminine hygiene sticker back got there.

  35. chrismar says:

    @darkblast93: The people working on the plane weren’t the same people that were stuck with the mess. The new flight crew was stuck in the same situation as the passengers, and they took a majority of the “blame” for it as well.

  36. a says:

    The fault is 100% the disgusting passengers’. With all the “LATE FLIGHT, MISSED THAR CONNECTION” whining, I’m surprised so many people think that 100+ passengers would rather be hours late just because some other slobs never learned to pick up after themselves. These are, after all, the same commenters who (a majority) had NO PROBLEM sitting next to a corpse. But a piece of plastic?! Gah-ross.

    And, no, the attitude of all the crew wasn’t the best, but they were cutting their losses.

    And @ToddMeister, I’m sure you don’t actually think that just because Cletus The Slackjawed Yokel can’t clean up his goo, that mechanical failure can be attributed to anything other than routine malfunction. I’m also sure you realize there’s a difference between being in danger and being wary of some trash.

    Hey, I’d have been grossed out, too, but there are health concerns on any plane. Just ask the 6-year-olds I glare at who spend 6 hours coughing into my hair.

    But I digress.

  37. chrismar says:

    @LaurenKitsune: If you read the whole letter you’d have read that not only was the plane dirty, but it was ALSO delayed due to a mechanical malfunction and many of us DID miss our connecting flights.

    If they were busy fixing the plane (and causing a delay anyway), why couldn’t they clean the plane at the same time?

  38. gardencat says:


    I agree.

    BTW, the floor of the plane looks like a movie theater after a double kiddy matinee on a Saturday.

  39. SpyMaster says:

    This is exactly why I never fly anymore. Wherever I go, I ride with John Madden in his big RV. And yes…before you even ask…it *can* drive from California to Hawaii. Don’t ask me how…it just does it.

  40. dantsea says:

    Delays, I can deal with. Filthy airplanes, I wouldn’t be so happy about but at least there was transport involved. But United seems to excel at hiring people who are just downright nasty and make the whole experience as inconvenient and unpleasant as possible, and ORD seems to be where the worst of the worst are stationed. Yes, I am certain that not every customer-facing employee is a jerk, but they do get drowned out by the idiots.

  41. MattM says:



    That complaint sounds EXACTLY like my writing style.


  42. a says:

    @chrismar: I actually did read the whole letter, and as you see if you read my whole comment, I mentioned the mechanical failure.

    You said you missed your connection by coming in 40 minutes later than expected. I fly just about every month, and I know that boarding takes at least 30 mintues, what with passengers milling about, going to gift shops/McDonald’s, then clogging up the aisles as they try to get re-situated. So that’s at least 30 minutes WITHOUT a thorough cleaning while the mechanical failure is being taken care of.

    If the mechanical failure had set you back a few hours, I would humbly rescind my comment, because if you’ve all already definitely missed your connections anyway, why not clean the plane, right?

    I don’t doubt you had a sucky experience. I just think that if more people put themselves in the place of the crew, you’ll see they did what they THOUGHT was going to be the best and fastest way home. They mentioned how disgusting it was. And, hey, they want to get back home/get back to the hotel/not miss their connecting flights if they have another leg just as much as you do.

  43. a says:

    Haha, PS — I am NOT an airline employee. (IANAAE?) As I read this over, I really sound like one.
    I just used to work in food service, and I’ve since had an amazing ability to empathize with people being blamed for unfortunate situations.

  44. chrismar says:

    @MattM: Hmmm. That is scary. I had to have my wife proofvread to make sure it didn’t sound like that ball of poo on the floor.

    @LaurenKitsune: Point taken.

  45. chrismar says:

    @chrismar: Whoops. That should read “proof read” and “ball of goo”.

    This is what happens when its almost time for bed.

  46. eestudent says:

    I saw your site and would like to post a letter I sent to Northwest this past summer that involved an incident that I also thought was rather ridiculous:

    Northwest Airlines
    Customer Care
    P.O. Box 1908
    Minot, ND 58702

    To whom it may concern:
    After many years of flying with your airline, I am highly considering another carrier for my travels after the incident(s) on my last trip.
    As we arrived in Memphis, we checked in for our flight to Anchorage for a once in a lifetime Alaskan cruise. A new (I can only hope) employee named Freddy handled our check-in after the kiosk machine would not work for our reservations. The employee seemed timid and unsure, and even after looking at our itinerary, still did not know where or how we were getting to and from our destination. He unfortunately did not take the three extra minutes to ask anyone of the other 10 employees working considering NO OTHER customer was at the counter. He did not completely check the luggage to Anchorage and you can imagine what happened from there already.
    During the flight up to Minneapolis (July 05), I encountered a stewardess that told me I could not have a digital camera on before takeoff. Why is that? By her logic, I guess I should have ditched my watch and anything else digital on my body. Please train your employees not to be over bearing on equipment that has no proven harm to the airplane’s communication system and realize a DIGITAL camera is not going to interfere with the plane’s navigation system. I enjoy taking pictures from the air just like many other passengers do.
    When we arrived in Minneapolis, we had to re-check in for the flight to Anchorage. This seemed odd at first since this is something we have rarely had to do. My dad walked up to the counter and asked the Northwest employee (I have no name, but it was at gate C16 and the flight left on July 05 at ~3:00pm CST) about our luggage and she assured him the luggage would be in Anchorage upon our arrival.
    After realizing our luggage was not in Anchorage, we went to the NWA luggage area and met one of the rudest and most coarse NWA personnel I have ever dealt within your organization. Her name is OLiza (spelling may be incorrect). We explained our situation and she promptly told us it was our fault that we did not check the airport code in Memphis to verify our luggage would go to Anchorage. First, if I go over the counter to check my luggage, I will be arrested and black-listed on American carriers. Second, it is not my job to check behind YOUR employees. I do not know airport codes or how to read your luggage tags, so how can I, as a CUSTOMER, know what is going on? She then told us that we should take responsibility at some point in life for what occurred. Now I am a pharmacist and by her asinine logic, if I give someone the wrong pills and they die, it would actually be THEIR fault since they did not check them, correct? If so, that means accountability has been completely diminished from anyone in any profession. Thank god I do not have to worry about malpractice in my career with this new found revelation. Also, since she thinks a person should take responsibility for something out of their control, I think, NWA should allow me to fly back to Anchorage and tell her she is fired so that this does not occur to some other family. Instead of being any kind of help to us, this rude employee basically tried to rush us off and get rid of us. We literally had to beg just to get an overnight bag since we had nothing but the clothes on our back. She told us nothing about any compensation program and we only found that out once we arrived back home in Memphis.
    I spent close to $800 dollars on the round trip tickets to Anchorage. Please explain to me the part about charging customers $5 for a sandwich after spending close to $1000 for a ticket. Or, how about a $1 for trail mix? Give me a break. Airline companies complain they are losing business and must pass the buck to the consumer with rising gas prices and other taxes the federal government requires, but charging for snacks is just ridiculous. I remember years ago getting snacks and meals on flights, but I guess those days are gone. Along with charging customers for stupid stuff, charging for certain seats is another great way to make people mad. Customers are treated like cattle when flying already, but unfortunately it is the quickest way to travel great distances. Making them more miserable by charging for stuff that should be included anyway is just dumb business sense. I am sure the accountants are doing their best to get the company out of bankruptcy, but it will not matter if your customer base is not there once you succeed.
    I hope you take this letter to heart and realize you are alienating your customer base by making asinine decisions for NWA. I used to enjoy flying and with your airline (the direct flights are nice), but the flying experience is getting worse and I would rather drive to Little Rock and get better service from another carrier with cheaper fares and friendlier service.

    Thank you for reading the letter and hopefully I should be able to anticipate some type of response.

  47. CarlClover says:

    I would never litter on the street, and I don’t leave behind trash on flights even though I travel with a two year old. But I resent the comment about this being the same as leaving trash in a movie theater. I always leave my trash on the floor in a movie theater. When I pay $20 for a couple cokes and some popcorn, I figure management has built in the cost of picking up the trash.

  48. bschaff1 says:

    Over the last year I have flown a total of at least 80 segments totaling over 150,000 on United and have never experienced a dirty plane. Granted, an occasional pretzel packet in a seat pocket, but even after a flight from Chicago to Hong Kong which is over 7700 miles the plane was quite clean. I would have to guess that this was a poor crew plus a dirty crowd. Cut United some slack. I fly them transatlantic and transpacific and domestically quite often, and from my sampling 95% of the flight crews have been great. My last comment is I have only flown first class twice on two domestic flights and every other flight of mine has been in coach.

  49. wallspray says:

    I’m not saying its ok to act like a pig on the plane, but have you ever been in a small seat for 8 hours plus probably 1 hour for getting on and off the plane. After long enough, even civilized people start to have a disregaurd for mannors. 4 hours into a flight that has 5 more in it, you start to get that mob mentality of “well, i paid $400 for this plane ticket, someone else can pick up my garbage.”

  50. MauiSkyChick says:

    As many others have mentioned, at least half of the blame lies with the piggy passengers. I’ve been on many flights that look like a bomb went off inside when they landed. I live on Maui and have personally taken this flight many, many times. This is how the flight looks most of the time when it gets to its final destination. (It should have been cleaned prior to its return flight) Kids seem to be a big part of the problem and of course, I put the final blame on the parents for not teaching them better manners and finally for not cleaning up after them. More than once I’ve witnesses people throwing garbage on the floor or stuffing it into seat pockets after neglecting to hand it to the flight attendants who just passed through the aisle collecting rubbish. I’d hate to see some of these folks homes.

  51. Zen Bliss says:

    I share a similar distaste for United Airlines. Two years ago, my girlfriend and I flew between New York and Orland, and while the trip wasn’t as nightmarish as yours, it was enough to convince me never to fly United again.

    I should have known it would be a bad trip when we realized we were boarding a commuter plane to a connecting flight in Dulles (I should have checked what type of plane it was when I bought the tickets). When we arrived at the gate we were told that we could not carry on our carry-on luggage due to the small plane size, and some porters rushed us into placing our bags on a cart so they could be stored below deck. Because we were rushed and didn’t have a chance to think, my girlfriend forgot to remove $100+ from one of the pockets of her bag. Once the porters took our bags below deck, they promptly searched the bag and stole this money.

    In retrospect, I should not have allowed the situation to affect my decision-making abilities in such a way.

    The plane had to wait around for a refueling truck to arrive, and was late taking off. We missed our connection in Dulles because of this. After being booked on a later flight, I took that time to go to the customer service counter and complain about the theft that had occurred before we boarded. I didn’t expect anything to come of this since it was a different airport, but I also didn’t expect to wait around at an empty customer service counter for 15 minutes before someone who barely spoke English emerged from a back room and made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing to do with my problems.

    We got on the next flight out of Dulles, made it to Orland, and had a nice vacation. We were headed to Disney World. When we arrived in Orlando International, we recounted the story of our trip down to the Disney welcome crew while we waited for our bus. The Disney employees, who were not related in any way to United, and worked for a company who shared no responsibility for what happened to us over our trip, were genuinely concerned and apologetic. 2 – 3 people immediately got on their phones and started calling contacts in airport management, simply to try and get us an official apology. Every company on Earth could learn a thing or two from the way Disney treats their customers.

    Our trip back home was equally frustrating. We were both carrying an extra shopping back of souveniers, and were pulled aside by an airport manager minutes before the boarding call. This person told us we had to check some of our luggage. I put up a good argument, and pointed out all the other people who were carrying on the same amount, or more luggage than us. She assured me that everyone would be asked to check their bags.

    After she forced us to check our bags, she quickly left and everyone else boarded, un-bothered.

    We arrived back in Dulles to make our connection to New York, and I immediately approached the airport staff member at the gate where I was to board. I explained that we had checked our bags on the previous plane and were now boarding a new plane, and asked whether our bags would be transferred by airport staff, or required us to pick them up from baggage claim. I took two or three tries to get this man to stop ignoring me, after which he told me he had no idea. I pressured him for a more concrete answer, and he became extremely irate. He made it very clear that he couldn’t care less what happened to me or my bags. I asked him if I could speak to his manager, and he said no. I told him to get his manager, and he refused. I asked him if he was the absolute highest ranking member of the airport’s staff, and he told me yes, and that I should go away.

    At this point, my girlfriend started to sob and cry that she just wanted to know where her bags were. This sorry S.O.B. became furious and told her that he was beginning to think it would not be safe for him to let her board the plane.

    At this point every muscle in my body tensed up in a furious rage, and I silently wished with all my being that it were not illegal, nor would it prevent us from getting home, for me to leap over the counter and break every bone in this scum’s body.

    I now hate flying with the fire of a thousand suns.

  52. SecurityBubba says:

    United may be hometown airline, but if I have to fly, its on Continental. Face it, unless you are flying a profitable airline (Southwest, JetBlue) no one really cares about quality because air travel is now more of a commodity than a real service.

  53. CyberSheik says:

    Here is a letter I sent to UA a few months ago. I have not and will not use UA EVER again and I will recommend anybody to do likewise. Needless to say I never got a reply about this:

    To Whom it May Concern

    This is a complaint about an incident that happened on January 2, 2007 on United Airlines flight UA 888 from Beijing to San Francisco.

    During the flight as part of the publicly viewable entertainment program in the economy class the movie “Miami Vice” was shown. The movie was not advertised in the provided January 2007 issue of the in-flight magazine Hemispheres. No other forewarning or prior notice of the movie’s ‘R” rating was given. My wife and I were frankly very surprised about the content of this movie. Several sex scenes with significant displays of nudity, adult language and themes, and numerous close-up scenes of violence (e.g. close-ups of head shots) were shown to the audience or casually viewing passengers. As the 744 was as not refitted with individual seat screens, but with projection screening and TV sets the movie was thus made available to all present minors and underage teenagers. It has to be assumed that hundreds of minors (accompanied or unaccompanied) in like manner were given access during the screening period of this movie on other UA flights.

    I was and still am very displeased with this situation. The movie was clearly marked as UA copy, and as such selected and approved by the responsible management, nevertheless not sufficiently or not at all edited for younger audiences. In this United Airlines has shown great lack of care and concern for their passengers; both children and parents. The showing of this movie in this form was inappropriate, immoral and criminal.

    I will not fly United Airlines again and will advise others to do likewise. A copy of this letter was also sent to the ACPD. I will consider to pursue further legal action.


    Mind you the display of any type of nudity (not just to minors) is illegal in China. The head stewardess showed herself shocked and claimed that she was not aware of the content of this movie. I later found out that the movie was part of the December selection and I find it hard to believe that she did not at all notice this movie prior to this.

    While I often think we, the customers, show at times outrageous chutzpe trying to milk the “customer is king” principle, I think this incidence is more than bad service on part of UA.

  54. bergeron76 says:

    Any traveler knows that you have to provide for a decent amount of time between flight changes. United (or any airline for that matter) can’t be held accountable because you missed a connecting flight. As for the Red Carpet room, I have to agree again with United. If you don’t pay for first class, don’t expect first class accoutrement’s. If I sit in the Red Carpet Club Lounge as a Platinum flyer, I don’t want everyone and their bratty kids taking up space. The Red Carpet Clubs and similar are nice for a reason – mostly because the people therein conduct themselves appropriately (and have the discipline to manage their kids). I think a free flight (or two) might be more appropriate for your ‘strife’. As for the filth on the plane, that is just unacceptable. Period. For that alone, you should receive a free flight ticket or more.

  55. itchy feet says:

    The plane’s a mess and shouldn’t have flown that way. The behavior of the agents was apparently rude. The experience was less than satisfactory, and therefore needs to be remedied.

    But you ACCEPTED an itinerary with a 45-minute connection at O’Hare? Are you blue-eyed, flippin’ mad?

    Someone who flew once every couple of years, I could see making such a rookie mistake. But the OP said he flies about four times a year.

    I’ll give you every thing but the connection problem. Keep on ’em about the mess.

  56. Killian says:

    If a group of passengers on a plane is attempting to leave it in that condition, is there anything stopping the crew from basically telling everyone that no one is getting off until all that garbage is cleaned up? No matter where I go with my kids, I make sure that we make a concerted effort not to leave garbage behind. Imagine if you had friends over and they left your house or apartment like that.

  57. Brentx says:

    I flew United from Milwaukee to Chicago, then Chicago to Nashville. Every flight I have taken with them has been delayed. The flight from MKE to ORD was fine, but my Nashville flight was delayed by 9 hours due to a mechanical problem. 9 fricken hours! They couldn’t even put us on a connecting flight. I really felt sorry for the United person at the front desk because she was taking a lot of heat for it.

    From the time we left for our flight in Milwaukee, we could have driven to Nashville faster… that is ridiculous!

  58. cstatman says:

    @Zen Bliss:

    Yes, I love that line, I agree. I hate flying with the fire of a thousand suns.

    I’m currently in India on business, about to hop to Italy, Israel then home.

    The flight out of the US was the worst leg of the trip. (also United) Sound did not work on the movie, not just my seat, every seat. NO, there were no upgrades. (my huge corporate employer always flys coach)

    I don’t want the old days back, I know it won’t happen. But just a LITTLE common decency.

    The flight from Singapore to India? Cramped but nice.

    What is wrong with US carriers? How hard is it?

  59. oddballout says:

    @Zen Bliss – I can see how it would have all been frustrating, however I have two solid points to make.

    1. You claim that when you gate-checked (usually meaning the roll aboard bags are either too big to fit in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you or the plane went out full and there was no more room and must be placed in the baggage bin in the back) your bags in New York that the “pursers” promptly inspected the bags and stole your hundred bucks. My problem with this scenario, as likely as any, is that you obviously passed the security screening with the bags so I highly doublt some ramp agent would feel the need to search those bags again. Makes no sense to me. Did you see them performing this search? (Honest question)

    2. Regional jets are becoming the norm. If you check first with your carrier of choice, they will tell you whether your flight is being operated by a regional carrier. If you don’t ask, they don’t tell. A flight is a flight is a flight. Point A to B and sometimes then on to C, D and E (especially on net travel sites) in one piece is the industry today (some carriers just do it with more panache).

    We had all better get used to it as more and more regional operators come online day by day.

    @LaurenKitsune…IAAAE but not the one in question :-)


  60. ToddMeister says:

    @chrismar: I’d be off that plane so fast after hearing that. There is NO excuse for this poor level of service. You are absolutely correct, if there were mechanical problems, the plane should have been cleaned during the repairs.

    @LaurenKitsune: I don’t fly often (and that’s a GOOD thing), but when I do, oh the stories I could tell. Now I would rather just drive to my destination.

  61. Pelagius says:

    It’s been proven again and again (and again) that consumers will take the cheaper option when it comes to purchasing services, largely regardless of quality.
    As long as planes continue to transport us from point A to point B we, as a market, will take the cheapest fare possible despite dirty planes, rude stews, cramped seats, etc. There is no incentive for airlines to improve. If you’re looking for someone to blame, look in the mirror.
    There is probably a niche market for a middle ground between exorbitant business class fares and the penny-pinchers. United has its “Economy Plus”. But the people willing to pay that extra $100 will always be a slim minority.

  62. snowferret says:

    At least the flew?

  63. snowferret says:

    *bands head on desk*
    At least theY flew.

  64. chrismar says:

    @itchy feet: We thought at 45-minute connection would have been fine. To be perfectly honest, neither of us had flown through O’Hare before as we mainly fly Continental or Delta.

    Besides, the booking agent didn’t suggest that we should give ourselves more time at this particular airport, so we figured it was ok.

  65. chrismar says:

    @Pelagius: I don’t fly United enough to know the difference between Coach and Economy Plus, however after looking at my boarding passes again, the tickets we had were “Economy Plus”.

  66. esqdork says:

    @Pelagius: In the absence of any information other than price and making the safe assumption that most domestic airlines blow, then yes, people choose price. If presented with a choice between (1) the cheapest flight possible with screaming kids and slobs tossing garbage in the aisles on an airline that is frequently late and has poor customer service and (2) paying $50-$100 on a child-free flight on an airplane that is clean operated by an airline that is reliably on time and has employees who act professionally, well I’m going with #2.

    The issue is not so much about dress code because lord knows that’s not the elixir, it’s the decreasing standards for what is acceptable behavior nowadays that’s the problem. It is not okay in a civic society for people to negatively impact each other when it could be avoided with little effort. People should hold on to their trash when confined on a plane and toss it in the trash when the deplane. People should also not spit in the streets, wait in line if one has formed, keep their infants at home when they go to restaurants, stand clear of the doorway when they are on public transportation, and offer their seats to the pregnant and elderly.

  67. chimmike says:

    if they were flying from Newark, why in God’s name didn’t they just take a DIRECT flight from EWR to Hawaii on Continental? Or at least a more direct route than a 1-2hr flight to chicago and then on to Hawaii…..?

    Anyways, United hasn’t been doing too hot lately in many aspects.

  68. chrismar says:

    @chimmike: Actually, Continental doesn’t offer a direct flight to Maui (or Hawaii for that matter) from Newark. ;)

  69. Mr.Purple says:

    @LewisNYC: I think so.

  70. deviationer says:

    uhh wait a sec. When did they allow smoking on planes in the USA?

  71. flyinghigh says:

    Even though there is no excuse for the mess on that plane, you stated near the top that you wouldnt mind having a slight departure for a clean plane, however at the end of your letter you complained that your flight was delayed. but there is no excuse for a plane being that bad. some passengers dont understand why the flight attendant comes through picking up garbage, they think the seat back pocket is their personal trash can. anyway, i hope you get something from united for the mess, its not acceptable

  72. voodoodle says:

    btw, under “UPDATE” apparently the consumerist received a letter from the devine….

  73. voodoodle says:

    @voodoodle: err… divine

  74. flight626 says:

    can i say this as a FLIGHT ATTENDANT for =) first of all cig butts which i could not really tell if it was one or not, if it was a someone was smoking we would have known and 2 when we walking thou for trash and no one wants to give it to us and they are done then that is all we can do…. people are gross no one can give clean up for them selfs on a airplane. when you get a cheap ticket you get cheap people.

  75. Justinh6 says:

    Well put.

    Cheap ticket brings out the classless cheap people.

    Ever since internet travel sites have offered “bargains” on airfare, I have always bought my ticket that way. Showing no loyalty to any airline, just going by who has the cheapest flight.

    Time and time again, I am let down by the declining level of service on these flights.

    I usually fly from Buffalo to Phoenix, and have had it all from missing connecting flights, to multiple connections, to screaming kids, to people acting like pigs and literally throwing garbage in the aisle.

    Now I just fly on southwest. Direct flight to Phoenix from Buffalo. It usually runs about 40-50 dollars higher than I could have done with a priceline or a hotwire, but just to keep my sanity.. I gladly pay it.

  76. shdwsclan says:

    Im pretty sure there is a law against this somewhere….flying a contaminated airplane….

  77. mckindley says:

    I worked for airlines for about 3 and a half years. I was a baggage handler mainly, but I did a little ticket counter and baggage service. United was one of them, and they were by far the worst to work for.

    It sucks that the plane was that dirty, but really United ends up in a no win situation there (I’ve been in situations like that). Looking at those pictures, that was not going to be a quick clean. You were on a widebody aircraft, which can take up to 2 hours to clean well (with a 5 man crew) when it looks like that. So since the people that were on the plane before you were filthy and had no respect for the cleaning crew or the people getting on behind them, you suffered. United can either decide to delay the plane for a LONG time (the biggest airline sin) or send it out dirty.

    Also keep in mind that this cleaning crew probably makes about 7 dollars an hour. There’s only so much you can expect out of people who don’t make enough to pay their bills. Not that that’s an excuse, but it’s one of those “you get what you pay for” situations.

    Usually the flight attendant stops by every once in awhile with a bag to put trash in. Why didn’t this guy just take all the crap out of the seatback and off the ground around him and throw it away when she came by? I know he shouldn’t have to, but it’d take 30 seconds, and then he’d have a clean seat.

  78. bclady5 says:

    Still Nasty & Disgusting Flight 3 – OGG/ORD as of 07/13/2007…….
    Here is the letter which I sent to United upon our arrival home, and after a hot shower!

    Upon arriving home, and prior to posting my reviews on the travel sites I use, I wanted to give you a chance to address the issue we encountered on our return flight out of OGG to ORD.
    Upon boarding the plane and taking our seats and getting situated for the flight I was thoroughly disgusted with the conditions we were expected to endure for our flight home. We found our seats, my son got in first and took the window seat, and I slid in next to him to allow the remaining passengers to get around us and file back to their seats. As I stood up to secure our carry-ons in the overheads, I noticed that I had been sitting on crushed M&M’s that were ground and melted into my seat, along with what looked like pretzel salt and misc. chip crumbs. I leaned over to my spouse who was sitting with our daughter in the 2 seats in front of us and informed them of my discovery, only to be informed not to feel bad, as our daughter found an old, half eaten burrito in her seat pouch in front of her! GROSS! After doing the best I could with a wet wipe I had with me to get the crushed and melted M&M’s off of my seat, I sat back down and then began noticing all the nast, disgusting filth around us. Empty and half empty wrappers from snacks and meals littered the floors and under the seats all around us. Used plastic utensils, stuffed under the seats, rings from coffee and pop on the snack trays, YUCK!
    Then there was an anouncement over the intercom appologizing for the messy conditions and letting us know that when we landed for our stop in KONA we will de-plane and they would be doing a thorough cleaning of the plane. THANK GOODNESS! I couldn’t imagine a 8 hour flight to Chicago sitting in someone elses filth.
    We landed, de-planed, and about 45 minutes later re-boarded, found our seats once again, and were very disappointed to discover that the only thing that was cleaned was the burrito was no longer in the seat pouch! The rest of the filth was exactly as it was when we first got on in OGG. Needless to say, we spent the next 7 1/2 hours sitting on a flight home in the previous passengers filth. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane and wash.
    You would think after spending $3,782.80 on 4 plane tickets we could at least expect to have a visibly clean place to sit?!
    This is our first experience with flying United, (we had always flown AA in the past). If no satisfaction is found in lieu of this matter, it will be our last, and I will not hesitate to tell all of my associates of this negative experience. If my issues are dealt with appropriatly, my reviews will reflect the resolve. Thank-you in advance for your time in this matter……

    Apparently nothing has changed! I have yet to hear back from them.

  79. ualover says:

    Wow. While the condition of this plane is gross. I can personally say that I have never had such an experience with this, or any airline. I have flown over 500k miles with United, and have achieved Premier Executive status many years in a row. While I do agree that United has taken a few turns for the worst, there are still much worse airlines out there, and United is finally improving. I also agree that the people on the inbound flght were pigs. I always pick up my trash. It isn’t really that hard, and it is nice to display some common courtesy toward the cleainging crew, and towards the other passengers that may wind up in a situation where their plane was not cleaned.