I’m not an unreasonable guy. I’ve traveled throughout the world with countless airlines and understand that things out of anyone’s control can happen. However, this isn’t what this post is about- this is about how absolutely careless United Airlines treats their passengers. That due to their lack of preparedness, professionalism, and cheapness- they put their passenger’s health and well-being at risk.
Sunday, July 9th, United Airlines flight UA 1179 was scheduled to depart from Las Vegas, Nevada at 3:30 pm (PST) and arrive in Houston, Texas at 8:40 pm (CST), with a total flight duration of 3 hours and 10 min. Originally, I planned this trip to work, relax, and celebrate my birthday, but what should have been a routine trip back home, turned into a horrific 8.5-hour flight that landed in Houston at 1:20 am.
I’m aware that it’s normal for flight delays to occur due to technical difficulties and bad weather; however, what’s not normal is the way United Airlines handled the situation. Potentially causing health hazards for close to 200 passengers.
Here is how the flight from hell unfolded:
We were scheduled to board the airplane at 2:55 pm and, by 3:15 pm, the passengers of flight UA 1179 were prepared for take-off. For 1 hour and 10 minutes, everyone was waiting uncomfortably inside the warm, sticky plane that was blowing hot air while outside temperatures reached up to 115°F in the Nevada desert.
It wasn’t until 4:30 pm that the pilot made his first announcement stating that the reason for the delayed takeoff was due to an overcrowded runway, and only after waiting an additional 15-20 minutes the plane was finally ready for take-off.
It is essential to the story to include that during this exhausting delay, a plane filled with almost 200 people crammed into small seats, we were only offered our FIRST cup of water after 3 hours. Many of the passengers began demonstrating the first signs of dehydration and nervousness.
At 8:30 pm (CST) the pilot announced that we could not land in Houston due to the inevitable storm that had emerged – a reasonable complication. This results in us flying to San Antonio and circled for another 30-40 mins around the city. It was then when passengers began to question the stewardesses about the collection of difficulties, and their responses were of no help or consolation. Subsequently, an additional 15-20 minutes had passed and we were almost out of fuel, requiring that the flight land in San Antonio. This resulted in yet another overheated environment due to the warm air, and once again, passengers were not being offered rehydrating beverages.
At this point, I got out of my seat and started walking towards a stewardess, while noticing the duress in people around me. I asked for clarification on what was happening and she said she didn’t know when we would be able to leave- that it may take hours or even the whole night. I then proceeded to ask her if I could get off the plane and take a later flight home, to which she responded she didn’t know and would find out.
10 to 15 minutes later, the pilot made an announcement that said all passengers would be allowed off the plane but would not be offered any compensation towards a return ticket, hotel, or any other costs despite the fact that all of us had paid for a ticket to Houston with United Airlines. He also announced that we MAY be taking off in the next 30-40 minutes after the plane was refueled.
Many individuals complained about how exhausted they were, and after all of this, I’m just relieved that no one suffered a heart attack. There was no communication, no one was offered any compensation, and no one was offered the ability to watch free TV in order to distract or calm their anxiety during the horrific flight. It’s clear that United Airlines was unprepared. I was sitting next to an honorable and brave U.S. Marine who has been serving our country in Iraq since 2003 and even he was becoming nervous despite the fact that he has been trained to endure extreme stress- to the point where he said he would never fly with United again.
The conditions that we were confined in were enough for people to show signs of:
- Heat Exhaustion
While waiting in San Antonio, dozens of people complained of dehydration, and all passengers were finally offered a SECOND- and final- small glass of water. Finally, after 11:00 pm we left San Antonio and headed en route to Houston.
By midnight, we landed in Houston but stayed stationary on the tarmac for 20 minutes with dozens of passengers asking why before another pilot announcement stating that there was no skybridge at the gate and we needed to taxi to another terminal. Once we got to the correct gate, we needed to wait ANOTHER 20 minutes before all passengers were allowed to deplane at 1:20 am. The passengers looked exhausted, overheated, dehydrated, and beyond stressed. The pilot gave no apologies. Finally, the flight was over!
I want to say again that technical difficulties and bad weather can happen to anyone and I am not blaming United for this BUT I DO blame them for their unpreparedness, extreme lack of communication, unprofessional behavior, and inhumanity that put their passenger’s health at risk. Being a fitness professional my whole life, I was physically more prepared than most passengers- but how many passengers have medical conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart conditions, back problems, etc that this flight could have provoked serious medical problems for?
My question to United Airlines: is sharing some water so expensive that it might bankrupt your company?
by Samir Becic