Ron Sparks Author, Poet

Why I Dislike United Airlines


I fly from Orlando to DC regularly. I almost always fly USAir from Orlando to Regan National in DC. I have lots of miles on USAir, ad I know what to expect when I fly them. I have been disappointed, as are most frequent fliers, at the loss of perks over the years and airlines tighten their belts and charge more for less.
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This morning I flew, not to Regan National (DCA) but to Dulles International (IAD). Instead of staying in Crystal City for this trip I am staying in Arlington and IAD was a closer airport to where I needed to be.

My office booked United instead of USAir. I wasn’t thrilled, because I get lots of miles on USAir, but whatever. It would be a new experience.

So last night I go to check into my flight online and find out I

  1. Can’t pick a seat
  2. Have to pay $15.00 for my first (and only) item of luggage.

I have had to pay for luggage before, so I was annoyed but not surprised. They should factor that into the ticket price, but I suppose I can understand wanting to save money if you don’t check anything. But about my seat – I called United, thinking there was an error in their online check-in system and tried to get my seat assignment.

No luck. They told me I had to go to the gate before I could get a seat. I was confused, but it was late and I wasn’t going to argue.

So I wake up at the ass-crack of dawn today and go to the airport. I check my bag and ask the lady at the kiosk to assign my seat. She tells me she can’t do it. I have to GO TO THE GATE. I get the “look,” which means she has answered that particular question more than once.

Now I’m annoyed. I just know I’m going to get stuck in a middle sat between two large passengers. I don’t argue with the luggage lady – she is just doing her job – but I grumble to myself as I go through security and head to the gate.

I make it to the gate early, as I always do, and I stand in front of the gate kiosk, waiting for the United employee to show. She eventually does, whereupon I promptly ask for my seat assignment.

She tells me to go sit back down and she will call my name when, and if, she can get me a seat.

“IF” she can get me a seat? I tell her that it is very important that I get on this plane. I bought a ticket and I have a meeting to get to. It’s not my fault they may have overbooked the flight.

“Oh,” she said brightly, “we may not be overbooked.”

So I smiled, while a throb started behind my eyebrows, and asked, “If you’re not overbooked then you have no problems giving me a seat, right? Can I have my seat?”

She smiled back, and I could see a vein pulse in her forehead. I was one of those customers. She pointed to the screen behind her, “Sir, you are confirmed and awaiting a seat. If you sit down I will call your name when, and if, we get a seat assignment for you.”

Again with the “if.” So I had to ask, in my polite voice, “What would prohibit me from getting a seat on this flight?”

“Well sir,” she said, “We book a block of seats for our members and we release them as needed.”

“So you mean to tell me,” I asked, “that Joe Member can run up to the gate right now, buy a ticket, and get the seat I paid for a week ago?”

She didn’t answer me. She again instructed me to sit down and wait to be called. I sighed and did as I was instructed.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

First class boarded.

I waited.

Second seating boarded.

I waited.

Finally, when the plane was 80% boarded, she called my name and handed me a boarding pass. At the back of the plane.

Fortunately it was a window seat. She smiled at me and acted like she had done me a great favor in giving me the window seat – and I supposed she had. She could have stuck me in the middle.

Still – this entire ordeal galled me. So let me address the next part of this blog to United Airlines:

Dear United Airlines,

You treated a brand new customer, me, like I was insignificant and unworthy to fly your airline. You used a backward bureaucratic policy to trivialize me and show me how insignificant my business is to you. Even though I did everything “right;” I paid in advance, I got an e-ticket, I checked in early, I arrived early, I checked baggage instead of trying to cram it in the overhead compartments, you told me pound sand and implied that you would give away my paid-in-advanced seat to a procrastinating miles member if he or she decided to fly.

I don’t care that your plane was cleaner than the regular USAir plane I fly. I don’t care that you had in-flight sitcoms when USAir does not; I don’t watch that tripe anyway. I don’t care that your plane was overall in better visual condition than the USAir ones I fly. None of that matters when you treat me as you did today.

United Airlines – you had your one chance to do right by me. You had your opportunity to treat me with dignity and respect and you chose not to. So I will, henceforth, exercise my right to choose and choose any airline but yours when I fly.

Thank you, and have a good day.

Ron Sparks
Orlando, FL

About the author

Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on

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  • United and American are the "old folks" in the air business… do it our way or go away. Southwest and now JetBlue are the youngsters who have radical ideas and buck the trends. Sometimes just to piss off the "elders" but to also move with the times. While SW is not a young company, they act young and I will always try to fly these two airlines whenever possible. ALL of their staff know you have a choice and are happy you chose them.

Ron Sparks Author, Poet

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Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on


A man of many passions, I lay claim to a myriad of interests and hobbies. Among them, I am an amateur astronomer, an avid motorcycle rider, a whiskey aficionado, a (poor) surfer, a scuba diver, a martial artist, a student of philosophy, a proponent of critical thinking, a technologist, an entrepreneur, a cancer survivor, and I harbor a lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy. Feel free to strike up a conversation on the social networks below.

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