I will never fly United Airlines again.
I am a very patient kind of person (at least I think so), and I am typically one to let things slide unless they're pretty radically against the grain. But today, even after giving United three opportunities to redeem their 'United Express' service, I have decided to not acquire any of their services again.
First: I didn't expect much from them, as they are a very 'economical' choice in terms of price/amenities. But I did expect to be relatively comfortable (at least as comfortable as sitting in a subway seat for a few hours, and relatively on-time. The first flight from JFK to IAD was delayed almost 45 minutes, during which time a full flight had to sit in an un-airconditioned/non-working airplane. This was quite annoying, but I thought, "Well, it ain't so bad: you still have your wits about you." Then I realized we were sitting on a plane with a broken secondary engine, probably bought from some junkyard and refitted with used seats and an inexperienced flight crew, and my life was in jeopardy.
Second: After getting on the ground in D.C. (at Dulles), I headed over to board the IAD to STL flight, which I was thankful to have scheduled for two hours after the time my previous flight was supposed to have been on the ground. I had printed out my tickets and checked in online pretty much the moment I was able to, and was in the '2' boarding class (of 4). But when I went to the ticketing counter, my ticket made the machine sound the klaxons, and I was put into a little cattle trough, with the thought, "Maybe the FBI are out to get me?" Three others were sent to the penalty box with me, and all of us had checked in the day prior... and we were watching standby ticket holders board in front of us.
After two United reps discussed the situation far enough away so we couldn't hear, they didn't tell us anything, but rather said "last call for boarding the flight to St. Louis," and herded more people on the plane. Finally, after all the rest of the travellers (including the standby passengers) had boarded, we were told that if there was room left on the plane, we could get on; otherwise we'd have to wait until 4 p.m. (!). Lucky for United, and for my already-increased level of rage-monkey, we did get on board.
What irks me most, though, is that I was never told my ticket, which I had paid for over two months in advance, and checked online at the earliest possible moment, would not guarantee I'd get on the flight I had selected. I'm not expecting a red carpet, a full bag of pretzels, or any special treatment. But I do expect to get something I paid for. This was not the case, and I (along with three others who said the same) was quite put-off.
I've flown American Airlines, Southwest, Northwest, and now United. I've never had such an irksome experience in my life, and I hope never to have that happen again. One botched flight, I can forgive. To have two such problems in one day is too much for this weary traveller. They say "you get what you pay for," but in fact, with United, you get much less.
[Note: In addition to the problems mentioned above, I thought the stewards/stewardesses were pretty bland and uninviting, to boot, and the United staff at the airports were anything but helpful. The United Express fleet looks to be a pile of old beaten-up planes that are only maintained to the point of passing FAA inspection, and there were two other problems that had nothing to do with United, but were simply obnoxious to me, and make me not want to fly United again.]