Saturday, May 23, 2009

United Airlines: Thumbs Down!

CNN ran this alarming article on Friday about a jumbo jet's mid-air fuel leak during a flight from Chicago to Tokyo. An Air Force sergeant who was a passenger alerted a flight attendant after he looked out the window and saw fuel streaming out behind the wing. The leak forced the plane to divert to San Francisco. At the rate it was losing fuel, it would not have had enough fuel to make it safely to Tokyo.

Of course it didn't escape my attention that this was a United Airlines flight. Joe and I just flew from Chicago to Tokyo on United a couple weeks ago on a Boeing 747, just like this plane. Reading the article, I saw that in fact we shared the same flight number, UA881. USA Today published the plane's registration number, so I dug up the print-outs of our flight information and sure enough, it was the exact same plane.


This incident happened April 18, a week before Joe and I took our flight on the plane.

While scary, I can't say that it's entirely shocking. Our experience flying United left me with the impression that the airline was cutting corners. The flat screen TVs in United's terminals had horrible black blotches all over the screens and clearly needed to be replaced. The food portions we were served were ridiculously small. And my seat tray was broken on both flights. On the flight to the U.S., I had to push really hard on the tray when I was putting it up in order to get the latch to slide over it and hold it up. I'm pretty sure the guy sitting in front of me switched seats because I was pushing him forward so hard repeatedly. On the flight back to Japan, when I unlatched the tray the whole thing dropped forward so hard and fast it knocked the coffee in my hand all over my shirt. Nice way to start the flight. I remember commenting to Joe at that point that if they weren't maintaining these small things, I wondered if they were maintaining the rest of the plane the way they were supposed to.

Apparently not.

I wish the media would follow this story and tell us how this leak happened. I'd love to know if it was due to shoddy maintenance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the maintenance scheme of things, interior items get short shrift. If it won't ground the plane, it can wait until the cheap airline buys some replacement parts.

I doubt the fuel leak was from a lack of maintenance. Try to remember, a lot of these planes are operating beyond their projected service life. That's what happens when airlines operate with what is effectively a government-sanctioned monopoly. That Citi, AIG, Bank of America, etc all worked under a similar aegis, that should not concern you. Unlike bankers, aircraft mechanics can be heavily fined for screwing up.

Enjoy your next flight. ;-)