I am a frequent traveller who has empathy with the airlines. With fuel at all-time highs I know profitability is tough. By the time many travellers get to their plane they are grumpy having had to endure added security checks and the general inconvenience of today's travel. Despite gloomy profit forecasts, I have only been on one flight in the past year that was not full (a late afternoon flight to Salt Lake City). Packed flights, limited service, reduced airline staff make for an unpleasent mix. Through all this the airlines, in my opinion, try hard.
Even with my empathy for the airlines, I try to avoid United. If this is not the worst US domestic airline, it has to be close. The seats that are not the upgraded coach are awful. They are so close together it is hard to do anything but listen to an iPod. Forget trying to work on a laptop or even read a newspaper, and if someone in the seat in front you puts the seat back all you can do is sit. Many United employees have had the bulk of their retirements wiped out over the past eight years and have to work out of necessity, which makes many surly. Now I read that United will require a stay over for its cheapest fares (on top of its me-too $15 per checked bag charge) starting in October. My empathy is turning to anger. I am not sure why this helps profitability. I try to schedule most of my business travel as one-day trips, and United is saying that it does not want this business. Well, I don't want United either.