Untied Airlines: a personal perspective

One man's experiences
with United, Lufthansa,
and the rest of the Star Alliance

26 February 2012
17 June 2012
31 December 2012


I've had many bad experiences with United Airlines and with its partner airlines, notably Lufthansa. I've created untied.cr.yp.to to document the worst incidents:
  • incidents where an airline didn't follow through on its promises and
  • incidents where an airline didn't obey the law.
In many cases the trouble isn't clear until I'm already at the airport, under time pressure, very much at the airline's mercy. For example, for one flight in late 2012 I had
  • more than a month before departure: confirmed tickets from Lufthansa;
  • the night before departure: boarding passes from Lufthansa;
  • 8 hours before departure: a Lufthansa service agent confirming over the phone that my ticket was valid;
  • 80 minutes before departure: a Lufthansa ticket agent in Frankfurt confirming that my ticket and boarding pass were valid;
  • 75 minutes before departure: a Lufthansa check-in agent again verifying my ticket and boarding pass, and allowing me to check two bags; and
  • 25 minutes before departure—10 minutes before the gate closed: a Lufthansa gate agent telling me that my boarding pass was invalid; telling me that Lufthansa had unilaterally cancelled my ticket; and refusing to let me board the plane, even though seats were available.
The time pressure makes discussion difficult. Usually the deadline is under an hour away, and sometimes, as in this case, the deadline is just minutes away. If I can't resolve the problem very quickly then I'll miss my plane. Often the next possible plane isn't until the next day (in this case 24 hours away, and in some cases even longer), so missing the plane means
  • exiting the airport,
  • travelling to a place to sleep,
  • travelling back to the airport,
  • checking in again, and
  • getting through security again,
typically consuming between three and five more hours, not to mention the time lost at the destination that I was trying to get to in the first place.

Why document this on the web? Why not contact United, Lufthansa, etc.?

For most incidents I do end up filing a complaint with United (or whichever United partner is responsible for the damage). Unfortunately, these complaints seem to be
  • more and more often producing only a form-letter response, or being ignored entirely;
  • less and less often convincing United to pay for the damage that it has done; and, most importantly,
  • almost never producing any change in United's behavior—over the years I see the same types of problems happening again and again and again.
United doesn't seem to have any interest in fixing its policies and procedures.

Could I handle my travel with an airline that doesn't inflict so much stress on its customers? Or are other airlines just as bad as United? I don't know. It's easy to compare airlines by price and schedule and seat features and so on; it isn't easy to compare airlines by stress levels.

It seems obvious that the way forward is to increase the amount of information available to the public regarding airline misbehavior. This web site is one small part of that, documenting my own bad experiences with United, Lufthansa, and the rest of the Star Alliance.

Who is responsible for untied.cr.yp.to?

I'm Daniel J. Bernstein, a university professor. I fly frequently for my work, most commonly to attend scientific conferences. United became an obvious choice of airline for me in 1995, when I moved to Chicago, United's home town. A decade later I became a "1K" member of United's "Mileage Plus" frequent-traveler program, consistently flying 100000 miles per year on United and its airline partners.

untied.cr.yp.to is not affiliated with untied.com, a much broader site that collects, organizes, and highlights complaints from thousands of people; untied.cr.yp.to is for the details of my own experiences. Of course, untied.cr.yp.to is also not affiliated with United Airlines, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, etc.

Apparently United sued untied.com on 19 November 2012, claiming copyright infringement (based on untied.com's logo, a parody of the United logo) and trademark infringement (as if untied.com were deceptively using the United name to sell untied.com services). It amazes me that United has responded to customer complaints by filing lawsuits rather than by trying to address the complaints. What's the next step? Hey, United executives, I have a great idea for you: why don't you start keeping a secret list of people who issue public complaints, and start deliberately breaking the luggage of people on the list? (Oh, are you doing this already? Well, that explains something.)

Version: This is version 2020.07.12 of the index.html web page.