IN OCTOBER, a disability rights activist with cerebral palsy was returning home from San Francisco, where he’d delivered a speech on the need for more accessible transit. He made the mistake of flying United Airlines. When he landed at Reagan National Airport, just outside Washington, DC, the airline was unable to provide a wheelchair for him, so he was left to crawl off the plane.
The public blowback from the incident was just the latest humiliation for an airline that can’t seem to get it right these days. Ever since its merger with Continental Airlines in 2010, United has pleased almost no one. Former loyal Continental customersmiss their old airline and complain of vastly worse service. In the 2015 J.D. Power customer satisfaction rankings, United performed worse than every traditional American airline, and worse than all but one low-cost airline. In July, a computer glitch halted all United flights. In September, the airline’s bossresigned after embarrassing revelations of traded favours with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; a month later, his successor suffered a heart attack and has yet to return to work.