United Scrambles To Keep Customers After Repeated Critical Failures

Miguel Lagoa / shutterstock.com
Miguel Lagoa / shutterstock.com

Often, when an airline is making the news frequently, it’s a good thing. They are moving more people or cargo than ever before, raking in the profits, and doing everything right. Yet for United, 2024 has been full of moments they wish they could keep out of the spotlight. Equipped with an aging fleet of Boeing planes, the airline is stuck fighting an uphill battle as decades of shotty maintenance and inspections are starting to become evident.

CEO Scott Kirby told customers that safety is “at the center of everything that we do. While they are all unrelated, I want you to know that these incidents have our attention and have sharpened our focus…Our team is reviewing the details of each case to understand what happened and using those insights to inform our safety training and procedures across all employee groups.” A message like this is meant to calm investors and potential customers, but United is soaked in bad press.

So far in March alone, the company has had four major incidents, all with their Boeing jets across the globe. A 737-800 was caught shooting flames from its engine as it took off from Houston, and a 727 Max shot off the runway also in Houston. Their 777 line has fared no better either, with one dropping a wheel on takeoff from San Francisco (thankfully, no one was killed), and another left a huge trail of hydraulic fluid as it took off from Sydney.

While Boeing has been filled to the brim with bad press lately, United is responsible for a good chunk of it, and fellow Boeing faithful airline Alaska Air also getting its share. Kicking off the massive Boeing issues with a plane losing an emergency escape door plug midflight in January, the news has been relentlessly bad ever since. Now, as United struggles to deal with the failures of Boeing, the customers are leaving and finding just how sweet it is on other airlines.