It should be noted that since becoming the biggest airline in the world following a 2010 merger with Continental, United has been troubled not only by some real computer system failures but also by a series of false Internet allegations.
In its summer 2012 schedule, United sought for the first time to fully merge operations of the two airlines. Operational performance plummeted, reaching a low in July when the carrier's 64% on-time arrivals rate was the worst in the industry. Problems included the introduction of new fleet types in various stations, unaccompanied by the introduction of appropriate jet bridges; a series of computer glitches; and a reduction of the number of spare aircraft in the fleet. One result of the latter miscalculation: In the second week of July, 300 passengers were stranded in Shanghai for three days.
On United's fourth-quarter earnings call in January, CEO Jeff Smisek called 2012 "the toughest year of our merger integration" and said, "We are absolutely not satisfied with the financial results we produced last year."
United believes it has fixed its operational problems, although an actual computer glitch last month resulted in a computer issuing a number of low-fare tickets, which were honored. That in fact was a glitch, when computers failed, rather than a case where people thought they had found workarounds to scam computers.Among the best known improbable Internet imbroglios involving United was one in August 2012, when more than 100 stories on the Internet described a case in which the carrier allegedly lost a 10-year-old child at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. One headline proclaimed: "United Airlines Loses Ten-Year-Old Girl, Refuses to Help Parents Find Her." Another said, "United Loses Child Traveling Alone." And then there was "10-year-old girl flying alone left stranded in Chicago Airport." Did United actually lose a child? Of course not. In fact, the "lost" 10-year old, who was traveling alone, was never unsupervised. She did, unfortunately, miss a connection at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. We're just not sure that "Child Misses Connection at O'Hare" would "attract eyeballs," as the Internet folks like to say. In June 2013, a series of Internet stories accused United of forgetting to stock toilet paper on a 10-hour trans-Atlantic flight. "United Airlines crew forgot to pack toilet paper on 10-hour flight," said one headline; "United Airlines flight runs out of toilet paper," said another.
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