David J. Danto


Travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion




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United’s Not So Good Week – March 2024


  Some weeks – like some flights – are just fantastic.  This past week wasn’t one of those for United Airlines and some of its passengers.  There were a handful of incidents that could shake-up the confidence of even the most seasoned traveler.

Let’s start with the first incident.  This one was United flight 1118 from Houston to Ft. Myers.  The 737-900 (not a Max this time) took off at 6:40pm local time.  It turned around and headed back to the airport at 6:52pm.  While climbing through 10K feet the passengers and flight attendants heard a loud bang, felt some shaking, and looked out the windows to see that the left engine was shooting flames out of the back.

“It sounded like a bomb went off” the passenger who shot the video linked above said.  “People were screaming and crying.”

It’s not unheard-of for an engine to fail in flight.  That’s one of the reasons most airplanes have at least two of them.  The cause of this one however is startling.

United initially reported that the plane had “engine issues,” it safely returned to Houston, and that no passengers were injured as they were put on another aircraft to their destination.  Aviation experts were pretty-sure that the flames were caused by an engine compressor stall, which is sometimes caused by debris being sucked into the engine.  What debris do you ask?  Perhaps another bird-strike?  Nope, United subsequently explained the debris was…bubble wrap.  I pondered for a while how bubble wrap could accidentally get sucked-into an engine.  The plastic stuff doesn’t actually float around in the air, and when it’s on the ground it doesn’t usually get blown up to ten thousand feet by a breeze.  Maybe if we stop and think for a moment…what things often come wrapped in bubble-wrap…..um, maybe replacement engine parts?  It is a horrific condemnation of United’s maintenance procedures that they could have allowed this – clearly some needed inspection was a failure.  Why do I make this conclusion?  Well, there’s the tire…

If you click the picture above it will take you to an article with video actually showing United flight 35 – a 777-200 – taking off from San Francisco and losing the tire – which subsequently smashed-up a handful of employees’ parked cars.  The plane, that was headed to Tokyo, dumped fuel as a safety precaution, and then had an emergency landing in Los Angeles.

Just take a look above at the size of a 777 tire and the number of bolts that hold it onto the plane.  The fact that this number of bolts (or the supporting struts) could be so loose or damaged that a tire could fall off is again a clear indication of disaster.  Either United is not inspecting these planes between flights, or even worse, they are and they are missing huge things like bolts and bubble-wrap.

United’s bad week ended with the comparatively mundane accident of a plane sliding off the runway in Houston.  This was a 737Max8 – perhaps jealous of being pushed out of the news by the incidents above – which landed safely from Memphis but then slid off the taxiway.  At least this particular headache probably can’t be the result of poor maintenance……probably….

People are already skittish enough about flying – especially with all the recent stories detailing how the post-merger Boeing management has just destroyed that company.  What we don’t need right now (or ever) is an airline cutting so many corners with people and maintenance costs that they are missing obvious things – like taking bubble wrap off parts or making sure the tires are secured.  

UPDATE:  I couldn’t even submit this blog for you to read without United having another – fourth – incident after I sent it in to be published.  This time Flight 821 departed from San Francisco just after 1 p.m. local time, and was scheduled to land in Mexico’s City roughly four and a half hours later.  However, the crew reported a “hydraulic failure” forcing the Airbus 320 carrying 105 passengers to be “diverted” to LAX where it “landed safely and passengers were deplaned normally at the gate,” a United Airlines spokesperson said.  Early reports are sharing conflicting information about the extent of the problem – either a failure of one of four systems, or a “complete loss of hydraulics.”  You can’t blame the greedy, profit barons at Boeing for this issue – this plane was not made by them.  The only thing tying these incidents together are the maintenance policies of United.



Also, p







I booked my early April flight to Nashville this week, saving about three-hundred bucks by going the night before.  I honestly don’t understand it, but that’s definitely not the first time that I don’t understand how they price routes.  Perhaps some of them cost less because they’ve omitted inspections and maintenance on the route…. 


This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.

All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.

Copyright 2024 David Danto


As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree.  Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me.  Thanks!