We live in San Francisco so we end up on United flights often. Overall it's so so and I've learned to live with it. However post Covid19 it seems that profits has really overruled everything.
Our worst experience has been surprise flight changes. First time it happened was last year. We have a 4 year old so we paid extra for the nice 10:30am flight vs. the 6am / 6pm flights. A month later we were told that the 10:30am flight is cancelled and we've been rebooked on the 6am flight. We called, they offered to move us to the 6pm flight (arriving around midnight which is no good for a 4 year old). There was no refund for the extra we paid for the better time flight and ending up on the crappy time flight anyway. Another month passes and my husband noticed that the 10:30am flight is now back! We call and ask to be put back on our original flight. Ha! What naivete! We were told that "unfortunately" they cannot move us back to our original flight, and if we wanted to swap for the new 10:30am flight, we can pay $300 per person to switch since the new 10:30am flight prices are now higher. We were appalled. This was clearly a bait and switch to extract the most ticket $$s out of passengers. We hoped that this is a one off.
Then it happened again. We paid extra for a direct flight from LAX to SJO (only on Saturdays), and booked a separate SFO to LAX ticket on different airline for the short haul. A month later I checked my United app and noticed that that direct flight now has a stop in IAH. I called and was told that the change just happened and I should receive an email notification in 24-48 hours (never got it BTW). The unfortunate thing is that the stop over lengthened the flight times on both ends, which means that there wasn't an early flight from SFO to LAX nor a late flight from LAX to SFO that was reasonable, so we had to add a hotel night stay on both ends. We asked about switching our flight to start at SFO instead of LAX if they both had to stop at IAH anyway, and was told that United cannot change my tickets to another airport further than 200 miles. The agent offered to change my flight to depart from SFO for over a $1,000 additional. We were so pissed that we said no. Subsequently when we added up the SFO to LAX short haul flight costs + 2 hotel overnight stays the incremental cost is similar and would've saved us some time if we made the switch. But we were angry at yet another United bait and switch.
I won't get into the delays, too short connections, no plugs nor screens on long flights, etc. Those are consistent with a corporation focused on maximizing profits.
Two stars because the agents we dealt with at the counters were polite and helpful, and the flight attendants have been lovely. Even the agents on the phone who were not able to help us were polite and did their best - they just had their hands tied by corporate policies that gave them no leeway.
Please United, do better. Give your agents more leeway to do the right thing. If you're going to change someone's flight from a non-stop to a flight with a layover, offer more flexibility with rebooking; if you're going to move a flight from 10:30am to 6am departure, at least offer to refund the fare difference, and put the passengers on a priority list if the original flight comes back. Or better, don't bait and switch and keep your original promises instead, that's what we wanted and paid for.