The CEO of United Airlines asked customers for feedback and got an earful from officials representing two U.S. Pacific island territories, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The flights between Honolulu and Guam are notoriously expensive — it would cost over $2,200 to fly roundtrip during the week of Christmas — and frequent mechanical problems on flights within the Mariana Islands provide passengers with an endless supply of horror stories.

Even a flight between Guam and Saipan — that lasts just 45 minutes, or the equivalent of flying from Honolulu to Kona — generally costs at least $200 roundtrip and sometimes tops $400. Frequent flight cancellations have forced some passengers to be stuck on one island for a week or longer, hurting businesses, tourists and residents.

Despite the hefty prices, the service is subpar, according to a letter sent to United from the attorneys general from Guam and the CNMI, the Marianas Variety reported.

Micronesians only need an airline ticket to legally immigrate to the U.S. But even plane tickets are expensive and United Airlines operates the only direct flights to Hawaii and the mainland, like this one from Chuuk.
Passengers board a United Airlines flight. Chad Blair/Civil Beat

After merging with Continental, United inherited a monopoly over the Honolulu-Guam route, and got rid of free inflight meals even though the flight lasts eight hours and is considered an international flight for the purposes of U.S. immigration.

United also charges passengers $70 to check a second bag, which the attorneys general called “unfairly restrictive.”

The officials noted that the flight from Honolulu to Guam lasts about the same time as flying from Honolulu to Tokyo-Narita but that the latter is much cheaper and provides passengers with free inflight meals and two checked bags.

“The disparity in services is especially striking given that the fare for the Guam-Honolulu route is almost twice as much as the (Narita-Honolulu) route,” they wrote.

The officials noted that Continental bought a new fleet of planes before the merger but that United replaced them with older aircrafts that often break down.

“Continental was deeply rooted in this region and invested in its people. This all changed after the merger,” the officials wrote. “We understood there would be changes, but the changes have been very disappointing. Service has declined beyond what we ever could have imagined by this merger. Customer satisfaction is at an all-time low, but there are changes that could — and should — be made to improve customer satisfaction on this route.”

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