May 23, 2024

March 3 to 9, 2024, is rapidly becoming United Airlines’ terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. Five separate incidents, four involving mechanical failure and one whose cause is unknown, have made flying the friendly skies rather frightful for all involved.

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The first incident took place on Monday, March 4. United Flight 1118, a Boeing 737 traveling from Houston to Fort Myers, Florida, suffered an engine fire shortly after takeoff.

“I remember there was just this bright, flashing light that came through the window, and it sounded like a bomb went off, and then it was just a strobe of fire out the window,” David Gruninger, who was on the connecting flight home to Florida with 15 of his friends after attending a wedding in Mexico, said.

The plane returned to Houston and landed safely. No one was physically injured, although one suspects, among those involved, there were multiple cases of shattered nerves.

On the same day, United Flight 214, a Boeing 757-300 en route from Honolulu to San Francisco, endured an engine failure when the plane was some 270 nautical miles away from its destination. The plane completed its flight and landed without incident, doubtless to the disappointment of the children on board, who ignored the danger element in hopes of an opportunity to wave at Nemo up close.

Thursday, March 7, immediately after takeoff from San Francisco International Airport on its way to Osaka, Japan, United Flight 35, a Boeing 777-200, had a wheel fall off its left landing gear. The wheel fell in an employee parking lot, damaging at least two cars before eventually coming to rest in a nearby rental car parking lot. The plane diverted to Los Angeles International Airport, where it landed reportedly without any passengers or crew needing to open a window and yell “incoming” to those below.

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On Friday, March 8, United Flight 2477, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 flying from Memphis, Tennessee, to Houston, left all aboard wishing they were still walking in Memphis when, during its landing in Houston, it veered off the runway and became stuck in the mud while tilted to one side. 

“It was smooth sailing until all of a sudden we are coming in and bang, and we’re sitting sideway,” said (passenger Shaun) Lee.

“It was like he came in too hard, then the plane started trembling. Next thing we know, it tilted all the way to the left,” said Darin Foster, another passenger who was visiting Houston for a wedding.

The flight from Memphis had 160 passengers and six crew members onboard, United Airlines says. Some of the passengers expressed their frustrations with the incident.

“It was kind of terrifying. It was shocking to experience something so drastic like that,” said Foster.

No one was hurt, and all aboard were evacuated safely, although none responded favorably when asked if they would help push the plane out of the mud. The plane’s left rear landing gear reportedly collapsed, although whether this was the cause of the plane going off the runway or an after-effect from going off the runway is undetermined.

Finally, again on Friday, March 8, United Flight 821, an Airbus 320 flying from San Francisco to Mexico City, made an emergency landing in Los Angeles when one of the plane’s three hydraulic systems developed an issue. The plane landed safely, and United transferred all aboard to another plane upon which to continue their journey, whether they wanted to or not.

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Congress has taken note.

Snark aside, five major incidents in as many days, all on the same airline, is concerning. Perhaps even more concerning is that four of the incidents have involved different model Boeing aircraft, they of the magic power to make sure all passengers, regardless of which airline they use, pay attention during the “in case of a sudden loss of pressure” pre-flight spiel by the flight attendants.


READ MOREPlane That Lost Door Plug in Flight Had 3 Prior Depressurization Alerts; Alaska Airlines Kept It Flying


Commercial flying has become increasingly safer over the years, but if this keeps up, reassurances about same will become increasingly more difficult to sell.

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