When others see this photo, they see a United 777 taking off from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. But to me, it means more - the end of the worst international trip of my life, and the return of sanity. After putting up with the ethnic thugs of Amsterdam for a week, the mere sight of a United tail at the airport was a relief. I vastly preferred sitting in that plane, listening to some Melissa Etheridge, being served by a top-notch crew in a state-of-the-art plane, and knowing that I would never, ever have to deal with the Surinamese barbarians around Damrak ever again.
And it wasn't just this trip. Throughout the 1990s, United was my strongly preferred airline. It partly had to do with a few other key travel memories (for example, flying to Mariah Carey in New York, AND her huge fan base in Seoul, all on United, in 1994), but just as important was knowing that I was flying on an airline well known for quality service, professionalism, and a spirit of innovation. I was well aware of United being involved with the Boeing 777 development program, in particular, and when the 777 did come online, I made sure to get on one for my first Atlantic crossing. Flying United was more than about frequent flier miles; for me, it was a decision about pride and feeling good as well.
Unfortunately, the Amsterdam trip would be the last time I would truly get that proud feeling by flying United. The mismanagement since then, including the bankruptcy, has truly hammered the airline, and it will take a long time of consistently good management decisions before the glory is ever restored.