United Airlines Remarkable New Low in Customer Service

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard about United Airlines remarkable new low in customer service.

United Airlines Boeing 767

United Airlines Boeing 767

Do you want to check out some interesting tweets: United Incident Tweets   Warning – expletives on that link!  Note: there is a lot more to this story than the video showing the man being dragged off the plane…not saying good or bad nor right or wrong! So, will you stop flying United airlines?  Read on!   PS United airlines updated its policy for transporting crew member to prevent this incident from happening again.  United airlines announced that crew members are not allowed to bump a seated passenger.

Does United’s bumping policy reflect a new low in customer service?

Even been bumped from a flight?  I have!  Once in Chicago, I was asked to get off, gave up my seat and waited at the gate for my goodies.  After a while, I was informed that my volunteer deplaning was no longer needed and ushered back-on.  Unfortunately they took me to a much worser seat and offered nothing for my troubles.  This is what happens when you focus on maximizing “passenger-seat-miles,”  industry-speak for squeezing all of the cash you can  for each seat on every plane for every flight.  Is this a crime?  NO! Is this in the terms and conditions? YES! Key takeaway here: always read the fine print.

Here are the rules on “bumping”

Do you know your rights if subjected to bumping: Bumped due to Overbooking?

Looking for United Airlines among a recent top airline rankings – surprised?

Top Airline Rankings Well, you won’t find United Airlines on that list and I will hazard a guess that the industry focus of competing solely on price and commoditizing air travel may be partly to blame.  Maybe even more than partly!

Cheap Cheap Cheap, get your Cheap airfare here!

By going on Google, Kayak, etc., everything is focused upon the lowest price.  What if Luxury cars competed on price?  “Buy your BMW-er on the second Tuesday of the month for the lowest price!!”   Not really, but what if it came to that?  Does Maserati state how much cheaper a Ghibli is than a Ferrari 488 GTB?  Make sense?  There’s more than price, and with all of the consolidation, it seems to me like pricing is all that matters for United.  Further, United just offered a new United basic economy fare which is so stripped down and insulting, I would not ever offer it to my clients! Cheap cheap cheap, but what about the experience?  

Competing on more than Price

  1. Delta offers a great Economy plus (Delta Comfort+(R)) experience for flights to Europe from at least Newark (EWR).  I have many people going to Amsterdam (AMS) and back from Paris (CDG) this summer.  The upgrade price from economy to Delta comfort+ was very reasonable.  The Comfort + section is an almost-separate-psuedo-alcove-like section from economy.  Flyers get nicer seats, complimentary alcohol, and nice meals.  United economy plus just offers a little more legroom.
  2. Jet Blue is the happiest airline IMHO.  Been on JetBlue?  The crew has a different attitude than on United or other “legacy” carriers.   JetBlue will even give you a free bag of chips and a free seat-back screen with DirecTV.
  3. Heard of Norwegian Air Shuttle?  Norwegian broke the boundaries of whatever many perceive as a “shuttle.”  Norwegian is  a relatively new entrant offering long-haul flights on Boeing 787 Dreamliners.  I booked my first ever tickets for some dear clients who are traveling back from London to Florida.  they were interested in a business class option and Norwegian delivers a reasonably priced business class experience on the what could be argued as the most comfortable airliner.
These are just three examples of competing on more than just price.  When JetBlue first offered serve from Newark (EWR), they had to compete on price. Now, their pricing is at parity or in same cases more than United.  That’s getting beyond more than competing on price!

Will anyone actually stop flying United?

If you live in a “hub” city, probably not.  Airports including Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Houston (IAH),and Chicago (ORD) have a huge United Airlines presence. Thus, it is increasingly hard to simply abandon United for direct flights and good connections.  On-board happiness is another question.  I refer to a tweet from @billwinterberg, “If you live in a United hub, you’re not going to change carriers. route and schedule convenience rules all,even price, in air travel…” So, in the final analysis, United’s stock may have dropped along with a PR mess but I wouldn’t count them out of any long-term market share!