Topic of the Week: What Should I Tell US Airways?

As you all know, I’ll be in Phoenix next week. (I hope you can join me on Monday from 4p to 6p for some Crankyspotting at Tempe Beach Park.)

But what you don’t know is that the next day I will be in a meeting with a group of executives at US Airways talking about corporate and agency sales. Yes, they’ve invited both me and Holly Hegeman from PlaneBusiness to chime in. If you have any thoughts on how US Airways handles this part of the business, send them my way. Or even better, bring them with you to Crankyspotting and tell me in person.

  • Are you a travel agency owner or employee who deals with airline contracts and problems?
  • Do you book travel at a travel agency?
  • Do you manage airline contracts for a larger company?
  • Are you a traveler at a company who has a corporate contract?

If you are in any of these situations and you have ideas for how US Airways can improve, please let me know at cf@crankyflier.com. Please include stories about what US Airways does wrong but also what other airlines do right. It’s often that there’s a captive audience for something like this, so please let me know all your thoughts.


32 Responses to Topic of the Week: What Should I Tell US Airways?

  1. Derek says:

    Need to provide a corporate incentive program like Deltas’ Sky Bonus or Americans’ Business ExtrAA primarily for small businesses who may book direct and not big enough for a corporate contract.

    For all (personal and corporate): Fix your booking website – it’s terrible for providing all available options.

  2. Are these executives former HP, US or hired after the merger?

    I really don’t care for either carrier/company so wouldn’t fly them. I would think they have an image problem with a lot of people thinking of the USscare days and the murder of San Diego based PSA. My company doesn’t seek out business with them.

    Maybe that’s a question, how do they over come the negative thoughts surrounding their company that may still be out there from days gone by?

    • Sanjeev M says:

      I think the answer is …. merge with AA.

      On a serious note DavidSF, your question is valid. They have made great strides in on-time performance and cleanliness of aircraft, yet people remember them as the airline of before.

      I have another question regarding Star Alliance. Of course, United actively promotes the Star relationship in corporate contracts and the world’s largest network of airlines. Now US is a smaller airline that may not serve everywhere United does, so how do they portray their relationship with United and still convince companies to have a contract with US? Any insight on the United/Star relationship is appreciated.

      • drybean says:

        I don’t think AA can save US or repair their image. A merger would just harm AA’s brand…just when things can’t get worse scenario… US has a lot to do from improving the product to their awful customer service. Let’s hope Brett and Holly come back with more than merge or die…

    • Funny how long these impressions last. I was a huge US basher back in the day but forced to fly them frequently from DCA, with mixed results at best. Even I now admit that their operations and their service has improved drastically to the point I find them superior to AA (thanks to their pilots), UA (in general) and my former favorite DL (which just hasn’t been itself dating to well before the NW acquisition) IMO.

      • tharanga says:

        I agree. US is running an improved operation. Perceptions based on 6 years ago should be updated. Perceptions based on the 1980s are totally irrelevant.

        As for corporate contracts – I’d like to know more about how the bidding for GSA government contracts works, but that’s maybe not a question for any one airline in particular.

    • CF says:

      This isn’t an interview where I ask them questions. This is an opportunity for me to provide feedback to them with ideas and suggestions for how they can improve. If people are still holding their name against them, there’s not going to be much they can do about that short of changing their name (which isn’t happening outside a merger).

  3. As a corporate traveller, I only have one gripe. That would be how complimentary upgrades are handled. I am unable to book my wife on the same PNR due to corporate travel policy, and therefore she isn’t eligible for the upgrade she would be if we were on the same PNR.

    I know there are some systems issues that prevent them from being able to combine PNR’s, but it would be nice if there was a way to designate one person as a partner or SO per plan year to make travel where someone is traveling with a DM member with status and still make the companion upgrades available.

    Not the biggest gripe, but it does make travel more stressful. Other than that I can’t say that I have any issues related to corporate travel. Maybe try and get the PSA USX crews to smile more? They always seem so dour compared to the Whiskey, Republic, and Chatauqua crews with which I usually fly. :)

  4. DCA specific as always. It’s getting pretty tight in there even after gaining additional gates in concourse B post slot swap (which basically led to US getting the UA gates and UA moving into gates by CO that DL used to have).

    Is anything in the works to ameliorate this such as obtaining additional gates (I was surprised they only ended up with, what, three more as a result of the slot swap), creating a physical walkway behind security to connect their piers, even getting some kind of a basic buildout for all the express flights which are so poorly served by bus from the one really, really overcrowded gate (35A, i think) in the north pier? I know that was part of the original “new National” plan that was scrapped post 9/11.

    At any rate, the US passenger experience at DCA is really starting to decline due to overcrowding at their gates and terminals. Hope they have plans to address it.

    • CP says:

      Completely agreed. A major value proposition for US clients, I would argue, is the number of DCA flights. Yet, the DCA passenger experience is, as Bill says, bad and getting worse. Two major issues: (1) the experience at 35 A/B is truly awful — this is the gate that ALL CRJ200/ERJ145 flights depart from, and (2) the tier-transfer issue.

      On (1): often, 10-15 flights are leaving 35 A/B within a few minutes of each other. Seating is extremely limited, announcements are constant (agents talking over each other, etc.), you cannot go down the escalator until your flight is called, you then board a bus, the bus takes you to the plane, you wait on the bus for the FA to give a thumbs-up, etc. — it’s truly horrible. Are there any plans to improve this?

      On (2): if you are making a transfer at DCA, as more and more people are, if your flights leave from different tiers, you have to use a bus to transfer between the two tiers. At least you don’t have to re-secure, but using the bus involves going down stairs, getting on the bus, going just a few feet on the bus, and then going up stairs. Inconvenient.

      More generally, beyond DCA, I’d love to know their perspective on the at-airport passenger experience generally. Of the four major carriers, US is the only carrier not using sophisticated information screens at the gates of hub airports. On AA, DL, and UA, you can get, from a screen, upgrade list status, standby list status, etc. This is a major plus for me as a business traveler – I can “know where I stand” without having to stand in-line or bother an agent.

      Also, US mobile stuff STINKS — another thing that’s important to business travelers. If you look at what AA, UA, and DL have done with apps, etc., US is light years behind.

    • CF says:

      Good feedback on National. I wonder if there’s anything they can really do about it since space is limited. But certainly worth bringing up.

  5. JayB says:

    Image is a problem, as David SF points out. For me, from the East Coast, having watched that Stinson, I believe it was, hook the airmail pouch hanging between those crazy poles, the airline seemed fabulous. Later, the big ol’ DC-3 flying right over the beacon light just up the road…well, those were the days.

    Since then, well, going from:

    All American Airways to
    Allegheny Airlines to
    USAir and finally to
    US Airways,

    every time further down the alphabet, just hasn’t made me want to fly it.

    I guess in the next re-naming, US might want to get itself back into the “A” list again.

  6. Peter Rabbit says:

    You need a culture change. Check out what BP has been doing with their entire workforce, labor and management, to figure out who they are and what their mission statement is. Everyone is on board! It may take years, but it must start at the top!

    • Well, if US Airways adopted BP’s culture we’d have a plane crashing every month spilling oil all over the ocean.

      I’ll stick with the current culture at US Airways thank you very much.

  7. JayManLB says:

    I love US Airways. I live in Long Beach, and I fly from LGB to everywhere through PHX just to avoid LAX and SNA. I am a Chairman’s level DM member, and they treat me like gold. We have a small business in Long Beach, and we rely on US Airways….so the only thing I would say is…please commit to LGB if US merges with AA (and with mainline planes as much as possible–this year was great with at least 2 mainline flights along with the Mesa CRJ900s for the rest). Also, I ditto to comments on the small business loyalty program like the BusinessAAdvantage. We would love to participate in that with our 7 weekly fliers. I also advocate staying in Star Alliance… as I really maximize my use of Star Alliance carriers globally (I dont/refuse to fly on any US airline, US Airways or anyone, for international travel– I rely on LH, NZ, NH, AC, etc for that flying), and I have never once used a US Airways DM award to fly on US Airways! I use my miles solely on other Star carriers. Thanks!

  8. Crizzle says:

    I have had nothing but great experiences with US. Granted I fly most of my flights on USX metal, but being fairly new to the FF world I didn’t come in with any misconceptions about USAirways. I have nothing but great things to say about the Air Wisconsin, Republic, and CHQ crews and employees I fly with most of the time. The PSA crews always seem to be dour however.

    From a FF/corporate travel standpoint I only have one major gripe. I am, as are many FF, required to book my travel through a corporate travel website. I cannot book my wife on the same PNR if I want to follow reimbursement rules. When it comes time for upgrades this means that we are out of luck for companion upgrades because it is not possible for us to be ticketed on one PNR.

    It is my understanding that the system US uses does allow PNR’s to be combined, only split. I wish there was a way to look into this.

    • CF says:

      Crizzle – That’s a good point about companion upgrades. I don’t think other airlines are much better in this regard, but it’s worth reviewing. (And it could be a positive differentiator.)

      • I meant does not. I know there has been discussion about this on FT. I guess it may have been abused in the past by people getting “companion” upgrades for multiple different coworkers or friends or whatever. There has to be some middle ground that protects the bottom line. I guess my suggestion would be to allow preferred members to designate a partner for the entireity of the plan year.

        Other than that I have had nothing but excellent experiences.

        • Hunter says:

          With UA, I can call after the bookings are complete and link (merge) the PNRs, as long as the itineraries are completely identical. Have you tried that?

          • Oh yes, multiple people have. It is my understanding that their software does not allow for combined PNR’s. Will be interesting to hear what they tell Cranky.

          • Hunter says:

            How annoying…and weird. Back in the day I trained to be a HP res agent and we could combine PNRs. I thought they kept the HP Shares based system with they merged, but perhaps I’m mistaken.

  9. Jim says:

    I think the reason US doesn’t get so many corporate contracts is because their hubs are awkwardly located. They need a hub somewhere in the middle of the country. Flying through PHX or PHL just doesn’t make sense for many routes, so they are pretty much going to be restricted to corporate contracts from companies located in their hubs. Also, many times you have to transfer through 2 US hubs to get somewhere, while on another airline you could do it with one transfer through ORD or DFW or whatever.

  10. I have nothing but great things to say about the Air Wisconsin, Republic, and CHQ crews and employees I fly with most of the time. The PSA crews always seem to be dour however.

  11. Hunter says:

    Tell them they shouldn’t have made Captain Dave kill his blog!

  12. Ed Kelty says:

    Airline seems to be running at least as well as the big 3. Wish fares to small towns on small planes were cheaper.

    • DC says:

      Yes, Ed, yes!

      Cranky – I know you’ve rejected my argument about this before (and that’s fine) but I’m telling you, service to small cities could be bigger for US from DCA. Right now pricing is often just stupid and has been for a long time. For some cities the planes keep getting smaller and the times less convenient. In essence US pretty much begged people to drive to BWI and pick up WN instead. Now with WN not so cheap anymore, I think the potential is greater than before. The problem is that just like the perceptions of bad ops from decades ago, many people just check the WN site and go. Whatever happened to what you wrote about a while back – different pricing for ROC, I think it was? I’m guessing that if it failed it was because people simply didn’t know about it. It takes time to change customers’ habits. Not quite in the parameters of what you asked, but it _is_ a problem.

      Regarding the crowding at DCA, is opening up the North Hangar again an option? It was the US/DL terminal for ages.

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