Topic of the Week: How Do You Feel About United Now?

It has been a content-heavy week with my four-part series on my visit with United Airlines. (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

Now, I’ll shift the spotlight on you. Did you learn anything worthwhile from this series? Does it make you think better or worse about United? Separately, do you like this kind of series? Should I continue to try to do these?

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41 Comments on "Topic of the Week: How Do You Feel About United Now?"

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David
Guest
I’m not sure ‘better’ is necessarily the right word to describe my thoughts on United after this week – more a case that it explains a lot better what they’re trying to do and how they want to get there. Perhaps greater respect might be a better descriptor. As PR departments in large corporates are usually so wary about the message given out to journalists with little knowledge of the area and really want to avoid what they say being mangled into some misunderstood populist headline, this is probably a very good way for an airline to talk about what… Read more »
Dr. Jordan
Guest
First off – I definitely appreciate the work and effort that goes into this very informative series. I agree with David – don’t kill yourself to do it…as the “Old adage” goes “If it Don’t make dollars, it Don’t make Sense”. In regards to my opinion of UA…being a Houstonian…it does explain a lot. The whole Smisek sucks/UA screwed Houston/UA service decline rant has gotten old and I personally have gotten use to the new standard, albeit lower standard, that is UA. I actually regard them solely as transportation and have no higher expectations of them than say a US… Read more »
Shane
Member
I know the marketing focus is for the highest paying travelers, but what about the business traveler who is always in coach, which is a majority of their frequent fliers; unless you get the free upgrade, in which case United is not really making as much of a premium from your ticket. I think the emphasis on all of the bells, whistles and options in first and business will only lead to letdowns for the Y,B,M,Q crowd. It’s great to have the lie-flat with the entertainment system and all of the “special” services, but if I am in coach with… Read more »
Sean S.
Guest

That’s not isolated to United; the reality is the days of people getting upgraded to first are gone not so much because of stinginess on the part of airlines, but a intense focus on filling those seats with paying customers. If it’s between upgrading someone and getting paid a premium fare, the airlines are always going to zero in on the premium fare. I don’t view that as an unreasonable expectation. If you expect a premium seat then you need to pay for one.

Shane
Member

I personally never expect an upgrade, all I’m trying to say is that the vast majority if the mareting focus is not necessarily with the majority if not a large amount of the revenue. Business fliers in coach are profitable for the airlines, but are in for a dissapointment. It’s kind of like seeing pitches for baseball skyboxes in the publicly funded stadium and then paying $100 for outfield bleacher seats (a bit of an exaggeratio, but not by much).

Sean S.
Guest

Honestly it doesn’t change my flying habits, which despite being newly arrived to the mid-west, my destinations are still entirely in the southeast, leading me overwhelmingly to Delta time and time again. More importantly, across the board Delta is killing United on alot of flights from MKE price-wise despite having a significantly nearer hub in the form of O’Hare. That shouldn’t be the case honestly. When another legacy is beating you by a hundred or more dollars on a variety of flights, you have something wrong going on, and you can’t use the excuse of labor rates.

Sean S.
Guest

Well that went under the wrong comment…

Nick Barnard
Member

Remember, one of the halmarks of a strong hub for a carrier is somewhere where they can be a high price leader. They’re getting the fare they want and that the market can bear specifically because they’ve got a hub which allows so many to fly nonstop at so many different times of day.

GetMeOffThis DamnPlane
Guest
GetMeOffThis DamnPlane
As a United 1K for the past 9 years with over 1.2M miles I am left wondering what the value proposition for my sticking with United is even though I hit 1K for 2014 already. My conclusion, given the erosion of benefits, poor operational performance and belief that United just doesn’t appreciate my business, since the Continental takeover is that I will fly United when it make sense i.e. they have the cheapest fare and the most convenient flight. As a million miler I am PE for life which gets me in the same boarding group as credit card holders… Read more »
Dr. Stan
Guest
I loved your comment, because by an only slightly different path, I have come to the same conclusion. Last year, I flew 168,000 miles, all of it earned from flights (no credit cards or promotions), a large majority of it in paid first or businessfirst fares. United refused to give me 1K status the first year of the merger (though I had flown over 100,000 miles on CO and therefore was eligible for it) because, “It is already November and so you will just have to wait to try to get it next year.” I have 1.7 million miles, but… Read more »
Dr. Stan
Guest

Just a CORRECTION: the IAH-MEX flight had been changed FROM the usual 8:59 p.m. TO 9:05 p.m., likely to avoid having to serve dinner.
Sorry for the error!

A
Guest

It was an interesting series. Like I said yesterday I haven’t flown UA in years so it really has little impact on me personally. That said, I’d love for you to do a series on DL and AA so we could compare apples to apples.

DesertGhost
Guest
Your series points out the many difficulties involved in running an airline. Add the difficulties involved in integrating two carriers along with the normal tasks involved in day-to-day operations can be daunting. The comments to your stories show that some (not all) airline passengers and observers appear to think that the integration of service standards, fleets, products, etc. between merger partners should be accomplished in the blink of an eye, needing no expenditure of time or money. Even the best of companies run into problems when integrating with another. The Union Pacific Railroad’s merger with the Southern Pacific (its last… Read more »
MeanMeosh
Guest
I don’t think most knowledgeable spectators disagree that merger integrations are difficult and take time. The main complaint I’ve been seeing is that UA/CO dug themselves into their own hole by overpromising and underdelivering. The only thing you really ever heard from UA corporate was how awesome the merger was going to be, and how it was going to provide great benefits to both UA and CO fliers. Then, you end up with a systems integration gone awry, product downgrades, a devalued Mileage Plus program, etc., while the execs walk away with big bonuses. Basically, they fed right in to… Read more »
DesertGhost
Guest

Good points.

MeanMeosh
Guest
Does this change my opinion of UA and/or make me want to run out and change my allegiance? No, but your series did provide a good deal of useful insight as to why the combined airline faces the challenges that it does, and at least paints a “method to the madness”. I’m not fully on board that the chosen method or the madness is the best way forward, but as David says, I can respect the business decisions, even if I personally disagree with them. I’d definitely enjoy reading more of these series, BTW, but as others have noted, don’t… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member
An airline is an airline, they will always have issues and always have people talking the talk about how great they are and how great things will be. They can have all the newest aircraft with all the wow features onboard, but they will still have the same crabby tired workers on the flights which can make even the greatest features a let down. Passengers don’t get off an airplane and tell their family and friends about the nice seat or having wifi, but about the horrid F/A(s) they had. Airlines need to learn to treat each passenger the same,… Read more »
SAN Greg
Guest
Very informative, as it’s nice to get some insight – even if it is somewhat sanitized. I can appreciate the complexity of running a large airlines like United, but the ad campaign and those you’ve interviewed only proved that there is a disconnect between management and what’s happening on the front line. Any brand expert would tell you that one of the most important things to the consumer is consistency. It’s what branding is all about. United is all over the board. Just read trip reports or Skytrax surveys. Sometimes the customer experience is outstanding, and sometimes it’s terrible. Naturally,… Read more »
jaybru
Member
Please, I beg you to continue to take on issues YOU enjoy dealing with and YOU enjoy writing about. You take on very diverese issues, with passion, and have demonstrated your willingness to listen to our sometimes nutty ideas. If we don’t like something, even grammar and spelling, we’ll let you know. You have a good thing going here. Don’t overthink it or lose any sleep over what we might not like. (At least until my next rant!) On the matter of UA, as you can probably tell, we all have our opinions about how the airline should be run… Read more »
Matt
Guest
Hi, I think you should definitely continue pursuing detailed series on the various approaches of large carriers. In terms of United, I would not take a word they say at face-value, as in the past three years, United has been the only airline to consistently deliver a declining level of service across all classes of service. I fly United(Continental Before) via Newark to Europe and Asia, sometimes flying Businessfirst, sometime Economy, pre-merger Continental service, food, and overall experience was far superior, but what should really concern United is that their FA’s are still separate, their aircraft are falling apart, and… Read more »
CO Sucks
Guest

Dude. You must be deluded. CO was the only airline that was flying 757s transatlantic. UA never did.

Matt
Guest
No delusion, I consciously chose to fly via EWR to get Continental, and not United Aircraft and crew. I have, however, flown several flights, IAD-FRA, IAD-PEK, that were United aircraft, and the service was in comparison to CO below par, and has not improved since the merger. Do note, that it has been three years since the merger, if United management had serious intentions on improving their service, they would cease using single aisle aircraft on international flights. I loved Continental pre-merger as I 1) Do not sleep on international flights so having in-seat on-demand entertainment which CO had five… Read more »
Paulz
Guest
I thought it was a very interesting piece and much appreciated. I have to echo a few others and say as a long time United flyer at 1.8 million miles I’ve been high on the mountain and into the lows of the desert! I did the AA challenge two years ago and after 6 months of flying came back to UA. They did a lot of things I really liked…the free drink for elites in coach was amazing and have to confess they earned my loyalty with a beer! In the end, the flight schedules were just too difficult and… Read more »
chitownflyer
Guest

I just discovered your blog today and really enjoy reading it. I would like to see more coverage like you did on your series of reports on United, as it was very informative. I also like how you disclose any items which are compensated to you by a company and the blog’s code of ethics. Please keep up the good work of spreading information to the miles and points community.

BJ
Guest

Interesting article set. As an irregular United flyer it didnt really have any influence on my opinions of United. I did a few domestic sectors with United this year (along with a couple of other airlines) and I thought they stacked up pretty well. However, internationally they can only compete on price. Very tired product and disinterested staff.
The good thing about the articles is that there may be a ‘Continental’ influence on the airline management. If so I will at least keep an eye on what they are doing.

EricC
Guest
It was an interesting read since United is my primary carrier (19 RTs in 2013). Most of my travel involves at least one segment on one of their regional partners through Chicago, Denver or Houston. It’s not ideal, but usually there’s no alternative. The quality of the product from the mainline to the regional is noticeably less and this is bad for their brand perception. You mentioned the mobile app in passing and there would be something new in 2014 on Android. The current app violates many of the Android design and runtime principles. I would hope they toss out… Read more »
AirlineEmployee
Guest

How about asking EMPLOYEES (especially pre-merger United employees with decades of experience) what they think ??

Rick C
Guest

I am a long time, 1.2M UAL flyer, and I want to thank AirlineEmployee. I am sadly disappointed with the current level of service, particularly at EWR and on CO planes.

UAL ‘was’ great, but now, I’m just glad I made my million miles and have the freedom to fly other carriers.

I don’t travel as much anymore and am thankful, especially with the current level of service, the lack of upgrades, and the decline in miles awarded.

Carl
Member
I’m late to the party here, but as a longtime UA flyer (and sometime CO flyer as well as other airlines) I have several observations and concerns, and wonder if you addressed any of them. UA has taken quite a few steps in the past year that alienate their elites. They seem to think that the Flyertalk/Milepoint crowd does not intersect with their high value flyers. But many people who spend a lot of time traveling do also make the effort to optimize that travel, and sources like Flyertalk and Milepoint help. Is there a strategy to try to drive… Read more »
Carl
Member

PS: I think it is a major mistake to delete as important a destination as BKK from the route system so cavalierly. It’s a major hub and destination in its own right, in a growing market, and has been part of the system since the day they bought the PA Asian routes, and it’s not the same to get deposited in a coach seat on NH for a 6 hour flight from NRT. Seems really short-sighted to drop it vs. putting a 787 to work.

Bill Barkley
Guest

To make these interviews worthwhile to your readers, I think you have to ask much tougher questions and follow-ups. Right now, you’re being used by their PR Depts. If you just want to go schmooze w/ the airlines don’t bother it’s no use to us . . .

Adrian Jenkins
Guest
Although I no longer work in the travel industry, I used to be a retail and then corporate travel consultant where I live in Auckland, New Zealand. Nowadays, I use my knowledge to book flights for my family members and friends, using airline websites. You ask me what I think of United? Well, I’ve recently booked flights for my niece SYD-X/LAX-JFK rtn on UA on economy class. I was stunned to see that United still doesn’t have personal TVs on the long 14 hour flights across the Pacific Ocean between Australia and the USA. That’s years behind the times as… Read more »
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