United’s “Customer Day One” Doesn’t See Many Changes

Continental, Mergers/Finance, United

I’m not quite sure how this was decided, but yesterday was “Customer Day One” for the combined Continental and United.. That doesn’t really make sense to me, because not much actually seemed to Customer Day One at the New Unitedchange and there’s plenty of work left to do. Let’s review where we stand.

Better Website Integration
Work has apparently been done which will allow customers on either the Continental or United website to shop for flights and check flight status on each other’s website. This, of course, is a temporary fix until there is only one website. I would think the day that one website is used is closer to being “day one” of the merged airline than this.

Renaming Elite Benefits to Premier Access
Just as Delta has done with Sky Priority, United is putting its suite of elite/premium cabin benefits under the name Premier Access. I suppose that means the new United will be keeping the “Premier” terminology used by the old United for its elite program, but the offerings don’t seem to be much different than what elites got before – just a different name. They’ll still get priority check-in, priority security, priority boarding, and priority baggage handling. I’m not sure if the last one is a new benefit, but in general, this is mostly a branding move. But there’s a catch.

Premier Access will become available to elite travelers at all of our airports over the next several months. In airports where Premier Access is not yet in place, eligible customers have access to United’s premium airport services and Continental’s EliteAccess benefits.

So this really isn’t available throughout the system and it’s going to take months.

Mileage Plus and OnePass Grow Closer
It’s being announced now that members in both programs can move miles back and forth at will and elite members will receive similar treatment. This has been out there for awhile, I believe. It’s also another temporary step until there is a single mileage program later this year if not beyond.

Check-in Times and Boarding Are Standardized
Check-in times should now be standardized throughout the two airlines, and boarding is as well. (There are a bunch of other policies that have been standardized as well.) The Continental boarding method which gives priority to military members, then elites/premium passengers, and lastly families has won the day. The rest of the boarding process will be be rows starting in the back. There appears to be some standardized lounge benefits as well including free wifi and booze, but I think that happened months ago.

Standardized Food, Sort Of
Meals (including buy-on-board) will now be the same regardless of whether you’re flying Continental or United. But not everything is perfect right now. Beverages won’t be standardized until the end of the summer. But you coffee drinkers can rejoice. Get ready for “a flavorful new custom blend.” Whew, and here I was worried it would be flavorless.

New Airport Branding
Yesterday, the signage for the new United went up at Chicago/O’Hare. (I wonder if they caught the ages old logo in the tunnel on the way to the El.) The tulip is dead, but it’s only dead in Chicago. San Francisco and Washington/Dulles are next, and the rest will take months. So, the Chicago people can see some real change but elsewhere, not yet.

Twitter and Facebook Join the Merger
Separate Twitter accounts and Facebook pages are gone. Now it’s just @United on Twitter (much better than the character-wasting @UnitedAirlines that was previously used). And there’s a new Facebook page as well.

So that’s customer day one? It just seems like another day of progress along the road, but it’s not a major change for most people. I’m not trying to diminish the number of changes made so far. It’s a daunting task that is very difficult, but I have no clue why they’re calling it Customer Day One with so much more to do.

28 comments on “United’s “Customer Day One” Doesn’t See Many Changes

  1. I get your point regarding how much work is left, but I’m excited about one of the changes. I’ve been looking for award seats to Europe this summer. I have lots and lots of UA miles but barely any CO miles. UA had no seats; CO had seats on a nonstop out of EWR. Now that you can transfer miles, I was able to dump my UA miles into my CO account and get those seats!

    1. But it’s a real pain in the ass that the also revamped their mileage award charts, adding an extra 10k-20k on the routes I would normally use miles on, and persisting with a prohibitively expensive co-pay option for upgrades – 2008/9 were halcyon days for slipping into C-class across the atlantic:(

    2. I agree that swapping miles is a big benefit, but that didn’t start yesterday. It happened awhile ago so again, not sure what was so special about yesterday.

      1. I’m not sure when the swapping miles started…but the first I heard of it was yesterday when I saw it on the website. In fact, I’d called UA about the award ticket on CO and was not given swapping miles into the CO account as an option (hard to know if this was because it wasn’t an option or if was my un-helpful agent). So, if it started earlier, it seems to me the first major “push” to customers about being able to swap miles and combining accounts was yesterday.

    1. I saw the flight number mess up and was puzzled how on earth it could have happened. This explains it and as ever in big changes like this the devil is in the detail and no one ever focusses on said detail

    2. I understood that UA imported/used CO’s numbers, among them 93 and 175, thus they wound up on the schedules.

      No one red flagged it on their “to do” plans.

      However I don’t think it deserves the “outrage” that I’ve read everywhere. It’s a merger, the numbers merged in, some folks noticed it and they removed it.

      The rest of the worldwide water cooler crowd chews out the “never can do good” airlines as being insensative and not caring about 9/11.

  2. “So, the Chicago people can see some real change” but elsewhere, not yet.

    Change you can believe in? LOL Sorry I just couldn’t resist the humor.

  3. “Customer Day One” was driven by consultants. This was the same concept proposed by consultants at Delta for the DL-NW merger. The difference: Delta management was smart enough not to overhype something until the experience actually changed. Now we know consultants are running the UA-CO merger while actual airline leaders ran DL-NW.

  4. As a 1K with United Not much of a change; other than it is now
    37,500 to 50,000 miles for a good award ticket.
    Just returned from Orlando and most of those flights
    are Kids R Us Planes. The new Boarding procedure
    was laughable… Parents and children in
    rows far apart The people who bought the
    economy plus seats the over heads baggage bins were full by the time they got on..Unless you are a Elite (sorry Premier) member there is Boarding confusion and less quality for economy plus seats.

  5. Will boarding follow United, which is WILMA (Window Aisle Middle) or is it rear to front, which if I recall is what CO uses (from my two CO flights last year)?

  6. New United Boarding procedure is
    Back to Front 5 rows at a time
    Elite-Premier still board first
    then start at back row

    1. Thanks. I prefer that over “WILMA”. I’m a 2P now – and the early boarding is worth far more to me than the occasional upgrade.

      I prefer aisles but it was always zone 4, so before making status I switched to windows only so I’d be zone 2 and have room for my bag. (Which is a normal 22″ size)

      1. So I’m not sure what my current ‘status’ as elite is. I ‘was’ Onepass Silver. Well as of ‘day one’, even though my ticket still says silver, I no longer get to priority board. I was informed (very loudly) by the gate attendants that Silver no longer receives the privilege of preboarding (of ANY kind) and thus would have to board the plane during general boarding procedures. So now I am an elite who, if I’m unlucky enough to get a seat near the front of coach, will receive the honor of being the last person on the plane and also having my one carry on bag gate-checked. If you are gold or higher, changes may not seem severe, but for those of us who got downgraded or just made it to Silver this year (I’m a downgrade because of a job change), we might as well not be elite anymore.

  7. All I want to know, if this is customer day one, what day is it when the certificates actually merge? Day four-thousand three-hundred forty-two?

    You’d figure they’d wait until they actually looked like one airline to the passenger…

  8. Another benefit I just discovered today is the change to travel certificates. Previously, a travel certificate issued by CO could only be used if the ENTIRE itinerary was CO metal. As of yesterday, travel certificates can be used even if there are UA metal flights in the itinerary.

    1. With respect to SWUs, it still says “System-wide Upgrade electronic certificates for use on Continental or Copa Airlines flights.” Hope that changes to allow UA.

      1. Smisek has said Channel 9 will survive. Although not sure it will be rolled over to the CO fleet. At least it won’t drop off the UA metal.

  9. After that last comment, sounds like United might be throwing the silvers premiers
    to the last to board… I would make a big stink about that,, you fly under 50 k a year and only get free baggage… What gives..?

  10. Cranky, as a Chicagoan I have a nit to pick: it’s ‘L’ not ‘El’. (sorry but that bothers me)

    But am I alone in bemoaning the loss of the tulip? Maybe it’s because I grew up flying United and going to Bulls games at the UC (which still has the tulip as of Wednesday) but I am going to miss that logo.

  11. @kevin – you are FAR from alone in missing the Tulip. Basically everybody with marketing sanity and real people who aren’t drunk of COol-Aid will miss it. Join the Facebook page.

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