Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Good News for United is That Maybe, With Any Luck It'll Be Over Soon

United reinforces our dislike for flying. View flying today as being crammed like sardines into an elongated aluminum cigar tube. We recognize that’s the tradeoff for low fares and the freedom to travel almost anywhere in the world in a short time. We expect the airlines to treat us with respect. Every service business should treat its customers with respect. It risks going out of business if it doesn’t. Think of the retailers, large and small, who died or are dying due to poor service. We will even put up with nickel and dime fees for luggage, upgrades, entertainment, food, changes to schedules, and even talking to live operators. We realize that flights can be delayed or cancelled. Flying can be stressful. We love getting there, and look forward to returning. It’s the hassles of travel that are stressful. We may get lucky or unlucky with our involuntary seatmate. Just treat us with respect. Many of us created personal “Do Not Fly” lists. My two never fly again airlines were U.S. Air and Northwest. U.S. Air may have changed its name, but it remained Agony and Useless Air. Northwest was Northworst. United was my primary carrier for two decades. I racked up about 1 million frequent flyer miles on United. We took the family from Massachusetts to Kauai in first class on frequent flyer miles in 1994. United was good to me. That was then. Delta was my secondary carrier. Delta and United gradually changed positions as United’s service progressively deteriorated over the past two decades. The United pilots, flight attendants, and agents were usually friendly, but they could work only so many miracles with poor service. Delays were common and luggage late. On-time rates were usually the lowest in the industry. The last time I flew United was a few years ago. They took off from San Francisco to Orange County a few hours late on a clear day. It’s now Southwest for me within California. The 2010 United merger with Continental Air Lines promised relief to flyers. Continental, rising like a Phoenix out of bankruptcy, was soaring in the marketplace. Its great service was highly appreciated by frequent flyers. The Continental management would take over the merged airline. Thus, great management would restore United to its preeminence, That was the theory. The reality is that United’s poor service survived the merger. Indeed, for six years the flight attendants from the two airlines had separate contracts until a short time ago. Only United flight attendants could fly the former United planes and Continental attendants on Continental planes. Three reasons why Americans are outraged at United. First, it was captured on cell phones. We all saw the innocent bloody and bruised passenger being dragged out of the plane. Police officers and service workers should understand that a high risk exists of being captured on video if they screw up. It only takes a few seconds to go viral. Second, we empathize with Dr. David Dao because we can visualize ourselves in his position. Third, United’s response compounded the mishandling of the situation. United’s CEO Oscar Munoz’s first response was that United had the right to do it. All you have to do is read the 46 pages of fine print carriage rules to know that. United is now on apology number four, vowing it will never happen again. Maybe! United will be a case study in how not to both create and respond to a problem. We now learn that Dr. Dao was not involuntarily removed because the flight was overbooked. It wasn’t. It was full, but not overbooked. Four crew members dead heading to Louisville to crew a flight the next morning showed up after Dr. Dao’s flight was loaded. Their earlier flight to Louisville was cancelled for mechanical reasons. If they didn’t make it to Louisville that night, then that morning flight would be cancelled, costing United, technically Republic Airlines and United, money and grief the next morning. Now it is going to cost United millions of dollars in costs and legal settlements. Dr. Dao has hired a great Chicago trial lawyer to represent him. More has come out about United’s poor customer relations. An almost similar incident occurred two weeks. An Irvine financial manager paid the $1,000 full fare to fly first class from Kauai to Los Angeles on United. He was seated, sipping on a complimentary orange juice, when a gate agent rushed on board and told him to get off because they needed to give his seat to someone more important. United threatened to put him in handcuffs if he didn’t comply. Just a few days ago a scorpion fell out of an overhead luggage bin and stung a passenger. And check out the United Airlines YouTube video of breaking guitars. That was the infamous video United was known for prior to Dr. Dao. United better hope the worse is over.

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