David J. Danto
thoughts in my own, personal opinion
ddanto@IMCCA.org Follow Video &
Technology Industry News: @NJDavidD
(Read David’s Bio) (See
David’s CV) (Read David’s Other Blogs & Articles)
Dear Oscar, “What we’ve got
here is failure to communicate.” I hate
to start a blog with mixed metaphors (especially when I’ve decided to channel Cool Hand Luke) but regarding my
business travel on United, this has been the Year of Hell. In my 25 trips so far this year I have not
had one flight without incident. That’s
ZERO for twenty-five, or to state it another way, ZERO for 2017. The reasons have been numerous. Sometimes it’s simply weather that’s killing
my schedule – with more thunderstorms than I can ever remember splashing in the
face of climate change deniers.
Sometimes it’s mechanical delays – airplanes pulled-into a gate the
night before, not looked at at all till the 6am
flight, then “discovered” to have had an easily fixable problem now being
addressed on my time. A few times this
year – nearly my 40th in business travel – I’ve been hit with
problems I’ve never seen before – like when LAX couldn’t find a gate with a
working jet-bridge so we had to walk down the stairs to the tarmac and up the
stairs to the plane; or when the arriving aircraft for my flight landed early,
but my departure was late for the listed reason of “late arriving aircraft” as
United lost it for over an hour somewhere between Newark terminal B and C.
every one of those flights United sends me a survey saying that my feedback is
very important to them. I fill out that
survey, and then…nothing happens to address the issues. United’s CEO still calls the experience on his
airline “the friendly skies” – which I believe was the first appearance of
alternate facts in our new reality of fake news – and nothing changes. Week after week the news is filled with
horror stories of how United passengers are being
treated – dragged off a plane – abandoned in Hawaii – forced to give-up a paid
seat and hold a child for seven hours – but nothing gets done. And, as many have said, those are only the
egregious incidents. Experiences on United
are routinely awful, with thousands of less publicized incidents forcing
customers to suffer a death by a thousand pinpricks.
got another survey (this one at least acknowledging that they blew the last
flight experience.) So instead of filling
it out, submitting it, having it never read and then sent into the virtual
trash bag, I thought it better to respond in public so maybe someone can
actually get the information over to Oscar.
Again I doubt that anything will happen, but at least someone will read
handles it’s schedule with the assumption that everything everywhere will be
perfect. The first butterfly that flaps
its wings wrong sends the entire network into utter chaos. There are not enough aircraft flying to
absorb any issues. On this particular
day there were thunderstorms miles outside of EWR. No indication of the delay was provided till
people were already standing in line to board the flight. We were then told of the delay in a series of
lies that were clearly meant to deceive the passengers into feeling it’s not as
bad as it is. First the 12:25 departure
was changed to 2:26. Then an hour later
it was changed to 3:15. Then an hour
later it was changed to 3:52. In a rare
instance of honesty, the crew actually told us that by 11:30 that day they
already had received a wheels-up time of 4:20.
The culture of lying to passengers is so ingrained in the airline
industry and United that passengers can’t get a straight story – which
compounds every situation that occurs.
Passengers assume they’re being lied to at every turn – which they
transparent, I’ve mocked-up and merged the above question to more succinctly
encompass all the issues without fifteen separate paragraphs. Very dissatisfied with United is an
understatement. Day after day the
experience gets worse. Each interaction
is a further insult with no improvement in sight. Here are just some examples (from the
perspective of a Platinum elite and Million Miler – not the top level, but over
75K annual miles last year.)
has so watered down the loyalty benefits that they are actually driving
customers away from their airline when there is any other option. When I checked-in for a recent flight I was
number 1 on the upgrade list, yet during the check-in process United offered to
sell me the upgrade they’ve promised me for free for about $200 bucks. I didn’t agree
to buy what should have been free to me as a loyalty benefit, yet clearly
someone else subsequently did, slipping in front of my place for a few bucks –
which is clearly more important to United than honestly providing the promised
Platinum, United sends me two “confirmable upgrade” e-certs that I can
supposedly use whenever I want – yet these are unusable. They have taken more round trips (onto and
off of itineraries without clearing) than I have this year. These are two measly little perks supposedly
in appreciation of my business. Why
can’t United just do the right thing and honor them? How much revenue can possibly be lost in
keeping United’s promise in this case?
has replaced the seats in coach on its aircraft with “slimline”
versions to fit more seats onto a plane.
I don’t like it, but I understand it.
One version of this slim seat has a real, useable seatback pocket. The other has a mesh version that is
completely unusable – it won’t even hold an iPad and a bottle of water. How hard would it be to get rid of the
unusable version – or at least get it out of Economy Plus? It’s a huge, unnecessary, fixable issue that
never gets any better – just another insult to the United
status gets one nothing. It is the same
benefits one would receive if one opens an airline credit card. If I didn’t fly over 75K miles last year I’d
only be in “group 2” boarding. That’s
some nothing-burger for all that loyalty and business.
are so many of these pinpricks it would be impossible to list them all in one
blog. The lack of substantial, edible,
not-overly-spiced food in the clubs and onboard the aircraft; the upscaling of
Newark airport establishments which removed simple, common foods and replaced
them with overpriced, “gourmet” options (as if a gourmet bag of pretzels is
really necessary). The worst one is
perhaps that the lying to customers is so routine that it has become ingrained
in United’s culture. In the recent “lost
plane” incident I mentioned above the passengers were told that the flight
would be delayed because the aircraft arrived late. Three people at the gate then pulled out
their United app and showed the agents that the plane
actually arrived early. Only at that
point was the story was changed to “it was being held by customs.” When it finally arrived at the gate it was
fully cleaned and catered – something customs agents clearly don’t do. How hard would it have been to just tell the
truth to the passengers all along? Why
is United mismanaged so badly that an aircraft that arrives early can’t be
turned around to meet its scheduled departure?
anyone passes this blog over to Oscar, they should first let him know that I
have videos and screen-shots of everything mentioned above. This will avoid him the embarrassment of initially
lying about it in response – as he did in the Dr. Dao incident before he
realized that mobile phone video exists.
These are simple truths and everyone knows it. United offers a crappy product to the huge
majority of its customers and doesn’t do anything in response to complaints to
show that they care about it at all.
Airline mergers have created hub captives that usually can’t take any
other airline, and a typically miserable experience is an intentional incentive
for people to buy that upgrade for a few hundred bucks whenever it is offered.
will be a day of reckoning soon. The
economy or some other unfortunate disaster will impact airline bottom lines and
United will again care that it has customer loyalty. When that day comes, and they realize the
bank of loyalty is dry, someone will blame the mismanagement of the past. At that time people can look to this blog
and realize there was indeed a failure to communicate. Sending surveys out that are ignored and not
acted-upon accomplishes nothing. As far
as Oscar goes…well, we gave him the benefit of the doubt and more than enough
time to turn things around from the past overtly passenger hostile management, and
he’s shown he sadly also just doesn’t get it.
As the Captain in Cool Hand Luke said, “…some men you just
This article was written by David Danto and contains
solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under
prevailing fair use statutes.