Rohan’s recent post with his thoughts on the current status of United Airlines and his ideas to solve some of the issues has certainly caused a reaction. His points are valid, but I’m sure the United board of directors is a long ways from such a drastic change.
I likely spend too much of my time thinking about my airline loyalty, but with the repeated poor experiences on United, I’ve really begun to reevaluate once again. I’ll share some of my thoughts here.
I’m currently stuck with United for a few main reasons. First of all, much of my travel is for business, and United remains the preferred carrier for my employer. Plus, I am now over 890,000 lifetime miles on United, so my goal before a major change is to get to 1MM. By (presumably) late 2014, with million miler in hand, I’ll be more willing to explore my options and consider becoming a free agent.
Ever since the merger, United has promised “changes we’ll like”, but I’m having a hard time finding very many changes that can be construed in a “flyer-friendly” way at all. Obviously, the airline is in the business of making money, but no one wants to be constantly nickel and dimed. There are fees everywhere, continuous up-sells, and cuts to products all over. I can’t even check in for a flight without having to click through various offers to buy more miles, buy an upgrade, etc. This is after emails before my flight offering hotels and rental cars at my destination.
Pros (this list is short, but to be fair, there are a few positives)
- The Rewards Plus program providing reciprocal benefits with Marriott. This works for me. With Marriott Gold, it is now my third choice when selecting a hotel chain.
- Despite recent devaluation, Mileage Plus is still one of the best airline reward programs. Awards are getting much more expensive, but routing rules are still quite generous, and there are no fuel surcharges.
- The yellow bag handles provided to upper level elites. These are intended to make bags stand out. In my experience my rollerboard is usually first (or at least among the first) onto the jetway when gate checked on my many Express flights.
- Boeing 787–Have you heard the “Dreamliner is ushering in a new era of flight”?
The 787 is indeed innovative, but unfortunately that includes innovative 17.3 inch seat width
And that’s about it. Am I missing other positives?
- The Airbus narrowbody fleet is getting new seats: Perfectly nice seats are being removed along with Inflight entertainment screens to add another row of very narrow and by all reports uncomfortable seats. This fleet is the first of the domestic birds to get wifi.
- Lack of Channel 9: This is one of my favorite differentiators that United provides, but sadly, this is becoming rare, and I expect it to completely go away. 757s are leaving the fleet, to be replaced by 737-900ERs
- Poor inflight WiFi performance: United has been very slow to implementing onboard wifi, but they promised to change the game, with their satellite based service. Unfortunately, delivery has been poor. Plus the streaming content still does not exist
Thanks to Kevin for the image.
- Various ongoing reconfigurations have led to very poor inconsistent delivery. There are still 737s without DirecTV, Airbus should have wifi now, but there is no streaming content.
- I already mention Mileage Plus in the pros column, but I can’t ignore the drastic devaluation that occurred for award travel. It was not unexpected, but it still burns, and of course, the justification is cost savings.
- I’m no expert in labor relations, but I find it strange that furloughs are being offered to subsidiary United crews, while new subsidiary Continental crews are being hired. The merger is supposedly over, but there seems to be little effort to align flight attendant groups.
- United’s domestic premium cabin meal service continues to disappoint. Less meals are being served, and the choices continue to be awful. How about a beef wrap? ugh
I actually miss the cheeseburger…
- Among other cuts to onboard services, pretzels will no longer be served on international flights. I hope Mr Bean Counter, MBA who came up with this idea is proud.
Meanwhile, Delta continues to offer a choice of free snacks even on domestic flights
2013 has been the year of devaluations across countless loyalty programs, but with United it seems like multiple pieces of bad news and only occasional positives. Is United truly “all Jeffed-up” beyond repair?
What other pros and cons am I missing? How has the constant bad news affected your loyalty?
Updated to add the yellow bag handle covers which have worked well