Thursday, December 9, 2010

Flying the Un-friendly Skies of United


Yes...I know it is an old cartoon, but the "bankruptcy" continues...in the moral arena. Here is an encounter I had while flying the "Un-Friendly Skies" of United Airlines:



Delays, lost luggage, off-shore customer service for that lost luggage, more delays, apathy, frustration, did I mention delays?...additional charges for everything from your darn suitcase to a few inches of leg-room (thanks United!) In fact, as I write this on a united flight from Calgary to Chicago, I actually saw a flight attendant keep a fellow from moving up to a totally empty exit row because he was sitting in the back of the plane and United Airlines now considers the exit row a Privilege to be paid for!?! “To the back of the bus (plane) with you, young man who may be able to help all of our passengers in an emergency! You didn’t pay us $32 for that seat!” (quick note: I was seated in an exit row seat that I didn’t pay for when I watched this exchange. I was informed by the agent when I requested the seat, with a nod and a wink, that “I’m not gonna charge you, but these are supposed to be $32 each.” I thanked him and made a mental note about it)….this is what flying has degenerated into.

I fly on 8-12 different airplanes every month. I, unfortunately, must fly the most reasonable airfare proffered by my company’s travel agent. As such, I often do not have a choice of airlines. Because I often have to go through Chicago, yup, you guessed it, I have to fly United Airlines.


Didn’t they used to call themselves the “Friendly Skies?” Nothing could be further from the truth. I must admit, many of the flight attendants and counter agents I encounter are pleasant enough. They also at times express their frustration at the ineptitude of their employer. Are the executives at United so daft as to not know they are the laughing stock of all the major airlines?


Really? Are they that blind?


Have you seen the show “Undercover Boss?” Here’s a suggestion for the CEO of United: Contact the producers and beg to be permitted to be on the show. Spend a week in your employee’s shoes…live their frustrations and see the impact your procedures and money-grubbing policies are having on them and the customers you are supposed to serve. Then go back and do something about it. What a leadership position that would put you in in the airline industry! What ground-breaking, employee and customer focused ideas you could develop that would make people actually PREFER to fly your airline.


Of course, I have no confidence anything like this will ever happen. United’s executives just doesn’t care what I think or what you think. They only care about getting theirs by taking yours.
Leadership requires service and sacrifice, even in business. Only leadership can make things better and create “win-win” policies and procedures that benefit both the customer and the business.


Are there any leaders at United Airlines?

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