It’s Time to Fly


In the mid to late ’90’s I was a United boy all the way. Living in Chicago it was really easy. Home of United, great Boeing aircraft, attentive service. Why would you fly anyone else? Then things began to go downhill. The United Rising campaign had to be pulled because the service wasn’t. That’s when I started booking my flights with American.

I have been giving United a second chance lately, but I’m sorry to say it’s not much better. On a recent flight booked by my corporate travel agency from ORD to SJC, there were several challenges. It’s a long flight and I had miles in my bank, so I called to see if I could cash some in for a first class seat. The call clearly was being outsourced offshore and the young man, although nice enough, couldn’t understand what I wanted to do until I explained it at least four times. In the end he did upgrade me on the return leg, so I came away from that one feeling better.

I received my EasyUpdate email the day before my flight, standard customer experience for a big airline these days, and noticed something new, BagCheck. I clicked through and it promised me a faster, more convenient way to check my bag and get on my way. Simply show up at the designated BagCheck area at the airport, scan my home printed boarding pass, and hand over my bag. They even had a helpful map on the site.


I didn’t really see the benefit but thought, what the heck. So I followed the map and entered the BagCheck area. There were at least two employees there, obviously assigned to help travelers through the new process. But no one paid any attention to me, even though I was diligently following the instructions by placing my boarding pass, face down on the scanner, etc. Finally I had to walk over to someone and ask for help. They quickly informed me that the scanners don’t work. They directed me to use the kiosk display and then processed my bag the normal way. Some bugs to work out there. I would like to say it was a noble try, but all their effort was wasted as I didn’t see the advantage over their normal kiosk check in.

Customer experience Cardinal rule # 1 – Never go to market with a feature unless the benefit is obvious to the customer.

Several times during the booking and check-in process they tried to upsell me to Economy Plus for more legroom. It was a $44 charge and I didn’t take it. What a mistake! Once on board the seats were so close I couldn’t use my laptop to work, nor comfortably read the paper. The public address system nearly shattered my ear drums and the movie system gave out half way through the flight.

The return flight was much better. First class remember, and the service was great. Both flights were right on time, even a little early. By the way, the return flight had a woman pilot and a woman co-pilot, very cool!

Overall a mixed bag on the customer experience, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for United from years ago, so I will try it again.

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