September 30, 2016. Update to this post. United has not won me back. Loyalty has been broken. I pick my flights based on price and availability. Same goes for American.
In the early ’90’s I frequently found myself on an airplane. Calling Chicago home is really a good thing for so many reasons. But one of the best reasons is lots of planes land there on any given day, so it’s much easier to get home than if you live on either coast. Two carriers own Chicago’s O’Hare airport, United and American. During those days I took dozens and dozens of trips to New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, racking up some pretty hefty flier miles. My airline of choice was United. I prefer the Boeing aircraft over the McDonnell-Douglas planes American flies. Not a big fan of the MD-80, and after last week, I probably have a lot of people with me. United always treated me well and it seemed that a new 757 or 767 was entering the United fleet weekly. I was on a lot of those brand new planes.
But right after the employees took over the airline, things began to go south. I remember being in Terminal 1 at O’Hare on the day they took ownership. Everyone from pilots to baggage handlers were walking the terminals shaking hands and passing out pamphlets explaining why it was going to be so much better. Well, it wasn’t.
They lost my loyalty, so much so that I wrote them a letter after being diverted to Philadelphia from my original destination, New York. It was a personal trip, so it was even more disruptive. I came to learn that these diversions were commonplace. Overall the customer experience just fell off a cliff.
So I did what most customers do when they feel this way, I tried the competition, American Airlines. Since 1997, American has been my first choice. Naturally, it helps that the company I started working for in 1999 has a corporate relationship with American. My wife also has an American Advantage Citibank MasterCard and thank goodness all that shopping has helped us fly around the world. But at the core, American has done very well by me. You can read a previous post here about a recent experience that is typical with how I have been treated.
However, in light of all the problems American has had over the last week or so, I am having second thoughts about them. I was in Los Angeles when the MD-80 grounding took place, but fortunately was not affected, as my flight back to Chicago was on a B-757.
After a brutal winter in Chicago, my family deserved a little R & R, so we choose Arizona. We needed sun and warmth. I started at United’s website which was relaunched a few months ago. Very clean, easy to use and fully alligned with their brand. The fares were less expensive than American’s and once I booked, United offered me an opportunity to move to Economy Plus for less than $300 for all 4 travelers. A must on a flight of this length. This booking was on Ted, flying an Airbus 320, seats 7A, B, C, and D.
Image Credit: Ming Lee & Associates
Terminal 1at O’hare was a great experience in 1988 when it opened, and continued to be a great experience this past weekend. United has refined and extended their EasyUpdate concept with flat screens at each gate giving the customer critical information during the wait time. Type of aircraft (including a seat map), up to the minute status on number of passengers that have checked in, upgrade and standby lists, weather on both ends, and more.
During boarding the Captain and First Officer greeted the passengers. My three year old was interested in seeing the fight deck and they were more than willing to show him. They let him enter and explained the various controls. Even offered to have him sit in one of the seats. He was a little shy, or this post would have a great photo.
Everything about the flight experience was first rate. Bottom line. My next personal trip will begin at United.com.