Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Miles&Points > Airlines and Mileage Programs > United Airlines | MileagePlus
Reload this Page >

Creating a Premium Brand -- What "is" United?

Creating a Premium Brand -- What "is" United?

Old May 14, 17, 3:19 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: NYC/SFO/LAX
Programs: UA GS, AS 75K, Hyatt Explorist, Marriott Platinum, SPG Platinum, Hilton Gold
Posts: 818
Creating a Premium Brand -- What "is" United?

I know I'll be derided for this, but pre merger United always seemed to me as cultivating a premium brand -- from PS to having 3 cabin aircraft on the entire international fleet. Let's not forget UA also had the first flat bed international seat of any US carrier.

Continental on the other hand was less "premium" in the upmarket sense, but the base level of care for passengers was industry-leading. From meals at mealtime (the only US carrier offering food for free onboard to all passengers), to having employees meet the plane with connecting gate information, CO seemed to live up to their mantra of: work hard, fly right.

The new United, on the other hand, seems to have lost or not capitalized on the strengths both carriers brought to the table.

Polaris seems to me as an attempt to regain, in Kirby's language, some "natural" share of what was lost in the merger. That said, Basic Economy undercuts all of that, as, even though Ted was a failed experiment, it did have the benefit of segmenting the product offering. Today, United is trying to meet the needs of the GS passenger, the Polaris passenger, the elite customer, and the basic economy purchaser all on one aircraft, and the brand -- what does it mean to fly "United?" -- gets muddled.

The entire industry is headed this direction, but I do ask you all if you too think there may be some untapped potential in United Airlines and also some unintended consequences of recent decisions.
boat9781 is offline  
Old May 14, 17, 3:29 pm
  #2  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: ORD/MDW
Programs: BA/AA/AS/B6/WN/ UA/HH/MR and more like 'em but most felicitously & importantly MUCCI
Posts: 19,044
You can't run a Silversea cruise and Greyhound buses under the same brand umbrella. The downmarket side drives perceptions of the whole.

Old adage: if you have a cask of sewage and you add a teaspoon of wine, it's still sewage. If you have a cask of wine and add a teaspoon of sewage, now it's sewage.
BearX220 is offline  
Old May 14, 17, 4:01 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Washington DC
Posts: 911
Not as long as Economy is a race to the bottom to get the lowest possible break-even fares.
AndyPatterson is offline  
Old May 14, 17, 6:08 pm
  #4  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: CVG
Programs: UA Silver, AA, DL, Marriott Silver
Posts: 12,003
Originally Posted by AndyPatterson View Post
Not as long as Economy is a race to the bottom to get the lowest possible break-even fares.
fof sure some of them aren't even break even. There's a reason UA started requiring PQD and changed the earning structure to be. based on $ vs. miles - and now lopping off other benefits on the lowest fares with BE. Other carriers have used other methods to reach similar goals (like giving no or partial miles - both RDM and PQM on lower fares - some even on what I consider pretty mid tier fares (looking at you - SQ)).

Lets be clear UA is far from the leader in this - DL was in the US, but they weren't even true leaders. EU carriers have had years of no seat selection on any Y fares practically within EU and now even on long-haul, LH life fare types, and I think the true leader was AC with Tango fares in about the early 2000s.

Legacy carriers - both UA and their competitors in the US and around the world are all trying to keep premium customers while still trying to remain relevant to those who would just as easily fly with the ULCCs of the world - most of whom didn't exist 10 years ago or did with a much smaller footprint. It's still Too early to tell whether the BE fare type strategy going around in the US right now will work well - if not, they'll figure out something else until they come up with something that does.
emcampbe is offline  
Old May 14, 17, 6:37 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2014
Location: DMV
Posts: 2,023
Lufthansa has gone a very different strategy, they cut most of their short-haul and even some long-haul leisure flying loose and outsourced it to a wouldbe LCC spin-off. They preserved the LH brand only for long-haul routes and business-heavy routes from/to FRA/MUC.

I don't think any other major has pursued that course yet to that extent. Air Canada has Rouge, BA is tied in with Vueling via IAG but both airlines still also fly regular short-haul.

I think to be honest the only reason UA hasn't gone down that path i.e. outsourcing most domestic (outside high margin transcons) and Canada/Caribbean/C. America flying to external operators is their union contract.
Ber2dca is offline  
Old May 14, 17, 8:15 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Programs: 6 year GS, now 2MM Jeff-ugee, *wood LTPlt, SkyPeso PLT
Posts: 6,501
Originally Posted by Ber2dca View Post
Lufthansa has gone a very different strategy, they cut most of their short-haul and even some long-haul leisure flying loose and outsourced it to a wouldbe LCC spin-off. They preserved the LH brand only for long-haul routes and business-heavy routes from/to FRA/MUC.

I don't think any other major has pursued that course yet to that extent. Air Canada has Rouge, BA is tied in with Vueling via IAG but both airlines still also fly regular short-haul.

I think to be honest the only reason UA hasn't gone down that path i.e. outsourcing most domestic (outside high margin transcons) and Canada/Caribbean/C. America flying to external operators is their union contract.
LH has a very, very different market than any of the major US carriers. It has two major hubs, where it is the ONLY major airline, and in other major markets in Germany, it in effect has no competition unless one wants to change on another non-german carrier. Germany has 81M people, and a higher level of disposable income than the US does.

LH basically has a near monopoly on German originating traffic in many markets.

OTOH, German trains work very well, and there is a very good road system, and distances are not as far. As such, there is much less demand for short/mid-haul flights.

Just a very different market.
spin88 is offline  
Old May 14, 17, 9:31 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 575
I think UA is good at experimenting. The question is, are they good at taking the data from the experiment and doing something valuable. They tried TED, they tried cutting cashews in half, they are trying BE, they are trying Polaris. I don't personally see any issue with the same airplane carrying premium passengers and BE passengers at the same time. The question is how will they effectively segment the population, so the GS (me) doesn't accidentally get stuck in a back middle seat because I unknowingly bought a BE fare, and then they lose the rest of my $40k cuz I'm pissed. There are ways to do that, in my view quite easily...but what I've seen so far, they don't appear on the right track with BE fares.
flyerbaby19 is offline  
Old May 14, 17, 9:50 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 2,528
United was once my favorite Airline.

Being SFO based, I grew up with many friends who ended up working for United. My Parents flew Pan Am and remained loyal to UA when they took over the SE Asia routes. Coming of age, I remained loyal to UA and chose them during the initial stages of my Corp life.

Now, they're utter crap post merger. Maybe it'll improve over time, but going to avoid them for the time being; not easy being SFO based.
Visconti is offline  
Old May 15, 17, 12:07 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: dark side of the moon
Programs: papa card, UA 1K
Posts: 707
UA and Kirby are in a muddle. The massive devaluation of MP post merger is short term thinking that is going to haunt UA - it's relatively easy to maintain loyalty; however it's much harder to gain. Just copying DL is a very weak strategy. Off the top of my head, the only major decisions post merger that I agree with are getting rid of GF (as mainly non rev use) and using larger planes to the domestic regional airports. Polaris seating and onboard soft product is also a good move all things considered, however the Polaris lounge although nice as a stand alone product however makes little sense now and I think UA should do a U-turn on the Polaris lounges (Keep big clubs + showers). UA's BE is a horrible product and it's meant to be (as it's only about upfaring Y), but at least they are currently allowing GS and companion to upfare out of it (should extend to 1K). The biggest devaluation (for me) I can foresee in the future is PE.
ermintrude is offline  
Old May 15, 17, 3:34 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: SRQ, PDX
Programs: UA 1 MM
Posts: 653
I had to take a moment regain my composure after reading the subject of this thread.

In the interest of decorum--and to avoid the risk of having this post deleted--I'll merely endorse the following:

Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
You can't run a Silversea cruise and Greyhound buses under the same brand umbrella. The downmarket side drives perceptions of the whole.

Old adage: if you have a cask of sewage and you add a teaspoon of wine, it's still sewage. If you have a cask of wine and add a teaspoon of sewage, now it's sewage.
Thank you, BearX220.
artvandalay is offline  
Old May 15, 17, 4:18 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: London & Sonoma CA
Programs: UA 1K(until 2022), MM *G for life, Hertz PC, BAEC Silver
Posts: 8,515
The OP is correct. What does UA stand for? To me,as a 1K MM, I really don't know - perhaps a frustrating blob, sometimes great but too often disappointing. To my family, it simply represents the epitome of bad service as they don't benefit from any of the good bits.
lhrsfo is offline  
Old May 15, 17, 5:30 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Programs: HHonors Diamond, MileagePlus Silver, Executive National
Posts: 122
Originally Posted by lhrsfo View Post
The OP is correct. What does UA stand for? To me,as a 1K MM, I really don't know - perhaps a frustrating blob, sometimes great but too often disappointing. To my family, it simply represents the epitome of bad service as they don't benefit from any of the good bits.
Just curious but what do the other legacy carriers stand for? Seems to me the reality is there are now the big 3 legacy AA/UA/DL then WN then ULCC airlines especially domestically. If you ask me of those the only one of those that stands out as 'standing for something' or being distinct is WN (bag policy, boarding, generally more casual atmosphere etc).

Does UA want something to set it apart from the others sure, and like the discussion perhaps it is unclear how they are trying to do so but do AA/DL really have an obvious way they are trying to be different or set apart?
homanga is offline  
Old May 15, 17, 6:40 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Programs: UA Plat, BA Gold
Posts: 1,534
Don't forget Alaska and Virgin America (the latter of which has been my domestic favorite). Both have a quality image, but they specialize in certain routes, and with their merger, I'm not sure they can continue to offer the product they do if they increase their footprint.
Artpen100 is offline  
Old May 15, 17, 8:44 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: CO
Programs: UA OG-1K, Marriott Plat, Hertz PC
Posts: 1,238
I am a 1K and I rarely fly on 'United' aircraft. UA decides to put RJs on the routes out of Denver I fly, and because I can't find R space on TATLs, I use my GPUs on LH. No wonder UA doesn't like me. I probably fly under 25k on 'their' planes.

I think United does a pretty effective job discriminating. The service level from Y to F is pretty stark, especially when it comes to FA attitude. That a GS/HVF sitting in Y catches some collateral snearing happens.
PushingTin is offline  
Old May 15, 17, 8:46 am
  #15  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: FLL/LAX/YYZ/TPE
Programs: CO Platinum 1K, United 1K, SPG LT Platinum, National Executive Elite, Platinum TSA Hater
Posts: 34,859
United was never considered a "premium brand" - maybe back in the 60s and 70s when there were few global carriers, but in the 1990s and later? No one would have confused United for a premium airline, certainly not outside the USA.
bocastephen is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: