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Strategy behind wildly different soft product at domestic UCs?

Strategy behind wildly different soft product at domestic UCs?

Old May 12, 22, 8:19 am
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Strategy behind wildly different soft product at domestic UCs?

Curious for this group's take on why the soft product at domestic UCs can vary so drastically. Take LGA, for example: the breakfast offering includes two hot dishes, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, bagels, cereals, etc. all served with proper silverware and plates. Compare this with EWR where the food is far inferior (lots of pre-packaged / non-fresh items) and everything is served on paper and plastic, even drinks from the bar.

This makes me wonder: What's the business strategy behind this? Best reason I can think of is LGA is a more competitive market AND the UC gets more traffic from *A Gold customers on other airlines (who in turn pay a rebate to UA). Any other thoughts?
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Old May 12, 22, 8:30 am
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Originally Posted by ei124 View Post
Curious for this group's take on why the soft product at domestic UCs can vary so drastically. Take LGA, for example: the breakfast offering includes two hot dishes, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, bagels, cereals, etc. all served with proper silverware and plates. Compare this with EWR where the food is far inferior (lots of pre-packaged / non-fresh items) and everything is served on paper and plastic, even drinks from the bar.

This makes me wonder: What's the business strategy behind this? Best reason I can think of is LGA is a more competitive market AND the UC gets more traffic from *A Gold customers on other airlines (who in turn pay a rebate to UA). Any other thoughts?
I believe the issue -- as it relates to food quality -- is the presence of proper "kitchens" to prepare food for UC members -- IIRC EWR does not have proper kitchen facilities, so they have to warm up pre-prepared foods, while some of the newer locations were built with proper kitchens.... I would expect the new club in EWR Terminal C to have a proper kitchen -- but I don't know for sure...
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Old May 12, 22, 8:35 am
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Originally Posted by bmwe92fan View Post
I believe the issue -- as it relates to food quality -- is the presence of proper "kitchens" to prepare food for UC members -- IIRC EWR does not have proper kitchen facilities, so they have to warm up pre-prepared foods, while some of the newer locations were built with proper kitchens.... I would expect the new club in EWR Terminal C to have a proper kitchen -- but I don't know for sure...
This is probably the key reason. A full, hot food service at a hub lounge requires considerable prep space, which is being added with new renovations/build-outs, but hot, prepared food was never a component of either pre-merger carrier's legacy "base" domestic lounge product. So, most older lounges just had "pantries" for a simple food service. Refrigeration, microwaves, etc. That's about it, and is a reason why the extent of hot food service was usually soups or pre-packaged items kept in warmers.

The other component is budget. Traffic through hub lounges is orders of magnitude higher than at outstations. United's willingness to spend what it takes to deliver a quality product at the hubs also comes into play.
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Old May 12, 22, 9:27 am
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Originally Posted by EWR764 View Post
The other component is budget.
A nice way of saying that UA is cheap, and feels no need to provide a high quality product at its hubs (The LAX UC often being an exception, probably due to intense competition at LAX).
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Old May 12, 22, 10:39 am
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
A nice way of saying that UA is cheap, and feels no need to provide a high quality product at its hubs (The LAX UC often being an exception, probably due to intense competition at LAX).
In the past, yes. But there is a strong suggestion that United might be changing its position here with a few major capital projects underway or in planning at the hubs (EWR C-3, EWR A, DEN B-East/West, DEN A, ORD C). We'll know more soon...
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Old May 12, 22, 10:47 am
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Originally Posted by EWR764 View Post
In the past, yes. But there is a strong suggestion that United might be changing its position here with a few major capital projects underway or in planning at the hubs (EWR C-3, EWR A, DEN B-East/West, DEN A, ORD C). We'll know more soon...
In the mid and longer term perhaps. In the immediate 2022 future, not so much.

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Old May 12, 22, 11:24 am
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Originally Posted by EWR764 View Post
In the past, yes. But there is a strong suggestion that United might be changing its position here with a few major capital projects underway or in planning at the hubs (EWR C-3, EWR A, DEN B-East/West, DEN A, ORD C). We'll know more soon...
Originally Posted by DELee View Post
In the mid and longer term perhaps. In the immediate 2022 future, not so much.

David
Having visited the SFO E United Club last evening, I would have to concur with the second comment.

It may also be worth keeping in mind the downward progression of the Polaris product, where the soft product was initially intended to match the hard product. We know how that turned out.
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Old May 12, 22, 11:27 am
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Having visited the SFO E United Club last evening, I would have to concur with the second comment.

It may also be worth keeping in mind the downward progression of the Polaris product, where the soft product was initially intended to match the hard product. We know how that turned out.
Welcome to United ever present rollercoaster products driven by revenue management managers.

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Old May 12, 22, 12:17 pm
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Originally Posted by ei124 View Post
Curious for this group's take on why the soft product at domestic UCs can vary so drastically. Take LGA, for example: the breakfast offering includes two hot dishes, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, bagels, cereals, etc. all served with proper silverware and plates. Compare this with EWR where the food is far inferior (lots of pre-packaged / non-fresh items) and everything is served on paper and plastic, even drinks from the bar.

This makes me wonder: What's the business strategy behind this? Best reason I can think of is LGA is a more competitive market AND the UC gets more traffic from *A Gold customers on other airlines (who in turn pay a rebate to UA). Any other thoughts?
Actually I wonder if the *A factor comes into play. At LGA, the Air Canada lounge is directly across the the UC, so maybe the offering is competitive to not have to pay AC for UC members and also attract revenue from *G members
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Old May 12, 22, 12:30 pm
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DFW is one of the best in the system now. Breakfast sandwiches, Meatball Plates, Sandwiches...
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Old May 12, 22, 12:36 pm
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Originally Posted by dshafiee View Post
DFW is one of the best in the system now. Breakfast sandwiches, Meatball Plates, Sandwiches...
Really? I was there recently and skipped it as it looked tiny - bigger on the inside? Surprised they put any effort in.
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Old May 12, 22, 1:15 pm
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Having visited the SFO E United Club last evening, I would have to concur with the second comment.

It may also be worth keeping in mind the downward progression of the Polaris product, where the soft product was initially intended to match the hard product. We know how that turned out.
Cost cutting is irresistible to airline managers, this we know. The SFO E club is (to me) the most disappointing new lounge United has opened and totally emblematic of the company under Smisek. Way undersized, generic, no amenites to speak of... completely unimpressive for a club at a flagship hub. Even LAX was watered down from its original concept to cut costs. On the other hand, Delta (also AA but to a lesser extent) tend to make their new-build hub lounges splashy, attractive showpieces to create a halo effect for the brand. United missed that message but we can only hope that the new lounges in the pipeline reflect more consideration of a premium experience.

The other thing (which is relevant to Polaris) is presentation. At LGA, UA serves breakfast sandwiches in chafing trays, unwrapped, on ceramic plates with metal cutlery. It's still a Jimmy Dean sandwich (I've seen the packaging) but even that can take on a much more premium look/feel with the right setting. Cf. Polaris, with the ugly dog bowls that, in my view, make anything you put in them look unappetizing and sloppy.

United needs to pay some more attention to these details.
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Old May 12, 22, 1:52 pm
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Originally Posted by n8-the-gr8 View Post
Really? I was there recently and skipped it as it looked tiny - bigger on the inside? Surprised they put any effort in.
The manager of the club is really proud of the product and puts the extra effort in. The club is quite large since the remodel. Bigger then PDX and SAN.
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Old May 12, 22, 2:18 pm
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Originally Posted by dshafiee View Post
The manager of the club is really proud of the product and puts the extra effort in. The club is quite large since the remodel. Bigger then PDX and SAN.
Nice staff at the bar, too, including the one woman whose name I can never pronounce but is always very friendly.
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Old May 12, 22, 2:26 pm
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Originally Posted by n8-the-gr8 View Post
Really? I was there recently and skipped it as it looked tiny - bigger on the inside? Surprised they put any effort in.
youre surely mistaken. I also look forward to my DFW UC visits for their soup, meatballs and pretty elaborate food spread.
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