The biggest detractor to UA’s revenue

 
Old Sep 11, 06, 4:14 am
  #1  
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The biggest detractor to UA’s revenue

Simple question: What aspect of the customer’s dealings with UA causes the greatest loss of potential revenue?

Before we get carried away with debates about how much more money UA could make if they offered caviar in F on every flight I’d like to keep it simple. For me this question boils down to the things that are truly negative about dealing with UA rather than those things that are adequate but would be improved if UA worked and spent on them. For example, better food onboard would be nice, but for the average customer UA’s food is not likely to cause them to move their spend to a different carrier. Also bear in mind that the question is really about the revenue side of the equation, not about costs.

My personal top two are easy:

1.The web interface has cost UA in terms of lost revenue (from me at least).
2. Outsourced agents have as well.

Both the web and outsourced agents have lower fixed costs to UA than their alternatives, but they have a hidden cost in lost revenue. I’m guessing and hoping that some of the smart folks at UA have a decent estimate on these numbers.

FWIW my initial thought was “it’s the website stupid…” However, I also considered that while this is probably the case for FT’ers (we’re web savvy by nature), the average Joe who routinely has to deal with mediocre phone service from outsourced agents might move their spend elsewhere if they can get what they want efficiently over the phone. There are a lot more average Joes out there trying to buy tickets than there are FT’ers wishing we could change seat assignments at UA.bomb.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 4:21 am
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Yes those do detract...but i think service comes to mind for me. Don't care for snippy argumentative matrons on long hauls (transpac mainly mind you) who do not understand what decent levels of service means. I now (over the past few years already) only buy premium long haul tickets from SQ, CX and TG (amongst others) and cheap econ tickets from UA to upgrade with SWUs. If service was consistently good, i'd change my buying patterns.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 4:40 am
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It's a user interface problem

Originally Posted by PHLGovFlyer
There are a lot more average Joes out there trying to buy tickets than there are FT’ers wishing we could change seat assignments at UA.bomb.
The bureaucracy as seen by the average Joe/Jane.

I have had status on two airlines other than UA. Now that I fly out of IAD, that almost mandates that I fly UA. If I flew from ATL or SLC, it would probably be Delta. DFW, AA.

When I occasionally flew UA as a peaon, I kept running up against their unreasonable rules to counter my reasonable requests. Having UA status and experience with them helps me:
1) Understand and anticipate their, well, crap.
2) Get an exception around some of it

All of the airlines suffer from it. I am still amazed when I fly US, DL, or Cactus, at the crap they deal out. Of course, each airline has their own rules and procedures.

They call it their "competitive advantage."

So, I guess you could say that if UA would clean up their competitive advantage, they would have a competitive advantage.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 6:11 am
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UA loses revenue because the employees who interact with customers often have the least knowledge and authority. UA is not alone; the majority of U.S. "retail" companies suffers from this self-inflicted wound.

For all the hot air about customer service, employees in U.S. companies do not want to deal with retail customers. It's seen as lowly work from which you ultimately graduate. So customer interaction, especially on the phone, becomes a training position for new hires or is outsourced.

We all know the results. You have to gently explain the airline's own rules or routes to the clueless CSR. Any request that doesn't fit into a pre-packaged pigeonhole is denied. CSRs insist on applying the letter of the law as you explain how your situation is different and needs to be handled with some flexibility. Don't even think of asking for a waiver or dispensation from some rule.

My comments are aimed principally at the people in the call centers. I have certainly enjoyed the company of seasoned gate and counter agents who were willing to bend the rules to make my situation work.

If I were king, I would make customer interaction a mid-level responsibility, like it is in the practice of law, where you have to put in a few years before the partners trust you to deal directly with clients. Plus, if I were king, all miles on all Star Alliance carriers would be redeemable on all other Star Alliance carriers. Maybe I should run for king . . . .
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Old Sep 11, 06, 6:23 am
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I think the average leisure traveler needs more assistance than a seasoned FTer.
In that regard I think of a poor traveler who takes the misinformation from the ICC as gospel.
This is one area that can severely affect revenue. Being told there are no flights on a particular route when in fact there are.
Another aspect is the educated traveler who is fed up with the ICC and just takes their business elsewhere.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 7:35 am
  #6  
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It's not just the web and call center, customer service is lacking throughout the operation. Just think of those posts over the past month or two about the ORD and LAX (or was it SFO) agents that walked away from the customer service desks because their shift was over despite a long line of people waiting - even late at night, when there were NO replacement coming. Or the new only the ticketing line can ticket you - when there is ONE agent, no elite line and it takes a minimum of 30-45 to process each person. I walked away 3x the last time I needed a ticketing issue addressed at a variety of airports. I value my time a lot more than that - and if it was a pure purchase situation, someone else would've gotten my business. Then you have the FAs with an attitude, and the non-revs chatting away or being generally disrespectful to the paying customer.

The masses may not know they should be expecting better, but anyone who has flown even a little - they'll be rightfully turned off.

The operation desperately requires training for all their personnel from A-Z, between that and a lack of qualified personnel on the front line - phone, plane and at the airport.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 7:49 am
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Originally Posted by oontiveros
...but i think service comes to mind for me. Don't care for snippy argumentative matrons on long hauls (transpac mainly mind you) who do not understand what decent levels of service means. I now (over the past few years already) only buy premium long haul tickets from SQ, CX and TG (amongst others)......
I agree with this. There is no reason that UA continues to let this happen. They should make a change in attitude happen or a change in these matrons.

I always look for another carrier when flying ex Shanghai to SFO. They are in fact costing UA revenue.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 7:58 am
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Agree with all of the above.
For people outside of the US, however, next to some prejudice and ignorant
bias "all US carriers offer bad service and are tardy", the issue I and all
of my friends who are devoted UA and MP fans run into are:
  • incredibly complex fare rules, inconsistent fares,
    no through fares, seasonal randomness of fares
  • combined with: agents not nearly capable to handle the complexity of the
    UA fare system
I recently was joyous as UA finally introduced B fares EU-Oz again. I tried to
buy 3 itineraries, using the HNL call centre, KVS, and ExpertFlyer. Every single
agent confirmed that the itineraries were withing the fare rules but the system
would not price or would price in Y.
Very friendly agents tried everything, called ticketing dept., asked supervisors ..
nada. There is no way to give UA more money when flying coach than what V
does cost .
The other thing is fare complexity - it is hard to swallow that neighboring
airports in Europe have entirely different fares ... but fares not offered at all
from certain airports is a disgrace. UA just decided that people from Germany,
Italy, and Switzerland have no need to fly to Asia Pacific, whereas the Dutch,
the French, and the Britons do.
If the flights are busy increase the frigging fare, don't abolish it !!!!
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Old Sep 11, 06, 9:24 am
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MILEAGE PLUS has been the biggest detriment to revenue!

When United first introduced its frequent flyer program the most critical aspect for management was to make certain that members would use their awards for discretionary leisure travel or gift them to family members. The biggest fear was that frequent flyers might use their award travel to offset their business travel - which kills the golden goose of revenue.

So United was shrewd enough to offer enticing travel opportunities that were just too hard to pass up, such as (1) reduced mileage redemption for two award seats in lieu of one; (2) easy availability of premium seats to popular family destinations like Honolulu, Las Vegas and Orlando; and (3) amazing service to those vacation destinations despite the fact that those routes were never as profitable as business destinations.

As a result United could count on guys like me taking the wife and kids to Hawaii or Disney World in First Class, burning a couple hundred thousand miles, and otherwise redeeming seats that we would have never purchased. (Young families don't pay to fly their kids First Class anywhere, and with the exception of business travelers United doesn't fill it's FC cabins with full revenue passengers on it's discretionary destinations - these are intensely competitive routes that are incredibly price elastic).

The empty suits at WHQ that have now made award redemption much harder - and it IS virtually impossible to redeem seats for your entire family - which results in guys like me redeeming my points for First International which would have been revenue, because it's relatively easier to get a single FC seat across the Pacific or the Atlantic than it is to get four FC seats to HNL. And the way Inventory Control opens up seats at the last minute works out perfectly for business travelers like me who make their travel plans late (Folks planning family trips CAN'T wait until a couple of weeks prior to departure so there's another reason why so many miles get used for business )

So, I save $12,000 on a business trip and spend $2400 flying the four of us to HNL in coach. And the joke is that it's virtually impossible for me to use my miles any other way. They really are empty suits!

Last edited by Northbrook60065; Sep 11, 06 at 10:05 am
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Old Sep 11, 06, 9:44 am
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I sincerely think that most of the stupidity by the UX carriers gives many passengers a foul taste of what they think United Service is. Most pax can't tell the difference between UX and UA. They see a plane painted in UA colours and immediately associate the stupidity of UX with UA mainline.

I think UX planes should be painted different. Like how TED is painted different.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 10:31 am
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Originally Posted by Northbrook60065
When United first introduced its frequent flyer program the most critical aspect for management was to make certain that members would use their awards for discretionary leisure travel or gift them to family members. The biggest fear was that frequent flyers might use their award travel to offset their business travel - which kills the golden goose of revenue.

So United was shrewd enough to offer enticing travel opportunities that were just too hard to pass up, such as (1) reduced mileage redemption for two award seats in lieu of one; (2) easy availability of premium seats to popular family destinations like Honolulu, Las Vegas and Orlando; and (3) amazing service to those vacation destinations despite the fact that those routes were never as profitable as business destinations.

As a result United could count on guys like me taking the wife and kids to Hawaii or Disney World in First Class, burning a couple hundred thousand miles, and otherwise redeeming seats that we would have never purchased. (Young families don't pay to fly their kids First Class anywhere, and with the exception of business travelers United doesn't fill it's FC cabins with full revenue passengers on it's discretionary destinations - these are intensely competitive routes that are incredibly price elastic).

The empty suits at WHQ that have now made award redemption much harder - and it IS virtually impossible to redeem seats for your entire family - which results in guys like me redeeming my points for First International which would have been revenue, because it's relatively easier to get a single FC seat across the Pacific or the Atlantic than it is to get four FC seats to HNL. And the way Inventory Control opens up seats at the last minute works out perfectly for business travelers like me who make their travel plans late (Folks planning family trips CAN'T wait until a couple of weeks prior to departure so there's another reason why so many miles get used for business )

So, I save $12,000 on a business trip and spend $2400 flying the four of us to HNL in coach. And the joke is that it's virtually impossible for me to use my miles any other way. They really are empty suits!
I absolutely agree. You wrote it very well. It is close to impossible to travel with a family. I always thought this was one of the big advantages of mileage plus. You get the miles when you travel on business and to make up to your family for all the days you are on the road you take them to a nice trip.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 12:04 pm
  #12  
 
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Agree. With the exception of Skywest, UX operations (Mesa in particular) are an embarrasment to UA. A better web site that actually gives one the options Orbits/Expedia routinely display will help. A more consistent level of service from the matrons will be nice (my experience has been a mix of the good and bad, even in C - which is not acceptable). I must say that my experience with the ground staff (with the exception of LAX - where they just can't be bothered) have been mostly positive the past couple of years.


Originally Posted by warreng24
I sincerely think that most of the stupidity by the UX carriers gives many passengers a foul taste of what they think United Service is. Most pax can't tell the difference between UX and UA. They see a plane painted in UA colours and immediately associate the stupidity of UX with UA mainline.

I think UX planes should be painted different. Like how TED is painted different.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 12:34 pm
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Originally Posted by GoingAway
It's not just the web and call center, customer service is lacking throughout the operation. Just think of those posts over the past month or two about the ORD and LAX (or was it SFO) agents that walked away from the customer service desks because their shift was over despite a long line of people waiting - even late at night, when there were NO replacement coming. Or the new only the ticketing line can ticket you - when there is ONE agent, no elite line and it takes a minimum of 30-45 to process each person. I walked away 3x the last time I needed a ticketing issue addressed at a variety of airports. I value my time a lot more than that - and if it was a pure purchase situation, someone else would've gotten my business. Then you have the FAs with an attitude, and the non-revs chatting away or being generally disrespectful to the paying customer.

The masses may not know they should be expecting better, but anyone who has flown even a little - they'll be rightfully turned off.

The operation desperately requires training for all their personnel from A-Z, between that and a lack of qualified personnel on the front line - phone, plane and at the airport.

couldn't agree more...
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Old Sep 11, 06, 1:34 pm
  #14  
 
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Competition, choice & UA not believing they can have more revenue. The third being the most influencial.
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Old Sep 11, 06, 7:27 pm
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They need to move from one of cutting cost to increasing revenue along with SERVICE. Have seen some improvements but still have long way to go. Asian Airines certainly have it over UA in Service, food, and Entertainment systems.
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