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"We are looking for volunteers." "No, we're not!"

"We are looking for volunteers." "No, we're not!"

 
Old Jul 28, 09, 7:03 pm
  #1  
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"We are looking for volunteers." "No, we're not!"

As reported in this thread, DEN now finally has EasyInfo monitors at the gates. Last night, I tried to get bumped from 741 DEN-SFO, for which EasyInfo had the "We are looking for volunteers" message. So, I jumped in line, and wound up wasting the GA's and other passengers' time after he told me that he in fact was not seeking volunteers. I quickly commented that the screen said he was. But he was on the phone, there were other folks behind me, and I didn't want to be any more of a burden than I already was by inquiring further.

So, is this one of the quirks of EasyInfo that's not controlled by the GA, like the countdown to boarding that's not always accurate? Does the volunteer-seeking message trigger when the flight is oversold by a certain amount? It just boggles the mind that the screen would automatically display inaccurate info like that without GA approval -- info that, as I said, had the effect of me wasting everyone's time. Or maybe the GA accidentally hit a wrong button? Or maybe bugs specific to the system at DEN are still being worked out?
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Old Jul 28, 09, 7:12 pm
  #2  
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I'd say, as in all things United, the GA has the final word. It doesn't matter what anyone else says, if the GA says it, it's gospel.
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Old Jul 28, 09, 7:12 pm
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I was at SFO a few weeks ago, can't remember which gate (85 maybe?), the monitor indicated asking for volunteers. I went up to the GA and inquired and he just shrugged and said something along the lines of "No need for volunteers... that message is always up there".
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Old Jul 28, 09, 7:20 pm
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Originally Posted by endobert View Post
I was at SFO a few weeks ago, can't remember which gate (85 maybe?), the monitor indicated asking for volunteers. I went up to the GA and inquired and he just shrugged and said something along the lines of "No need for volunteers... that message is always up there".
Then it seems there's something intrinsic to EasyInfo that triggers the message unnecessarily. Again, what a waste of time for the poor GAs. It's the opposite effect of what IT upgrades are supposed to produce.
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Old Jul 28, 09, 7:27 pm
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Actually, I've had flights where the screen says that they need VDB's, the GA says they don't, and then it turns out that they do!

And of course, times where they need VDB's, and the screen says nothing about it. Then there are the times that the kiosks offer to put people on the list, and you get every Tom, Dick, and Harry thinking they are going to get bumped.

So as with most things UA, it's guidance more than fact.

And BTW -- not all DEN gates have the screens. At least as of last week, it's still only about 1/2.
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Old Jul 28, 09, 7:45 pm
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I've encountered the "looking for volunteers" message on the screens several times. However, there does not seem to be any correlation between that and the flight actually needing volunteers, or not needing them. YMMV...
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Old Jul 28, 09, 7:53 pm
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I have seen this numerous times, in different airports. Screen says yes, someone comes up and asks and the GA says no.

Sometimes it's that the GA is taking volunteers and already has enough on the list to feel comfortable, sometimes it's just that they don't need any.

I would say that the trigger is clearly more conservative than the average GA's risk tolerance, and/or that it's not good at making judgement calls about misconnects, etc. Regardless, it seems to be decoupled from the GAs.
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Old Jul 28, 09, 8:05 pm
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Could it be that the "looking for volunteers" is an automatic message that is generated for the flight because it is overbooked according to the computers, [B]BUT[B] the GA knows that there are going to be misconnects, so there swill be no need for VDBs?
Therefore they tell you that volunteers will not be needed. Just a thought
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Old Jul 28, 09, 8:43 pm
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I've had this happen to me at both SFO and LAX and it is a huge letdown when you get the rush of a potential VDB only to be told--no, we don't need anyone. Crash and burn....
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Old Jul 28, 09, 9:50 pm
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Originally Posted by GoAmtrak View Post
Then it seems there's something intrinsic to EasyInfo that triggers the message unnecessarily. Again, what a waste of time for the poor GAs. It's the opposite effect of what IT upgrades are supposed to produce.
Bingo! The signs still have the same software (no updates to it) since the launch. They take no input from the GA, but uses data directly from the computer's booked load factor and what the controller sets the dptr time. On a late turn, it assumes the plane has been there for hours and counts down boarding time as if a full turn. It doesn't know how to look for misconnects, or people who haven't checked in (even after the checkin cutoff) and says "we need volunteers" If when you checked in, the computer didn't give you a seat (made you a BP2) but the agent assigned you one, it says that you need to see the agent for a seat.

I believe that each day, I spend about 10 min on a normal day, and 25 on an irrops day answering questions where the sign is conveying information that does not need to be asked.

Although, I guess, I don't have to solicit for VDB's and can just IDB everyone, as long as the sign says we are looking for volunteers, I believe that meets the DoT's requirement for solicitation. (Yea, like I am that crude!)

With any new software, it SHOULD be tested, beta'd, and then updated with feedback from the users to make it more user friendly and provided efficiencies, instead of creating redundant/useless work. But this is an airline, and more specifically, UA, so it is clear that a) we don't have the $$, b) UA mgmt doesn't want to hear from the frontline, or c) someone at WHQAO doesn't realize that initial software should not be final software and/or d) WHQAO doesn't believe that operational data from someone there at the gate can be better than their software driven models, because WHQAO and the programmers are mgmt, and therefore must be correct as union employees are stupid.
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Old Jul 28, 09, 9:57 pm
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Originally Posted by GoAmtrak View Post
So, is this one of the quirks of EasyInfo that's not controlled by the GA, like the countdown to boarding that's not always accurate? Does the volunteer-seeking message trigger when the flight is oversold by a certain amount? It just boggles the mind that the screen would automatically display inaccurate info like that without GA approval -- info that, as I said, had the effect of me wasting everyone's time. Or maybe the GA accidentally hit a wrong button? Or maybe bugs specific to the system at DEN are still being worked out?
Believe that EasyInfo counts the boarding time based only on any updated departure time and type of aircraft. If the aircraft arrives in late, for example, and the departure time isn't officially delayed, boarding time, IME, will remain the same. If it does get officially updated on the screen, then I find the boarding time follows that new departure time.
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Old Jul 28, 09, 10:16 pm
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Interesting discussion. Didn't realize the "looking for volunteers" message came from higher powers than the GA.

To be clear: If the sign is ON, we know they either need volunteers or don't need volunteers. If your a bump runner, you probably approach the GA regardless. If the sign is OFF, there is a good chance they don't need volunteers (a few exceptions though) because its programmed to turn on when booked (over) to a certain level. In most circumstances that number would stay the same or drop (ie: misconnects), and therefore not prompt the volunteer signage.

Is that a good interpretation?
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Old Jul 28, 09, 10:29 pm
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Originally Posted by mahasamatman View Post
I'd say, as in all things United, the GA has the final word. It doesn't matter what anyone else says, if the GA says it, it's gospel.
When EasyUpdate tells me the flight is delayed and the GA denies it, I find that the GA is mistaken or lying. I even once had a GA tell me, "no the plane is here", and flightaware tell me that the plane is still in the air. A half later, the arriving plane emits pax.

Not gospel at all.
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Old Jul 28, 09, 10:40 pm
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Originally Posted by fastair View Post
With any new software, it SHOULD be tested, beta'd, and then updated with feedback from the users to make it more user friendly and provided efficiencies, instead of creating redundant/useless work. But this is an airline, and more specifically, UA, so it is clear that a) we don't have the $$, b) UA mgmt doesn't want to hear from the frontline, or c) someone at WHQAO doesn't realize that initial software should not be final software and/or d) WHQAO doesn't believe that operational data from someone there at the gate can be better than their software driven models, because WHQAO and the programmers are mgmt, and therefore must be correct as union employees are stupid.
I agree with the above and take it one step further - the GA's should have been totally involved in the design process! I've done a lot of software design and having the end users involved in the design process usually makes a much better product! I'd say UA has staffing levels as low as they possibly can at the gates, but with an investment in better software they could really streamline the processes at the gates making much happier passengers AND staff.

WHQ could really make a lot of improvements by better managing their IT resources - even with the same budget. Oh well.
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Old Jul 28, 09, 10:46 pm
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Originally Posted by mikensf74 View Post
Interesting discussion. Didn't realize the "looking for volunteers" message came from higher powers than the GA.

To be clear: If the sign is ON, we know they either need volunteers or don't need volunteers. If your a bump runner, you probably approach the GA regardless. If the sign is OFF, there is a good chance they don't need volunteers (a few exceptions though) because its programmed to turn on when booked (over) to a certain level. In most circumstances that number would stay the same or drop (ie: misconnects), and therefore not prompt the volunteer signage.

Is that a good interpretation?
All except for the "higher power" part. That is blasphemy! We all know, that prior to stepping on the aircraft, where Cap'n is king, that the GA rules, and there is no higher power in the universe, except possibly a heavenly authority.

Misconnects don't have their reservations cncld, so booked LF won't change, and even if the sign is on, and 100% of the booked LF misconnects, the sign will still stay on.

And Hunter, not just any GA, but me. Plus, a manual override is essential for any system that relies on operational data where predictable patterns are weak models, and purely correlational, not causal. Human behavior is not all that scientific on a micro scale, hence the reason we have doctors, lawyers, and therapists and don't just use WebMD, Law books, or the DSM IV to solve our problems.
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