United Announces Major Changes To Customer Experience

by Marc Cain     

After becoming a national punch line and watching their stock price take a billion dollar hit in one day United Airlines announced major changes to the customer experience.  These changes are in direct response to the horrifying event on April 10th, where a United passenger was bloodied and literally dragged from a flight by police to make room for a dead heading crew.

United’s CEO Oscar Munoz made an embarrassing first response stating, “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.” before finally issuing a somewhat sincere apology for the incident.

Within a few days of the incident United became the brunt of late night talk show jokes, SNL, and even a trending twitter tag of #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos  – “United Airlines 2017 Winner – Best Chinese Take Out!”-  SOUTHWEST’S Motto: “We beat the competition. Not you”.  Even the competitors got into the trolling mood.  Despite the jokes the outrage and anger was obvious on social media.  The incident had brought to light the stress and discontent passengers were feeling with the airlines.

On April 27th, United announced the following changes in a press release in response to their 11 page report on the incident:

CHICAGO, April 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — United Airlines (UAL) today announced 10 substantial changes to how it flies, serves and respects its customers. The changes are the result of United’s thorough examination of its policies and procedures, and commitment to take action, in the wake of the forced removal of a customer aboard United Express Flight 3411 on April 9.

United commits to:

  • Limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
  • Not require customers seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.
  • Increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000.
  • Establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination.
  • Ensure crews are booked onto a flight at least 60 minutes prior to departure.
  • Provide employees with additional annual training.
  • Create an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans.
  • Reduce the amount of overbooking.
  • Empower employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment.
  • Eliminate the red tape on permanently lost bags by adopting a “no questions asked” policy on lost luggage.

While several of these policies are effective immediately, others will be rolled out through the remainder of the year. The facts of what happened aboard Flight 3411 and a full review of United’s changes can be found at hub.united.com.

Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Airlines, said, “Every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect. Two weeks ago, we failed to meet that standard and we profoundly apologize. However, actions speak louder than words. Today, we are taking concrete, meaningful action to make things right and ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

“Our review shows that many things went wrong that day, but the headline is clear: our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what’s right.  This is a turning point for all of us at United and it signals a culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline.  Our customers should be at the center of everything we do and these changes are just the beginning of how we will earn back their trust,” he added.

As a passenger for more than 30 years on United and Continental and a current 1K on the airline I am really happy to see these changes.  There is no doubt the passenger in this incident played a large roll in what happened to him, however if these changes had already been implement this would have never happened.

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