ICYMI – United’s New Policies

In the wake of the kerfuffles involving alleged passenger assault, alleged negligence in animal transport and other woes, United has announced 10 new policies aimed at improving the way they do business (and repairing it’s relationship with flying consumers).

An excerpt of the announcement follows, and the entire post can be found here. Before we get to that, I have to publicly state that United is one of top 4 airlines. They’ve hauled me around the world and I’ve never had any issues. Well, there have been issues, but they were drops in an ocean considering how many legs I’ve flown with them.

  • I had a really nasty flight attendant who was exceptionally rude to everyone but that was one leg of one trip.
  • One of the 3 instances of lost luggage was a United flight from the US to Mexico. Somehow I knew the bag would get lost but I checked it anyway because it was too large to carry on(full of birthday gifts for family). The United staff in the US and Mexico made every effort to track down my little lost sheep and it was delivered 20 hours later with everything intact.

All the recent customer care gaffes have disturbed me but mostly, they’ve surprised me since it is NOT the United Airlines that I know. I hope this gets them back on track and will continue to fly them and hope my luck of good care continues. Okay, enough about me, here is the breakdown of new policies.

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.

I applaud this move by United and on closer examination, I still think there are some things they need to define/communicate. As someone who makes a living providing performance consultation for corporate learning and development, customer care is close to my heart and I would LOVE to get insight into these changes and the training surrounding them. Through that lens and the lens of a United frequent flyer, my thoughts are:

  1. In reference to the first two items in the above list, United should provide some examples of what constitute ‘safety and security concerns’. For the uninitiated flyer or those who love to ‘split hairs’ having concrete examples of expulsion behavior would be helpful. For example, being a foreign passenger trying to shove a stroller in the overhead bin? Maybe not a security issue. Being lip-walking drunk and aggressive? A definitive safety concern.
  2. Hopefully, by increasing compensation for oversold situations United isn’t opening the door to people taking advantage of this. It would be helpful to know the rest of the details and qualifications. I’d also prefer to get cash compensation that doesn’t expire rather than a voucher with an expiration date.
  3. Creating a new customer solutions team and empowering United staff was MY idea 🙂 so I am glad to see this being enacted. Ideally, they have some structure around empowering employees to do the right thing and keep things equitable across the passenger base.
  4. Regarding the additional training for employees, I’d like to know what it entails. How it will be rolled out, and most importantly, how it will be measured (from Level 1 to Level 4 and beyond. Kirkpatrick, holla!)
  5. It would be helpful to see some metrics around overbooking. Where does United fall in number of oversold situations each year? Are some routes more prone to this than others? Are there certain times that this happens most? How do they plan to reduce this and by how much? Metrics are everything.
  6. Not that it effects me (almost never check a bag) but how will United ensure the ne’er-do-wells of the world don’t abuse the policy?

What do you think? Will these changes help United? Are there other things you think they should do? Let me know in the comments!