Sure, United Has Problems -- But It Still Innovates At Boston Logan

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Newscience, May 4, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Sure, United Has Problems -- But It Still Innovates At Boston Logan

    Forbes.com
    Ted Reed
    05/02/2014

    United Airlines may have its financial problems, but that doesn’t mean that the airline’s continuing efforts to better serve its passengers come to a halt.

    Rather, at Boston Logan, the airline has unveiled a new customer service model at a new 10-gate, 162,800- square-foot concourse, where it has finally consolidated its Boston operations following the 2010 merger with Continental.

    Read the article here:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/tedreed...l-innovates-at-boston-logan/?partner=yahootix
     
  2. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    With cutbacks and outsourcing spreading like wildfire and a mission to cut $2B across United, you'd have to be a fool to believe these "innovations" won't result in job losses in Boston.

    It's likely a trial balloon for Boston, and every other United market.
     
  3. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    I love the picture in the article. Looks like an old 707.
     
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  4. chitownflyer
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    chitownflyer Silver Member

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    Maybe it is another enhancement, or a change you're going to like?
     
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  5. blackjack-21

    blackjack-21 Gold Member

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    Looks to me that the plane in the foreground may be a United DC-8, possibly the stretched model and the one being towed is probably a B707, but looking closely at the nose of that one, it appears to have the large vent type opening on the lower side of it's nose, which I don't think the -707's had so it may also be a DC-8. Also, the towed aircraft doesn't have the long tube shaped part at the front top of it's tail (was that the placing of the pitot tube way back when?), and while I'm also not sure if the Boeing or Convair's similar model had that part, it might serve to clear up the bafflingment for me.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2014
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  6. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    IDK...the scaffolding on the radar/tower blocks view, but I can see 727s there as well!!!
     
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  7. blackjack-21

    blackjack-21 Gold Member

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    The radar tower isn't blocking the one on the left and there's no tube showing on the tail of that one, even with the wires, etc. from that tower in front of the tail. The one I'm confusedly questioning is the one being towed on the right of the radar tower.The B727 at the gate on the right is an AA aircraft as is the one farther back from it on the taxiway, and the one at the far left in the picture also appears to be a UA DC-8.

    Having been on all of them many moons and eons ago, from B707's to both model DC-8's, B727's and several times on the Convair model flown by NE, all I can further say is......Yikes, I'm really OLD.
     
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  8. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    I wouldn't be surprised if all airlines put this in to some degree eventually.

    It's just disingenuous to infer that people have been knocking down United's door begging for a human-free experience.
     
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  9. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I know plenty who have. When it is a "typical" trip I can generally do everything I need on my own and it is much faster than waiting in line for agents. Why make we stand in line when I can have my bag tagged and ready to go??
     
  10. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    Not to get too far off topic here, but I was quite young when the last of the 707s were still flying, and even fewer of the DC-8s. What I seem to remember is how spacious they were in comparison to the planes that followed (which were so spacious to the planes that followed, which were so...) I remember my very last flight on a DC-8 back from Vegas to DFW, and thinking how cool it was. Yeah, it was old, but it was solid, smooth and quiet, and I had legroom! It has been nearly 30 years now, but I really think I had more legroom in my DL DC-8 coach seat than I now get in a domestic UA F seat. (Or any other domestic carriers F seat, for that matter.)

    The fact that it was almost empty was surely contributing to my feeling of overall spaciousness, and my youth couldn't appreciate true comfort the way my much older bones and muscles can today, but it made a strong enough impression that I still wish I could fly one today.

    Back on topic, Copa has some good fares from BOS-MDE, so maybe I'll make that one of my departure and return points later this year to check this out. I have customers and vendors up there I need to see anyway. It's always nice when I can get some travel fun added in to the work grind.
     
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  11. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    This is ok, if you're travelling in the US or only on a US passport. United seems to forget sometimes that its an international airline with customers from all over the world.

    Some of us have more complicated travel needs. I for one have two passports from two different countries. Try going to a place that requires a visa for most people, ( Russia, China, India) and see how fast the yellow asterisk comes up, at which point, I sometimes have to wait 10-15 minutes for someone to help, because there is only 1-2 people at the check in area and both of them are on the phone "with the help desk" with long waits.

    Its also one of the reasons why I don't fly United internationally, the experience is too awful, starting on the ground.
     
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  12. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    And they have agents to work with those passengers as well. But I like that I can take care of what I need without waiting for them to figure out your more complex itinerary.
     
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  13. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    Nice to see that you can walk away while I have to stick around and wait for the only 1-2 agents (max) to be free. Usual wait : 10 -15 minutes. You'll be surprised how many times that Asterisk comes up, even for people using just the kiosk with vanilla documents ( intl flights)

    I've always thought that United like every other airline in the world should have a dedicated line for First Class / Business, instead of lumping all of this with credit cards called "Premier Access". Even a dedicated 1K line ( that SFO used to have) would be so helpful. The loss of that line annoyed a lot of my SF former United flyer friends


    For international flights There is one dedicated "Business First line" that has since moved like endless musical chairs from EWR mid level C to upstairs C. 2 Agents max, and they are always occupied. I've even seen just one agent around 5PM once when all the Europe departures are getting ready to check in. Every other pax in front of me has a non US passport going to places like "Brazil". I've waited in line for 20 minutes sometimes, while some retired travelller travellling Business has a million questions to ask. I've complained numerous times, that more staffing is needed at Business First check in ( to no avail)

    The check in experience for international is awful, so I voted with my wallet.
     
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  14. ssullivan
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    ssullivan Gold Member

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    But how much longer would your wait be if everyone ahead of you was requiring assistance from an agent, for the most routine stuff? I think it would be longer than 10-15 minutes.
     
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  15. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    My main qualm, which perhaps I did not fully articulate, is that the ground staff ( and perhaps UA management) have placed too much faith in the kiosks. While this is this fine for domestic itineraries only ( I have no problems with this ) internationally and when there is IRROPS or weather, the kiosk is a piece of junk.

    My interactions soft of follow this pattern, if flying UA outside of the US and I'm using one of 3 passports I have :

    Kiosk fail
    Me : I'm going to ( Russia / China / India / Brazil ) and I'm using a foreign passport to leave.
    Check in person : Use the kiosk.
    Me: You do realize I'm going to get the big yellow exclamation sign, the moment I swipe it.
    Check in person : Use the kiosk. The kiosk will help you

    Me: Its not going to work.
    Check in person : Use the kiosk and if you need help I'll be here to help you.
    Me : Fine. But I think you better stay closeby , because the warning sign is going come up in just a few minutes, as soon as I swipe my passport.

    ( At this point we have wasted 5 minutes)
    Meanwhile check in person ignores me / united staff member disappears to go help someone else. I go though the kiosk. The kiosk remembers my US passport #1 ( I also have US passport #2 for TLV) , but not my third non passport that intend to use for for entry to ( Russia / China / India / Brazil ) in this occasion.. The confusion triggers the yellow exclamation sign on the kiosk, because UA's systems can't deal with it.

    Yellow sign comes up. Just as I predicted. [ Duh ]. I look around, NO UA personnel to help. Why? Because they only have 1 person or 2 max.
    Finally UA person comes around, looks at the sign, goes behind the counter, and realizes that a manual check in is necessary. Just like I told them from the beginning.

    Manual check in
    Check in person : Where are you going?

    ( At this point I'm just whatever, I told you the damn thing is not going to work )

    Total time wasted = 15 minutes, sometimes 20.

    The United check in person then checks me in manually, including doing a TIMATIC check, tags bags etc. Total time usually less than 10 minutes.


    So total check in time = 15 minutes trying to work the Kiosk + 10 minutes doing this manually because the kiosk didn't work to begin with. 25 minutes.

    My travel coordinator told me that UA keeps track how many people get checked in manually, and this is apparently frowned upon. But because the IT released to the kiosk can't handle a traveller like me, I get junk.


    Now compare this experience to Turkish, Singapore at T4 JFK and Aeroflot at T1 JFK, I hand them my passport, end of story. Even Delta is not as over zealous on the use of the kiosks, especially after I explain to them what I'm doing. The response I get back usually is, "Well I guess I need to check you in manually". No argument.


    Now I will say though that a few airlines have nailed the multiple passports and the kiosk check in correctly and flawlessly. BA ( which I love to fly to London) has this down pat. I can use either US passport 1 or 2 or other passport 3 ( all allow visa free entry to the UK ) and I get no hassle from the kiosk or online. Coming back to the US, I have to use the US one of course, but its one of the few systems that I've noticed works well with folks with dual nationalities, multiple passports.

    Its something we already know : UA has an IT problem. I've complained to UA directly as well as though sales channels. No change. No dice. Its like they don't care.

    Its one of the reasons why I loathe to fly UA internationally. I'll fly the carrier that gives me the least problems. Yeah, like I'm going to be wowed by the service and amenities.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2014
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  16. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Thanks for your posting, MeFirst! Those of us who have control over our business travel itineraries will avoid United's substandard customer service experience when possible to do so. The "one size fits all" automation does not always work for all travelers, as you aptly explain. If the United corporate response is the self-serving modern equivalent of the infamous "Let them eat cake", then dissatisfied customers will vote with their travel dollars. All of which is precisely why Southwest Airlines has prospered during the tough economic times, competing against the "bigs" in the US national market. Treat customers well, and they will return. Treat them like s#$%, and they will leave. It sure isn't rocket science.
    Newscience
     
  17. Pizzaman
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    I'm more than happy to have a path I can control. It gets me around slower travelers who need more assistance. And, frankly, I run into my fair share of surly UA employees. If the computers worked fine and processed upgrades correctly, etc, I'd have very little reason to interact with airline employees on my way to the plane.
     
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  18. Pizzaman
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    I'm not a big UA defender but I know they have a dedicated 1K/GS check-in line at DEN. I never hit the ticket counter at IAD, but now I'm curious to check next time I fly out.
     
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  19. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    I have, and meFirst has described that "automated ticket (en)counter experience" very well! In my experience, it's best to budget an extra 15-20+ minutes (minimum) if you have any "complications" requiring human interactions for a long-haul flight.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2014
  20. ssullivan
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    ssullivan Gold Member

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    I've had a similar experience at IAD for international trips where I knew a passport inspection by an agent would be required because of visa requirements at my destination. Knowing this, I still started at a kiosk, because doing that saves the initial argument time. It took maybe 2-3 minutes after hitting the screen telling me I needed an agent to get one over to us to help out. This was in the 1K line.

    GS at IAD gets a dedicated line that is always well staffed and the agents in that line tend to try to start checking you in manually before you can even start using a kiosk. If they've got nobody in the GS line they'll often call over 2-3 1Ks to assist them.

    My longest wait at IAD for an agent to assist with an international check-in the kiosk couldn't complete is no more than 5 minutes.

    For international trips I never cut it so close that a 10-15 minute check-in is an issue.
     
  21. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    Trimming this down to what I think is the root cause:

    This has long been a problem, especially at contracted stations. For those occasions when we prefer a human or know we'll need a human, being directed to the machines is an unpleasant waste of time.
     
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  22. EWR764
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    EWR764 Silver Member

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    3 DC-8s (2 UA, the one bird in the foreground is a -63 model and the other is what appears to be a National -61 under tow) and at least three short-body AA 727-123s. Probably in the 1967-69 timeframe...
     
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  23. Pizzaman
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    The worst contract station I frequent is LAX. The wait to get an agent there can be quite extensive. They have contract agents on the floor but they can generally only tag bags. Everything else requires a supervisor (who I believe is an actual UA employee).
     
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  24. IMRU

    IMRU Silver Member

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    While I like automation as much (ok probably more) than the next guy, I'm very aware that it creates within companies the idea that automation can do everything. Nothing underscores this more than what happens at IAD when something goes wrong. There are typically one, possibly, two agents available, in the premier line and they are usually insanely busy helping people that automation can't. There's also no rime or reason to how they prioritize people they help, it generally is "those who scream the loudest." As noted above, very often the agent directing traffic comes by and says "have you used the kiosk?" When you reply yes, they often say "oh, try again, there's likely a problem with it." Having experienced this at a number of hubs, this is not an IAD issue. I can certainly foresee where problems with bag tags are going to lead to cascading problems and not enough people paid to help out.
     
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  25. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    +1 I go to LAX regularly. There is only 1 LAX Global Services person, and 1 actual UA person ( non contract person) at the so called "United Premier Terminal 6"

    This get especially interesting when SYD, MEL and LHR leave. International passports, and additional checks with the OZ visa process.
     
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