UAL warns of weak quarter

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by adambadam, Sep 27, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. adambadam
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    adambadam Silver Member

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  2. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    Is there disdain for customers coming home to roost?
     
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  3. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    I'd imagine their industry lagging performance isn't helping matters either.

    They can claim its getting better all they want but the numbers still show consistent sub 80%.

    Flying US next week because I have zero confidence UA can get me to my meeting and back on time. This was a ticket booked on Fri and another 1000 spent on a competitor. It adds up.
     
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  4. bmg42000
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    bmg42000 Gold Member

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    That's ok , I booked a free flight for my wife who does not require that the plane get their on time . I have not booked a paid UA flight this year . (I book on B6 who gives me money back on the delays or when the tv does not work or ...).
     
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  5. Misplaced Texan
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    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

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    That may well be a part of it, and if you read WhinerTalk and the blogs you'd think that a few comments by management and frequent flyer program changes were the major issues with UA today.

    But I kind of doubt those things completely drive drops in actual high-value and corporate traffic.

    My guess/hypothesis is that these issues are driven by some combination of (in relative order):
    1. UA's inability to reliably deliver international service in the period immediately after the merger chasing off a certain percentage of full-fare international traffic. Between the sUA 744s becoming an increasing cluster, the teething problems for a few months on the converted former 767 ghetto birds, and the well-publicized issues with the 787 fleet, a significant chunk of the UA international schedule just wasn't reliable enough for the an international business traveler to trust for a quite a while there.
    2. The complete and utter reliability cluster that happened when they tried to push the sUA domestic fleet at sCO operational pace. Again, there was a while there when you just couldn't trust an airbus or sUA 752 to get you where you were going when you needed to be there.
    3. The sh!tshow that continues to exist with UA regional operations. While 1. and 2. have mostly been addressed by now, any itinerary that involves a regional carrier is basically a crap shoot to this day. With the huge chunk of domestic connectivity that relies on regional carriers, that remains a barrier to both domestic and international (who need a regional connection) travelers using UA.
    4. I don't want to play the "blame SHARES" card too strongly here, but it's clear that there was insufficient training to have all customer service folks ready to serve customers immediately after the cutover. Combine that with the issues at 1,2, and 3 and you have an airline that quickly established the reputation with a lot of business travelers as being likely to experience IRROPS and very slow/inadequate at resolving them and getting you where you needed to go when you needed to get there.
    5. Somewhere below that, I do think the remarks from management about "over-entitled elites" in combination with the stresses of slow contract negotiations did lead to an attitude shift among frontline employees that made some of them less willing to help flyers resolve issues.
    When you look at 1, 2, 3, and 4 above, the only way for the airline to have retained all of its business travelers would have been extremely good frontline service combined with senior leadership that was willing to admit the issues and be very aggressive at retaining premium and full-Y travelers impacted by the problems. I don't think UA had either for most of the post-merger period.
    In my experience 1 and 2 have mostly been resolved for a while now as has 4. Regional ops remain a cluster.
    I also think the whole "Friendly Skies" effort might be an attempt to address 5 by changing the organizational culture to one where the expectation is good service rather than an arrogant assumption that customers are asking for too much.
    The problem is that it's a lot harder to get a customer back than it is to keep one. The full-C customer who got screwed on a business trip or two to Asia and then got further shafted or annoyed by poor service isn't going to just come back because UA says "it's all better now, we promise."
     
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  6. HeathrowGuy
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    HeathrowGuy Gold Member

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    The two things New United managers needed to do throughout the merger were to deliver good customer service and, by any legal means necessary, maintain the operational excellence of the pre-merger carriers. The latter point could not be emphasized enough. Customers will, by and large, put up with degradation in liquor quality, the loss of blankets and pillows, crummier meals, etc. They will NOT, however, put up with a seemingly inability for an airline to get them from point A to point B competitively on time with their bags.

    And this is especially true of premium flyers in the consolidated industry environment. Yes, there are fewer players, but the competitor carriers are themselves better able to offer comprehensive substitutes to United's offerings. Premium flyers generally like to fly with what they know, but once they're gone, they're gone for a very long time, perhaps permanently -- contracts, handshake agreements, negotiations, etc. won't be repeatedly held up, no matter who or what needs to change to make them happen. To their credit, Delta and especially American didn't sleep on United's distress -- they acted like real businesses, chased United's most valuable dollars, and we saw financial results that at least suggest fruit from those efforts.

    Going forward, the lackluster financial results will continue absent structural forces to change United's inertia. The friendly skies campaign alone can't change it. In fact, many facets of the product will likely continue to degrade, at least around the edges, as the carrier continues to rob product spending for the fortune it's paying behind the scenes for the sins of legacy United and the failings of the earlier stages of the integration.

    I don't know what exactly the structural changes need to look like to change the financial inertia, but we haven't seen them yet.
     
  7. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    Certainly agree with the Texan and Heathrow Guy. The other variable is the fares on business centric routes have been falling outside the fare rules many companies have.

    I flew to DFW from NYC the other week. I had non-stop options on just about every carrier out there. UA wanted 1800 for this route. 1800. Even if I had wanted to fly UA I couldn't because other carriers were sub 1000.

    This is one example of many. I encounter this almost every week.

    On no planet can UA justify that kind of premium. Especially one in which they've had two years of unreliability and a constant degradation of the product.

    ETA: I certainly don't expect UA to price at a discount but since they've willfully commoditized themselves they might want to at least sell it at the market accepted commodity price.
     
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  8. Misplaced Texan
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    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

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    My latest annoyance is that UA seems to have reverted to the pre-merger UA policy of filing a bunch of WAS fares as non-stop only which basically means I have to buy an H fare to use DCA.

    For a while there they were using the CO system and filing everything as allowing a hub connection.

    Look guys, Dulles sucks. Filing all your fares in a way that requires that people use it is just going to chase people to other carriers.

    Sent from a place using a fruit thing.
     
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  9. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    I just had a long chat with a UA sales rep today. We talked about among other things, my experience this year.

    My qualms
    Major
    1) sUA FA's ( Dulles Based) . Compared to sCO ( EWR based) its like night and day, Jekyll and hyde
    2) EWR based gate agents ( I have my issues with them)

    Minor
    3) 737-800s starting to show their age (seat not working, power ports not working)

    As you can guess, the major problem is that there are problems related to the people who work at United ( not all, I offered specifics). There needs to be an ultimatum, shape up or ship out. The bad hats need to go.

    Getting the rotten apples to leave is cheaper than renovating a plane or buying a new one, which UA has done.
     
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  10. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    So, you do a lot of work with union shops, huh??? ;)
     
  11. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    The planes are fine. Mostly flat bed seats now. The old UA planes have been remodeled, practically new inside.

    The people (not all) suck and need to either shape up or go.
    There's a reason I suppose Jeffrey Smisek earns more $ than me. Its his job to figure it out. I hope he does.

    Until then, thankfully I have choices. Cheap fares go to UA, the nice ones go elsewhere, but I'll credit to Mileage Plus of course.:)
     
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  12. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    BTW also, using the "its because of the unions" is a lame excuse. I can think of other carriers (excluding middle east carriers) that have employee unions that do not suck. A good example, would be SWISS. KLM is another. BA is not bad, I like flying them. I've never had bad flights on LX, KL or BA. And it's not easy to fire someone in Europe.

    I don't understand why its taken for granted that a US based airline has to be lousy. The planes are generally ok, the people who work for the airline*, need a major change of attitude. Those that can't get on board with respectful standards of service, please leave.

    * in particular, Dulles based sUA FAs
     
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  13. wpr8e

    wpr8e Active Member

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    I think you summed it up perfectly. However, I will add another item which is related to #4, employee integration. This is a difficult endeavor in any merger and I think United has realized in hindsight that a 'merger of equals' sets an unrealistic expectation about who's methodology and processes will remain with both employee groups clinging to their historical processes and a lack of mutual respect.

    Secondly, humans are resistant to change. And based on my experiences, there was lots of finger pointing on both sides of who's process is better. I think United is largely beyond this and employees have come together given that they either have to move on and work together, or drive the company into the ground.
     
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  14. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    Having had my issues with some UA employees, I won't even begin to question your experience. My experience, however, is exactly the opposite.

    I still maintain that the people at UA are their biggest asset. Like you, I can (and often do) note the exceptions, but I am treated very well overall. They are so much more appreciative than the AA group that ran me off back in 2009 that I'm still glad to be here, even after the 3/3/12 train wreck.

    I am anything but pro union, so that makes me appreciate the consistently friendly, helpful service I receive from UA. I don't know how they manage to keep their attitudes so positive. Not suggesting in any way that you don't, but I always make a point to treat them extra nice until and unless they give me cause to do otherwise. I'm sure that has something to do with how I'm treated, but it didn't make a bit of difference at AA. (Although AA, too, has their exceptional standouts.) I know that an agent who likes talking to me is going to be far more willing to help me, so it's somewhat self-serving.

    I'm blessed with great employees, and I attribute it to two things.

    1.) If they aren't showing signs of greatness at or before 90 days? Adios!

    2.) I tell them what I need to have them accomplish, then leave it up to them to find the way to get it done. This is easy after they pass the probationary period described in number 1. Whenever possible, I let them decide what they want to work on. People are much more productive when are doing something they enjoy.

    I have no idea if union contracts allow for that first rule, but I would think they must. Probably some significant documentation is required, but that's easy in such a short period. Rule number 1 was something I learned from a great vendor when asked how they do it. Rule number 2 came from my personal loathing of working for someone else. I never wanted to be that boss that I hated. Even those who are programmed to work for someone else (I am grateful they exist) enjoy a sense of autonomy, and they perform many times better than they do when micro-managed.

    And that, my friends, is my $0.02. :)
     
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  15. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    FA's ( Base on crew base)
    Best
    sCO EWR/CLE/IAH
    sUA JFK-LGA/LAX/ORD/SEA/DEN
    sUA SFO
    sUA IAD (toxic)
    Worst

    ( I have not much experience with other bases)

    By this account, I recommend flying a really long flight from IAD ( Dubai, Bahrain or Narita) should do it, 4 times a year, 8 flights total. Also repeat with EWR-HKG and EWR-BOM, then we'll talk.

    You'll notice the difference. I have a different rating for gate agents, in job competence and courtesy.

    At the worst top of the list sCO EWR base gate agents.

    As much as the folks in Chicago like to hide it, with new uniforms and the same livery, to the most frequent customer (i.e me) its still 2 airlines.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  16. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    We all have different experiences to draw on, but mine have been good to very good since the March Madness of '12. Even the GAs at EWR (my home base) have been good to me.
    The article cites several causes of the disappointing results. These include lower yields on some tickets shared with partners across the Atlantic, an increase in competitive capacity in China, a 1.1% reduction in capacity and higher costs. Bookings are up 1.1% overall, 3.4% TATL but down 1.7% TPAC.
    While there clearly are specific conditions that need to be dealt with to improve service, I am not sure I can draw all of the same conclusions listed above.
     
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