United implementing Continental on board food ordering process?

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by tommy777, Apr 19, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    Folks,

    I've been UA 1K for a long time and also been CO Plat for a couple of years. While I've always appreciated the good catering on board COs flights, I've never appreciated the way they take orders on board. Starting from the front taking orders often ends up with their most loyal customers not getting their preferred meal choice. It has happened to me numerous times.

    United has always taken pride in trying to make sure that their best customers gets their first choice.

    On a flight I had on Thursday, I was sitting in row 4 on a 757 next to a Global Services member. He wanted the chicken, I got the last one and the only thing left was the vegetarian Lasagna. He told the FA, "I'm GS and would actually appreciate if you can get me the chicken" The FA replied that the ordering process has changed and they are not prioritizing their best customers first, but rather taking the order from the front. He replied "I guess I'll have the Lasagna then". Not a happy camper.

    UA Insider -- say it ain't so..

    The changes that has taken place this far, has been ok with me, I have't lost any sleep over any of them, but I really hope that the FA was incorrect. In my book this is a HUGE decrease in service if true. The way the cabin crew work the UA cabin recognizing top tier elites is much better than what CO does.

    I haven't had any flights with meals since, so I can't say if this is a mistake made by the FA or if this is actually true. Have a breakfast flight to IAD on Friday, I hope this was an isolated incident.

    Your recent experience is appreciated
     
  2. seaflyguy
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    seaflyguy Silver Member

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    I respectfully disagree with the basic argument behind the post, namely, that elite-level fliers should be prioritized over others in the F cabin for in-flight services.

    I'm a long-time 1K, and yes, I've been quite loyal to UA (because they've been the best choice for me). But when I fly in F (as I just did SEA-ORD), unless I'm on award travel, I'm always flying on the cheapest Y fare I can find and am then upgraded. It's possible (though probably not likely) that the person sitting next to me paid for her F ticket. If she has no status and I do, but she paid 3x or 4x what I did for her seat, why should UA give me my choice of meal ahead of her?
     
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  3. Scottrick
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    I agree. There are a lot of factors that go into it. Do we prioritize by status, even though you had a cheap ticket? Do upgrades with miles beat out UDU? If all the vegetarian options are taken and only chicken is left (though I can't imagine that happening...) do we make exceptions for vegetarians? There is no "best" way to rank passengers, or if there were it would be horrendously complex and you'd still have upset passengers. Taking orders from front to back is simple and non-biased.
     
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  4. tommy777
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    Hate to break it to you, but not many people around you actually pay for first class on US domestic. And most people who pay for F, have high status.

    I don't know about you, but I spend on average around 25K on United every year, on domestic flights I also book the cheapest fare available, business for international trips. Most 1Ks have significantly more spend than the occasional F passenger without status, so at the end of the day, you are more valuable to United than a non status F passenger.

    The problem is that if you're in the last row of F on the most typical flight (the one with 5% paid F) and have a bunch of 1P/Gold/2P/Silver in front of you, you won't get your meal choice.

    So yes, you deserve better service if you are a top tier and yes, I think we've earned it.
     
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  5. Wandering Aramean
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    But significantly higher costs, too. The real metric that you'd need to know is the profit per customer, not the gross revenue they produce. And while certainly so broad strokes can be drawn we just don't know the specific details.

    As for the ordering process, watching the FAs bounce around the cabin taking orders on multiple flights this past weekend was pretty silly. It was made all that much more ridiculous by the fact that a few of us had swapped seats to get folks sitting together that were not assigned as such at boarding. At a minimum it'd be nice if they just sort it out in the galley, but I think even that is more than is needed. Then again, I also commonly order "whatever you have left when everyone else gets their choice" because it usually doesn't matter to me.
     
  6. gleff
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    While we're wishing here, I wish that UA would board enough food for first class passengers to regularly receive their first choice meal.... :p
     
  7. Infinite1K
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    Based on your last trip report, sounds like this is not a problem unique to UA ;)
     
  8. tommy777
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    It still doesn't change the fact that one F ticket SEA-ORD-SEA costs maybe 1200 bucks while a 1Ks spend is much more than that and most people in paid F has high status anyways. Also CO, doesn't prioritize F passengers, they don't prioritize anyone, they just start from the front.

    That people changes seats happens every once in a while happens, but on a day to day basis, people usually keep their seats. I don't know what you find silly, the procedure is done on most international premium carriers and is very helpful for people who travel very frequently.

    That ex CO travelers are more relaxed and say whatever because they are used to COs system that everyone is treated equally on board might be true, but it's a huge service decline in my book that you don't get priority of who gets their meal choice first
     
  9. Infinite1K
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    I agree. You can't make this decision on a flight by flight case.

    If you fly F fares enough, chances are you would be 1K or GS as well.

    Overall, big picture, a 1K or GS has their status for a reason and there is nothing wrong with being acknowledged.
     
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  10. Infinite1K
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    Not really that simple. I think you need a mini-computer to figure all this stuff out :D
     
  11. Canadi>n
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    Agree with Tommy on this one. The vast majority of people in F on domestic flights are on upgrades since revenue F is virtually unknown in the USA, and if someone has paid a premium fare on a domestic flight, the likelihood is they are connecting on in C or F internationally...but they are also GS. Suppose it's time to move all seat selections to the first two rows...hate row 1! I know AC has adopted the elite tier ordering priority and it seems to have worked very well on UA until now.
     
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  12. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    Yesterday on UA PS flight they asked everyone for their first and second choice, then somehow in the galley they decided who got what. We both got our first choice. That seems like a good way to do it and it lets people who don't have a second choice tell the FA at that time.
     
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  13. Misplaced Texan
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    There's no way you could implement something like that.

    You've got four decision rules in there and each one expands the complexity of the process multiplicatively based on the number of options under each rule, so you're talking about a process with 1,300 (not counting the 75k level under the new system, which you forgot) gradations. The FAs would never be able to deal with that on the fly.

    There's a reason that most airlines use fairly simple rules like status on UA, FEBO on AA, or simple front-to-back on CO. It's because they are simple to implement and we're talking about human beings working in a busy environment....

    Also, why the heck would you change the direction of order-taking if you're going to prioritize in the galley? That's adding arbitrary complexity for no gain.
     
  14. Misplaced Texan
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    I'm pretty sure that's the technical standard for UA (or at least it used to be): take the orders front to back but take first/second choice for each person and then if not everyone can get their first you use status to figure out who gets stuck with a second choice. I think what happens is that some FAs think that's harder than just hopping around the cabin and so you get some who take orders in status order instead.
     
  15. mherdeg
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    It is not clear that this is the expectation held by many frequent Continental flyers who post on frequent-travel message boards.
     
  16. tommy777
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    They've made it very easy for UA flight attendants to figure this out. Next to each name on the manifest there are stars: 4 stars = GS, 3 stars = 1K. These two groups get their choices first.

    Some FAs do it the way Seacarl explains. Some FAs go to 3 and 4 stars first and ask them and the person sitting next to them what they prefer to eat. After, they start front to back. Both methods work
     
  17. ande777emt
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    On 974 (IAD-GVA) they'll typically ask for 1st and second choices, then they sort it out in the galley. As a 1K on C and D fares I only know 1 out of 13 or 14 times where I got my second choice. Granted this is international with multiple courses, but it's much easier for domestic legs and with the UA system I've rarely had my second choice.
     
  18. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    (bolding mine) Quite a few assumptions in here.

    This i agree with completely.
     
  19. Misplaced Texan
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    Right. I was just pointing out that I think I read somewhere that what Seacarl experienced is technically what is supposed to happen but some find it easier/better to go to just take the orders by status. Of course, I could have imagined that. Doesn't really matter either way since the result is the same.

    I also thought I remembered having seen that full-fare gets the same number of stars as one of the higher statuses. Again, I could be imagining that, but if it's true it satisfies the issue some have raised about full-fare premium cabin passengers getting the dregs.
     
  20. Chic Silber
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    Chic Silber Silver Member

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    Really simple solution

    SIT UP FRONT

    Bulkhead aisle always my 1st choice

    1st choice meal every time
     
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  21. Mackieman
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    This has always been my plan. :) And really, even in first class, I think the age old adage of bringing your own food on board still applies. It's the one guaranteed way to know you're going to get something you actually wanted.
     
  22. tommy777
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    I don't know if you got the memo, but a) a lot of people don't like the bulkhead and b) a lot of frequent travelers change their flights last minute, so seat choices may be limited.

    Solution: Do it the UA way, then you will get your meal every time and you can sit wherever you prefer. ;)
     
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  23. Seacarl
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    By going through the cabin and asking people for their first and second choices, they can make everyone feel valued (as opposed to darting around to the GS and 1Ks and having others wonder why). And if a GS/1K is traveling with a companion there is no awkwardness. And sometimes they can come up with a more optimal allocation (e.g if there are 3 choices everyone gets one of their first 2 choices and no one stock with third). And I know that sometimes when something really doesn't appeal to me I can just say I won't eat it. Maybe it's more effort and takes a little more thinking but it generally gives a better result.
     
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  24. Scottrick
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    And you think a FA is going to sit down and go through the passenger manifest to make sure this is followed? S/he will have to take orders by seat number, than match that with a second manifest where the computer has ranked seat assignments by meal priority, then check to see if anyone switched seats (this happens often when I am in F), then apologize to the people who didn't get their first choice and ask if the veg option is okay. I predict chaos.

    The above hierarchy is fine when processing upgrades. The computer makes the decisions and it either happens or not. And no one is promised an upgrade, so you're happy just to get it. But meals are tricky because you only have so much time to serve it, everyone gets one, and everyone has a preference. Maybe if meals were chosen at check in this would work, but not if it's happening on the plane. You need something simple. Either just by status, or just by going front to back--and UA appears to have chosen the latter. A four-point hierarchy for processing meal preferences is not likely.
     
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  25. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    Someone's status is certainly on average a better proxy for their overall revenue and profit than a single domestic flight's booking class. There are, of course, exceptions like, say, you where this probably isn't a good representation. But processes shouldn't be designed around the exceptional case.

    I very, very rarely see the "bouncing around the cabin" order taking on United. Usually they do ask for people's choices and then sort it out in the galley. And yes, my choice is usually the same as yours. It's just airplane food, and as I don't have any special dietary restrictions, I usually don't have any strong preferences either.
     

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