What happened to US Carrier International F?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by gpaya, Mar 8, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. gpaya
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    gpaya Gold Member

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    Inspired by this thread and a trip I recently took with multiple carriers.

    Background: I flew international F for the first time over the summer on LH (JFK-FRA), TG (CDG-BKK), and UA (NRT-ORD) on a 744, 77W, 744, respectively. Hard product aside (all were really nice) I noticed a number of differences in the service, and many were on the UA side (I'm assuming that most US carriers in premium classes compete at the same level).

    1. No PJ's in F despite a sleeper seat and flight.
    2. No caviar (not a deal breaker, but interesting)
    3. Inattentive, unprofessional service (e.g. not removing trays when complete, loudly talking/eating in the galley, no circling through the cabin).

    International F prices are expensive any way you slice it, so why are there such difference on these services? Are there that many non-full fare fliers in premium classes?

    Even the ground services leave something to be desired. The JFK LH lounge is miles ahead of anything at ORD or any of CO (not F, I know) at EWR.

    Should US carrier sales teams be marketing more aggressively to international business people with interests in the states? Do ground services need to improve? What is missing here?

    I'm interested to hear your "arm chair CEO" responses. What would you change? How would you expand?
     
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  2. chanp
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    chanp Silver Member

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    All my experiences on Asian and some European F carriers have been better services wise over US based ones. I don't complain too much, as I earn on US ones and burn on Asian ones :)
     
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  3. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    I honestly think you'll find more and more carriers around the world are removing F cabins and deciding to leave that to a select few instead of trying to compete.

    Almost all US carriers (all?) have decided they don't need those products as most people wanting them will fly on LH for * or BA for OW, etc.
     
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  4. Camino Cielo

    Camino Cielo Silver Member

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    I was all set to jump into this with the trite and pat answer to the thread title: "The economics of the fact that rewarded passengers, rather than the big bucks customers, populate F." OK, there's some of that. (Guilty.) But there is no excuse for the experience at the expense level you describe -- except possibly the fact that it's a US carrier? Throwing in with chanp, but speaking about F and C - my cabin internationally - I have flown for years (on awards) on Star Alliance partners rather than UA, except to experiment in UA's lie flat seats twice. This is deliberate. Wonderful experiences, in all cases, except UA. Sorry, but United doesn't match up in hard or soft product, even with Air Canada. Without digressing too far: seat, food, lounge, service - even the head - not necessarily in that order. But speaking to the OP's emphasis in particular, I felt reminded too much on United that the service is a production function. Yes, UA staff checked all the boxes that a mystery shopper would be looking for - e.g., they ask this 1K first my menu choice, "More tea?" etc. - but qualitatively the differences are patent. I'll continue to fly United domestically, and experience its partners internationally because of the difference between flying and experiencing.
     
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  5. gpaya
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    gpaya Gold Member

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    From my 1 experience in UA int'l F (not statistically relevant, I know) it seems that part of the issue is that the attendants in the premium cabin seem to have a lot of experience and may be pushing the AARP membership acceptance threshold. It's as if UA blindly takes seniority over quality for "high value" passengers.
     
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  6. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    As was I. the US carriers, in the glory days of PanAm, TWA, Northwest Orient and Braniff, not to mention Grace and a bunch of others, were never the equal of non-US competitors. They has other advantages such as military and mail contracts (which they still have) that helped them compete.

    In my half-century of international travel I have never chosen a US carrier when a non-US one was more convenient. Even carriers like PIA and IranAir outclassed their US competitors. Now we are in a different world, but the generalization still holds.

    US carriers benefit from Americans who choose to fly them, the mail and military contracts and little else.

    AA and UA still have international F but they are not really competitive if there are other options. That does not make them bad.

    US carriers are just the fast food version of first class airline travel. [​IMG]
     
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  7. Camino Cielo

    Camino Cielo Silver Member

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    Agree. Should have included this in my comment.
     
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  8. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    This is quite consistent with my experiences on UA F. Is this perhaps driven by union rules relating to seniority and what flights/cabins FA's get assigned to? At any rate, a recent LHR-IAD F cabin was staffed with grouchy dragons who were rather blase as to my comfort.

    And yes, generally, UA's F pales in comparison to what I have expereicenced on LH and TK. LH particularly has gracious in air service and outstanding service on the ground. If price is equal, I cannot imagine who would ever take UA F over LH. For me, of course, its not price but FF award availability, so I do not enjoy such flexibility. I can only imagine that UA nevertheless will end up on the short end with respect to the true high value pax.
     
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  9. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Being slightly more general, I collect miles on mostly US programs because they tends to be more generous than non-US tend to be. I fly non-US carriers whenever I can do so without spending too much extra money. So I fly LH, SQ, CX, even AF more than any US carriers.

    Not too long ago at CDG a GA came to me at my seat on the plane to tell me my bags were in the hold. Anybody remember the last time anybody in a US carrier did something like that?

    Even so it is very difficult to match the quality if AA EXP and DL Diamond agents. They are both class acts.
     
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  10. Bay Pisco Shark
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    Bay Pisco Shark Gold Member

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    UA F in the 90s was a really lovely experience. It was never as polished or perfect as, say, LH, but it was actually more fun because the crews were quite personable, and the food and drink ranged from good to quite good, and (for example) what was served in the C cabin circa early 90s was generally better than what the F cabin gets today.

    Ironically, some time ago, the LH lounge product was marginal compared to the UA F lounges. The tables have turned dramatically.
     
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  11. lhrsfo
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    lhrsfo Silver Member

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    It always strikes me as odd that US airlines have such poor service when, generally, service levels in the US are so much higher than elsewhere. Go into a shop or restaurant in the UK and a similar one in the US and you will be struck by how much friendlier the service is in the US. By contrast, fly BA and compare its service in F or C to that of UA or AA and the precise opposite applies, so I don't think it's a cultural thing. Likewise, I don't think it's a union thing - BA's unions are not exactly friendly to management! So, I'm puzzled.
     
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  12. gpaya
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    gpaya Gold Member

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    It could be a value issue. Many people in Asia, for example, pay for premium classes on their own dime. Perhaps non-business people (and even business people, to an extent) do not value premium service.
     
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  13. eightblack
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    eightblack Silver Member

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    With specific attention to UA, I think once the dust settles post merger, you'll see them remove the F cabin on all long haul routes. I reckon they will have done the sums already and discovered better yield management returns by converting the front cabins into all J.
     
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  14. stimpy
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    stimpy Silver Member

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    This topic was beaten to death dozens and dozens of times since 9/11. Most of us learned long ago to avoid US carriers on international flights, unless you have SWU's that can't work on the international carriers. I started flying BA F back in the mid-90's since they were the only carrier in the world that had fully flat seats. Then LH got them and I rarely ever flew UA again on TATL. I only flew UA on Pacific flights where I could use the SWU to get up to F. But now that most all carriers (except LH, AF and KL) have fully flat biz seats, I don't have to worry about getting up to F.
     
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  15. JohnDeere19
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    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    Service levels in general may be higher in the US than in other parts of the world until you get to that upper tier though. When you're looking for top quality and service, I'd say the US is not where you should be looking...Asia maybe, but not the US. Granted, if you have the money to throw around, you really can get it anywhere.
     
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  16. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    I speak from a position of partial ignorance, but my understanding is that US FA union rules generally/often provide senior FA's first pick as to routes and cabins - thus preventing carriers from assigning FA's by skill. I do not know about non-US carriers. Under any circumstances, permitting the allocation of FA's to F based on seniority (if FA's have such a prerogative by union contract) rather than skill cannot be good for business.
     
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  17. JohnDeere19
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    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    I believe this is correct too.
     
  18. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    As usual, Stimpy expresses my sentiments exactly. I still will fly US carriers, despite my earlier post, if the price is vastly cheaper than a better choice. For example US GIG-MIA-GIG at US2700 business gets my nod despite JJ having a nonstop because JJ costs $6500. Ten hours just does not justify that differential to me. I also rarely fly F any more because the C 'beds' even when not flat, are quite adequate for me to sleep well.

    I cannot speak of US, DL, AA or UA food any more because I do not eat on those flights. I would, but I'll BMO.
     
  19. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    I admit that I earn miles on US airlines but tend to spend them on foreign carriers (specifically LH).

    The problem with LH is that they are reconfiguring their long haul aircraft and significantly reducing the number of F seats. Part of this reduction is coming at the expense of F awards. In the future, I suspect that getting 2 F award tickets on LH will be next to impossible.
     
  20. anat0l
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    anat0l Silver Member

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    If the USA airlines' F cabins were so bad, then people would rarely fly them and you would see this clearly. Yes, even people with upgrade instruments or numerous amounts of points would avoid F.

    So there must be some value in them. I have no idea what it could be.

    I guess F is still better than J, so if you have upgrade instruments or entitled to an upgrade, why not? I don't know if there is a huge number of corporates in the US which are able to fly F on the company dime. I know that in Australia, that's probably the biggest thing keeping QF F still in the skies (albeit the F routes are drying up) - it certainly isn't too many redemptions or awards, because getting into QF F via either is rare, and extremely rare when compared with the USA airlines! (Then again, the USA airlines are incredibly generous with awards and upgrades compared to any other carrier in the world......)
     
  21. stimpy
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    stimpy Silver Member

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    Like I said above, the value is in SWU's. Also there are a heck of a lot of people who work for the US government or government contractors who are required to fly US airlines. And even more people who are just afraid to try anything else.
     

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