What should UA reasonably be expected to do to improve its janky int'l F?

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by jfhscott, Jul 15, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    It has been a couple of years since I was on UA F international. But whenever I have been, I've always been crestfallen that I'm in a purported high class of service.

    For starters, I've never felt that they do anything significant to expedite check-in or security. The obviously cannot cut corners on security, but can they coordinate this with TSA?

    The First Class lounges I've been to - IAD, NRT, and HKG, are disappointing. On a 10:00 p.m. IAD-FRA, they had done nothing to freshen up the food offerings from the later afternoon flights. The lounge was dreary and completely uninspired.

    Food offerings have always been a disappointment. Nothing bad, but still uninspired and unimaginitive. And I know it is a short flight, but a roast beef sandwich as dinner from NRT to ICN is grossly deficient in F. A cheese platter with nothing I cannot find at a grocery store lacks any flair. In flight Pepperidge Farm cookies and Kit Kats as snacks disappoint. Liquor is abysmal. Sorry, but when I ask what scotch is available, I should not be instructed to go to the back of Hemispheres to order, only to learn that I am limited to Chivas.

    Then there is the FA attitude of the FA's who seem to resent anyone other than NRSA's in their cabin. When I need water, I should not have to wait for the FA to stop kvetching with an NRSA about union disagreements with management.

    I do not need F. But I really hate the disappointment with what always falls short of a supposed premium experience. In all seriousness, however, what can UA do, within tolerable financial constraints, to add some flair to their international F?
     
  2. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Is it seriously that bad? That's not even acceptable for domestic F, particularly on the Scotch front.
     
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  3. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    In my opinion they need to improve the soft product i.e catering (better champagne & alcoholic beverage options) as well as meal choices... LH & SQ can do it so UA could too but they're too cost-conscious to offer something like SQ/LH.
     
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  4. lhrsfo
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    lhrsfo Silver Member

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    1 Retrain FAs
    2 Employ service directors from high end hospitality providers
    3 create a biz plan for the F cabin to justify significant investment by succeeding in selling seats instead of upgrades
     
  5. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    My last experience was actually in December, NRT-ICN, which I know is a tag, but it is seriously that bad and offered that begrudgingly.

    What's worse than the mediocre quality is the consistent disappointment. Somehow, I cannot set my expectations low enough to find the product anything other than completely failing to meet those expectations.
     
  6. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    It scarcely takes much to improve on that benchmark - on the liquor front their domestic competition offers better in domestic F.

    Somewhat better catering, plus training with an emphasis on service and perhaps some sort of onboard service director would seem to go a long way, with minimal expense.

    Monetize it better, or maybe even op-up out of biz in preference to placing NRSAs up front?

    I don't really have a point of reference here, but it doesn't seem like a huge investment to at least improve it.
     
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  7. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Whenever I see a post like this that trashes everything in a category of services that an airline or hotel chain offers, one thought always immediately crosses my mind: Why not just quit and join that other program that you think will provide you with what you are looking for? The airline you are trashing is not likely to change anything just because you are unhappy -- and any changes that they implement would take time, which means that you'd be unhappy for a long time if you do not look elsewhere. So, by trashing the current program/service, one has to assume that you know of one that has a better offering. Why not just go there?
     
  8. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    Isn't that why passengers who pay for F fly LH, LX, SQ, maybe CX and EK?

    It's fair to ask, if UA wants to sell to the F market, why don't they invest a bit more in the product.

    My speculation is UA isn't serious about the F market. Perhaps they get the occasional person who pays because they don't know any better or because there's no alternative, and there is value to the airline in offering it as an upgrade for certain high value customers. But on the whole it seems like they are headed toward operating a 2-class airline, without exception on the ground service.
     
  9. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    Well, I have essentially "quit" redeeming on UA F. Rather, recent *A F redemptions - using MP miles have been on LH, TK's 777-300, Thai, and OZ.

    UA F, objectively, is an OK product. Indeed, seat comfort is very competitive with others. What disappoints is (1) the above shortcomings, and (2) the way it completely fails to satisfy expectations of a supposedly luxury product. Now if I can just get it out of my head that UA F is a luxury product . . . .
     
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  10. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    At NRT, try to use the ANA Suites/IFC lounge instead of UA's IFC lounge. It has some interesting food and almost too much service. Showers are fine too. Just don't have high expectations for the business center.
     
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  11. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I just traveled to PEK on UA from SFO and the flight was so full, including in the F cabin, that it was the only intl upgrade that I have failed to clear this year. So, it does seem that UA does "sell to the F market." But more to the point is that I have redeemed to fly in XF (JFK-SFO-PVG) and I found the product to be acceptable in most respects. Would I have enjoyed being served (read: pampered) by a young and well-coiffed FA like you find on SQ? Sure, but because of labor laws in the US, FAs who have spent a lot time with an airline do not just get replaced with younger, prettier ones . Seniority/experience is valued and rewarded, not replaced for better 'cosmetics'. It is the sort of considerations that most Asian airlines that offer "superb" F product do not have to contend with. I am perfectly happy with the older FAs on UA, as I have generally found them to do what they are expected to do, short of pampering the passengers ...for that you'll have to pay to fly on SQ, which was my original point.
     
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  12. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I don't think that they want to so there's not much reason to make those investments.

    To be fair, the meals are improving slightly since June 1 with the alignment of service across the fleet. But other than that I think the product likely doesn't have many paying customers so it isn't worth the investment. There are probably a few little things which don't cost too much which could be done. But I doubt we'll see anything resembling an up-scale liquor cabinet on board anytime soon.
     
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  13. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    I had an awesome flight in LH F from FRA to USA last year

    Here are the differences compared to UA:

    1. Amazing ground experience in FRA with the LH FCT
    2. The FAs were not younger, prettier, or less senior than UA. In fact the two FAs serving FA were an older gentleman and an older woman. They weren't overly formal, but they were friendly and clearly wanted to serve. I felt welcome and every request was warmly received
    3. The menu was at least two stars higher than UA

    On UA, I don't think F is all that much better than C. On LH, it's a world of difference.
     
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  14. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I will submit to you that all of the above is relative, depending on the level of one's expectations. For example, my experience on the ground in FRA has seldom been positive, whether traveling on LH or any other airline. Everyone seems to be too uptight all the time.

    The Asian carriers are a different story, and I suspect there is a very strong cultural and socio-political determinant in what those airlines can offer...
     
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  15. bmg42000
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    bmg42000 Gold Member

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    With the 4 mile flight to HKG, I think people will get their moneys worth from UA.
     
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  16. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    Its not the labor laws . . . its the specific labor agreements into which UA enteres with the unions.

    Yes, a fine point. But UA has more control - at a price - than you suggest. Europe's got some tough labor laws, and I have never encountered the grouchy dragons UA ends up with in F on F on LH. Not that the grouchy dragons are given much to work with as far as food/beverage offerings. But I have literally (on a LHR-IAD in F) has the FA light on, needing water, while the FA and an NRSA kvetched about management. This involves many levels of inappropriateness.

    What you characterize as "Seniority/experience" seems to have degraded into entitlement to serving F cabins on interesting routes and job security notwithstanding cordiality.

    UA has capitulated too much to union demands, compromising their product.
     
  17. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    Well, in 1/10, I travelled DEL-FRA-IAD. The routing was scheduled to be LH from DEL to FRA and UA from FRA to IAD. DEL was socked in with fog, so I misconnected. I was reassigned to a LH TATL, met at the tarmac position with a Porsche, whisked to a US-complinant security position, ushered thru so fast that I left my wallet, and while being whisked to my IAD equipent realized this. I boarded, and 5 minuted later my wallet was delivered to the 747 on the tarmac, and the place was on its way in 5 minutes. All of this on an award ticket.

    Needless to say, I am very impressed with LH's ground service, and doubt UA has the capabilities to match it.
     
  18. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    Precisely what got to making me thing about UA F.

    At that price point, I am confident I will get I paid for.
     
  19. EWR764
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    EWR764 Silver Member

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    It's a chicken-egg scenario: are people unwilling to pay for UA F because it is so craptastic? Or are so few people actually willing to pay for F that UA cannot justify spending more per passenger to offer a higher quality product?

    With the merger, my initial hope was that UA would ratchet back the number of markets in which it offers 3-cabin service so that those city pairs that actually generated F traffic would have the service. In doing so, UA could focus on offering a more competitive product and keep the pre-merger CO BusinessFirst standard elsewhere. They've gotten it partially right, by bringing the former United Business up to the BusinessFirst standard but the 'new' Global First product is essentially a reheated pre-merger UA international First with a better amenity kit.
     
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  20. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Unions do serve a purpose -- they protect workers who have spent their better (best) years serving a company from being discarded like an outdated used car for a newer model, which is a Good Thing. But, maybe it is just me, but I have seldom run into the "grouchy dragons" that seem to terrorize you so much. Remember that it usually takes two to tango (tangle), so the question is do these 'grouchy dragons" just go out of their way to make passengers' experience miserable? If so, then they should be reported!

    The legendary German efficiency is what can also make them insufferably rigid and annoying...
     
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  21. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    It is pleasant, indeed.

    Last year, I did an AC "mini RTW", and visited the following lounges:

    IAD UA F
    IAD LH SEN
    FRA LH F
    TXL LH SEN
    MUC LH SEN
    BKK TG F
    NRT NH F
    NRT UA F
    ICN OZ F
    JFK UA RC

    My Rankings:

    1. FRA LH F
    2. BKK LG F (barely behind FRA LH F)
    3. ICN OZ F
    4. MUC LH SEN
    5. TXL LH SEN
    6. NRT NH F
    7. IAD LH SEN
    8. NRT UA F
    9. IAD UA F
    10 JFK UA RC
     
  22. seaflyguy
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    seaflyguy Silver Member

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    I think we must be flying different airlines.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a happy 1K and have been for years. I love that my upgrade rate on domestic flights is so high, and that I'm nearly always able to upgrade three international trips from Y to C every year. But I've done UA in F and C TATL and TPAC, and while it's fine -- comfortable and polite -- I've also done LH F TATL and I know the difference. Mrs Seaflyguy and I flew SEA-FRA and back earlier this year on an LH F award ticket and the service was just outstanding -- as noted by another commenter, while our FAs weren't necessarily any younger than UA F FAs, they were far more attentive, and quite friendly, actually. At the end of our trip, with different crews in each direction, we both remarked that those were the two best flights we had ever had, on any airline. And the service we received at the LH FCT in FRA was stunning.

    I'm not knocking UA here. I think they can do better, but I think their service is acceptable, and I realize that many of those F seats are occupied by upgrades of one sort or another, quite unlike the situation on LH. But I can't imagine choosing UA F over LH F. Ever.
     
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  23. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    LH goes out of their way to make sure that F passengers have an excellent experience. Outside of that which all other passengers may experience in FRA. UA doesn't do that anywhere.

    The staff and FAs I experienced all had lots of seniority and hadn't been discarded for new models - and I know the LH FAs are represented by a union. Nevertheless they were friendly and happy to serve. No rigidity at all.

    I know a good experience isn't easy to deliver at an airport or at 36,000 feet. Some airlines have figured out how to do it, even without abusing their employees or violating laws. They do give their employees better tools, and maybe they manage them better or empower them. Fly LH F sometime and see how you feel.
     
  24. chitownflyer
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    chitownflyer Silver Member

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    Spot on. In the 90's, I took a UA flight in Intl First to Europe and service was in a different league during this time. First class offered caviar and sevral course fpor the meal, and the purser was so kind to even give me a left over box of Godivas as a nice gesture. Today, UA's hard product for First is good, but it is the amenities and service that are lacking relative to competitor's such as LH & NH. If they wish to improve their product, then they should look at what Swiss Singapore, and Lufthansa offer for their First class product.
     
  25. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    It's very hard to replace the hard product in a timely manner, but it seems to be the soft product that more people complain about (the food was bad, the FA was rude, etc. rather than I didn't sleep well).

    (1) Improve the food. This seems the easiest solution. Other airlines operating out of the same airports have better food. Why can't UA tell the same caterers to make comparable food for their passengers? The added cost would be minimal. I think the reason why that doesn't happen is because of #2.

    (2) Instill fear in the FAs. Any employee who isn't afraid of losing his/her job is more likely to slack off or work to rule. I think unions have a purpose, but they also seem to discourage (or at least not reward) those who go above and beyond basic duties. They don't know what the food and beverage options are, telling customers paying $10K or more to read the magazine. They don't present the food well after cooking it. They don't bother to keep the cabin clean. They disappear behind the curtain, etc. If they paid more attention to service instead of claiming their primary (and apparently only) responsibility is safety, then customer satisfaction would improve.

    (3) Differentiate the airport experience. Lounges could be significantly improved. Check-in could be better segregated. In many airports the only difference between international first and domestic coach check-in is a flower on the counter. And there's generally no difference between international first and domestic elite check-in.
     
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