Seven months after a disastrous computer switch sent it tumbling to the bottom of the government ratings in every operational category, United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) has scheduled another computer transition for this coming Monday, October 1. And just as it did in March, the world's largest airline has cloaked the transition in secrecy and given passengers no opportunity to plan for potential glitches.
Reading further into his story, the switch is going to move United gate agents into the 20th century allowing them to work on GUI interfaces instead of command-driven systems.
I've no doubt that, in the long run, this has the potential to be a wonderful, time-saving, experience. Gone will be the days of making a request and then standing in front of a head-down agent for five minutes while they click away into the black hole of outdated technology despair. This is a good thing.
In the short term this should create just a little pause, especially given how chaotic United's last foray into IT Land turned out. In his letter to customers in this month's Hemisphere's magazine Smisek promised that the company "know(s) what went wrong". Let's hope, for the customer's sake, that they're telling the truth.
Because, despite some people still moaning and complaining, things are starting to get a lot better on United. On Tuesday evening I had changes made to an existing reservation that was going to leave me and the wife stuck at SFO for seven hours. A quick call to the United Premier help desk solved this and now I've got a 1 hour hold-over in DEN and am arriving at my destination 5 hours earlier. On the plus side, because this originated with a UA schedule change, I wasn't charged a change fee and the flights I'm currently on are now slightly cheaper than when I booked the original flight, I get the $100 back on my card.
THAT's the way customer service should be handled. I had a problem, and a quick solution I cobbled together, but the CS rep (Debbie) was more able to review ALL options and found me one that's going to work even better then what I had planned for. It was all done quickly, and efficiently, and with a smile that I could hear through the phone.
Just as things are getting better.....let's hope it's not "Here we go again". C'mon United, get this one right.