Sunday, June 23, 2013

The flaw in United's business plan.

Last week I explained my reasons for abandoning my pursuit of Premier status with United given their recent decision to require high revenue requirements for level attainment.  In that story I mentioned that United doesn't have their house in order to attempt to charge a premium that would gather them the high-value, high-ticket price fliers that they're obviously craving.

Then I ran across this story, which placed all of United's flaws into stark relief:

United Airlines forgets toilet paper on 10-hour flight from San Francisco to London. Robin Wilkey, Huffington Post.

Before embarking on a 10-hour international trip from San Francisco to London, the crew for United Flight 931 failed to stock the plane with toilet paper, forcing flight attendants--and passengers--to improvise.
Some of the bathrooms reportedly ran out en route, leading flight attendants to stock them with cocktail napkins instead.
Passenger reactions ranged from eye rolls to outrage.
"That's disgusting, that's just so terrible," said United passenger Gretchen Holland to ABC. "If I'm paying for a ticket, that should include the price of toilet paper, I would think."
United later apologized for the incident, releasing the following statement:
We apologize to our customers on this flight for the inconvenience and would like the opportunity to welcome them back.
 United explained that if the plane had stopped to stock toilet paper once the shortage was discovered, the flight would have been delayed.

Now, I don't fault United for deciding to go ahead with the flight, after all, it would have been much worse had the plane been late and a group of people missed connections.  I do fault them for their ham-handed customer service, ridiculous stuff that shows a remarkable lack of understanding of how to deal with issues and, more importantly, the people who are dealing with them.

It also shows United's increasing lack of attention to details.  The fact is, since the merger, this is a mediocre airline with serious operational issues that is taking a huge gamble in telling a large portion of their loyalty base that they no longer wish to do business with them. On top of that, they're treating the remaining customers like an afterthought.

That United is scrambling for a solution right now is not in question. What will matter is whether or not the industry has the wherewithal to take advantage of United's current weaknesses.  Historically in the industry t he answer is no.  Given that United will probably be OK, but I think there current business plan is doomed to fail.

Sports Section