United Airlines is trying to untangle themselves from a public relations disaster after a passenger was forcibly dragged off a flight and shortly after killing a future record breaking rabbit. The situation leading up to this exposed several flaws in the operations of United and how they deal with overbooking, employee preferential treatments for seating and overall post-incident handling of the situation.

Through pressure and public blowback United has pulled together their resources, their top minds and updated and “improved” their customer service policies. They released a Top 10 list of these new policies and they are interesting. Going through them you have to understand that these are new and updated policies which means some policies didn’t exist before. Makes you think how high a priority their customer service was.


1. United will limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.

Unlike before where United called upon the cops for complaints about the coffee temperature, United will not ask law enforcement officers to remove customers from flights unless it is a matter of safety and security. United reserved the right to define what ‘safety’ means.

2. United will not require customers seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.

Unlike before where they will kick you off with their old “It’s our way or screw you” motto, they won’t do that anymore. However, like number one, their definition of a safety risk is fairly loose.

3. United will increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000.

If I ever am a passenger on United again, and I urge all passengers to take this approach, any time they offer compensation to take a delay jump right to the $10,000 mark. We know their ceiling now, just skip over the negotiations and force them to max it out every time. If you want to have some real fun throw a pool cue and broken bottle in the middle of five passengers and make them earn it.

4. United will establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions

If I were an agent of United I would be horribly offended by this policy. The way it reads you’d have to come to the conclusion that United thinks their agents are incapable of being creative. So much so they have to create a new team to come up with creative solutions like – checking other airports, other airlines, use a bus or train. Solutions so creative only a highly skilled team can come up with. Apply within, crayons will be provided.

5. United will ensure crews are booked onto a flight at least 60 minutes prior to departure

If you take in account the airlines and TSA want you to be at the airport two hours ahead of time you will only waste one hour until you get your $10,000 to take another flight. They care about your time.

6. United will provide employees with additional annual training.

This means United didn’t before. They did initial training and let their employees loose on the world, calling the cops at any inconvenience to the crew, not being told to always smile and use meaningless phrases that no one takes seriously. This training will begin in August so they have the summer to stay the course.

7. United will create an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans.

You buy a ticket, arrange your day around the flight time only to rate in an app… yeah, I am open to getting bumped and having my plans thrown out the window. United will introduce a new automated check-in process that will gauge a customer’s interest in giving up his or her seat on overbooked flights in exchange for compensation $10,000. If selected, that customer will receive the requested compensation $10,000 and be booked on a later United flight. Unfortunately this app is needed because of policy number 8.

8. United will reduce the amount of overbooking. (But not end the practice)

United will still overbook. They will take a plane with 100 seats and sell more tickets than the plane holds. The assumption in this model can only be that it’s less expensive to deal with pissed off customers and pay them off than fly a plane with a few empty seats. I like their explanation too but if passengers revolt and no one volunteers then what? Back to the beatings? – Adjustments have been made to reduce overbookings on flights that historically have experienced lower volunteer rates, particularly flights on smaller aircraft and the last flight of the day to a particular destination.

9. United will empower employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment.

Similar to the policy that assumed their agents were un-creative, this one removes handcuffs from their employees to let them be actually useful. Apparently they need a new app for that too. United will launch a new “in the moment” app for our employees to handle customer issues. This will enable flight attendants (by July) and gate agents (later this year) to compensate customers proactively (with mileage, credit for future flights or other forms of compensation) when a disservice occurs. I see refunds absent on the list…

 

10. United will eliminate the red tape on permanently lost bags.

United will adopt a new no-questions-asked policy on permanently lost bags. Here the catch with this one, the no-questions-asked isn’t about United scrutinizing the passenger on the value of the contents. It’s the reverse, the passengers cannot ask any questions to United on why in this day of digital tracking, bar code scanning, inventory management they lost the bag in the first place. Jokes on you. In return for the silence United will pay a customer $1,500 for the value of the bag and its contents.

There you go, the Top 10 Customer Service improvements from United Airlines.

End of line.

Binary Blogger has spent 20 years in the Information Security space currently with Magenic providing security solutions and evangelism to clients. From early web application programming, system administration, senior management to enterprise consulting I provide practical security analysis and solutions to help companies and individuals figure out HOW to be secure everyday.

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