Pilot a rarity at United

The Wall Street Journal‘s column, The Middle Seat had a great article today on a pilot at United who goes the extra mile in providing service on United Airlines.  The column, To a United Pilot, The Friendly Skies Are a Point of Pride, describes how Captain Denny Flanagan takes the extra step to make kids and travelers feel welcome and appreciated on his flights.
The problem is that this person is few-and-far-between at United.  I have flown United a lot the last several years and have noticed a tremendous decline in the service that they provide.  So much so, that I have started flying Frontier Airlines for my personal travel because they take the extra step to make me feel welcome.

Here is a quote from the story:

“When pets travel in cargo compartments, the United Airlines veteran snaps pictures of them with his cellphone camera, then shows owners that their animals are on board. In the air, he has flight attendants raffle off 10% discount coupons and unopened bottles of wine. He writes notes to first-class passengers and elite-level frequent fliers on the back of his business cards, addressing them by name and thanking them for their business. If flights are delayed or diverted to other cities because of storms, Capt. Flanagan tries to find a McDonald’s where he can order 200 hamburgers, or a snack shop that has apples or bananas he can hand out.”

Flying these days is getting horrible.  All passengers are asking for are to be kept informed of what is happening and when they might expect to arrive at their destination.  They want to be treated like a person who is a customer of the airline.  What is happening most of the time now is that they are treated like cattle or a commodity.  Just move them from one point-to-another.

If all airline employees were like Captain Flanagan, the flying would be a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.  But there are not many Captain Flanagan’s out there, so flying today is not a pleasant experience.

2 Replies to “Pilot a rarity at United”

  1. I’m a 1K on United (yes I’m a captive), and have had the occasional exceptional employee experience as well. It is amazing to me how far this kind of attitude can go. On the other hand, it isn’t so surprising how far the opposite attitude can go to wreck an image.
    I was making a special 1 night trip to ATL last spring through ORD for a surprise 50th birthday. I arrived on time in ORD, only to learn that all UAL flights to ATL were cancelled due to weather. Problem was, the weather was fine in ORD, and in ATL. In fact, United had flights enroute to ATL from SFO and DEN all day. There was however weather due in 12 hours. A Red Carpet agent actually got into an insulting arguement with me, a pilot to boot, about operations and flying around or over weather. All he had to do was be honest and say they didn’t want planes stranded. I wouldn’t have liked it, but it would have been honest.
    Oh, I missed the party, the only reason I paid $300 for the privilege.


  2. Thanks for the comment. I think we all have travel nightmares.
    It just takes honesty and I think we are all ok with it. Just be honest and a majority of the issues would be resolved. As you say we may not like it, but we can understand it.


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