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United details plan to become a ‘more customer-focused airline’


By Lisa Lacy | n/a

April 28, 2017 | 6 min read

After potentially killing a giant rabbit named Simon and allegedly breaking the clubs of Australian pro golfer Mat Goggin – not to mention forcibly re-accommodating a passenger and barring girls for wearing leggings – United Airlines is out with a ten-point plan to change “how it flies, serves and respects its customers”.

United released a plan it hopes will make it a more customer-friendly airline.

United released a plan it hopes will make it a more customer-friendly airline.

This was released the same day the airline announced it “reached an amicable resolution” with forcibly removed passenger David Dao.

In a press release, United said its plan includes “[reducing] the amount of overbooking”, increasing compensation for passengers denied boarding up to $10,000 and “[limiting] use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only”.

The law enforcement policy was implemented April 12. Increased compensation goes into effect April 28. And after evaluating its overbooking policy, United said “adjustments have been made to reduce overbookings on flights that historically have experienced lower volunteer rates, particularly flights on smaller aircraft and the last flights of the day to a particular destination”.

In addition, United said it will:

  • Not require customers seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk – a policy that was implemented April 27;
  • Establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with “creative solutions” like using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportation to get customers to their final destinations, including circumventing connecting flights. United said it expects this team to be operational by June;
  • Ensure crew members traveling for work are booked onto flights without open seats at least 60 minutes prior to departure – a policy implemented April 14;
  • Provide frontline employees with additional annual training to “enhance their skills on an ongoing basis that will equip them to handle the most difficult of situations”, which will begin in August;
  • Create an automated check-in process at the airport and via the United app that will gauge a customer’s interest in giving up his or her seat on overbooked flights, which will be introduced later this year;
  • Empower employees to resolve customer service issues “in the moment” with an app that enables 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;
  • And eliminate red tape on permanently lost bags by adopting a no-questions-asked policy in which United will pay $1,500 for the value of the bag and its contents – a process expected to be in place in June.

The full report is available here. It also details what happened on Flight 3411, as well as its Involuntary Denied Boarding Selection Process. In addition, United says its goals are to become more customer-focused, avoid putting customers, employees and partners into “impossible situations due to policies we control” and reduce incidents of involuntary denial of boarding to as close to zero as possible.

In the release, chief executive Oscar Munoz called these steps “concrete, meaningful action to make things right”.

"Every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect,” Munoz added. “Two weeks ago, we failed to meet that standard and we profoundly apologize...our review shows that many things went wrong that day, but the headline is clear: our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what's right. This is a turning point for all of us at United and it signals a culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline. Our customers should be at the center of everything we do and these changes are just the beginning of how we will earn back their trust," he added.

The brand said these changes are the result of “United's thorough examination of its policies and procedures and commitment to take action”. Munoz vowed to fix what was broken after the incident on Flight 3411 earlier this month.

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