Flying the Friendly Skies Or Not

What does it take to get a seat assignment these days? Booking a flight for my college daughter to return home from the West coast for the holidays on United has been unfriendly to say the least.  Now the holidays are a way off, yet I was told that the seat assignment booking has been closed and she will need to be assigned her seat at the gate. It seems that they hold open seats at the gate for last minute reservations. Last minute? I guess 4-5 weeks away qualifies as a last minute booking for United. Yet, I was told that if I plunk down another $59 I can get my daughter an assigned premium seat, totaling an additional $118 round trip for a guaranteed seat not in the middle for the 6 hour flight. How nice of them.

United certainly doesn’t get customer service and that is probably why they are at the bottom of the recent University of Michigan’s latest American Customer Satisfaction Index for the airline industry which ranks very similarly to the J. D. Power & Associates 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. Nor am I alone in my frustration as noted by the chatter on Untied, a site devoted to United consumer feedback. But is United listening?

Listening to customer feedback and acting on it just might help put the friendly back in United’s brand image. Who is at the top? Southwest Airlines is the leader for the 17th straight year, followed by Continental and American. Let’s hope that the recent merger with Continental can help to restore United’s brand image and they can once again fulfill the brand promise that advertising legend Leo Burnett brilliantly coined for them in 1965.

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