Friday, November 14, 2008

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

This week I had the "pleasure" of flying twice on United Airlines. Well, the first flight was on a United Express partner regional jet from Denver to Oklahoma City. This was on Monday. On Thursday, I experienced what the marketing and executive geniuses at United implemented as their boarding policy that is sure to piss off most of their customers, and so needlessly. I saw it yesterday while boarding a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Denver.

This ridiculous excuse for an airline has decided to list a litany of customer classes who get United's "Special" treatment at boarding time. They have placed ropes beside the ticket taker at the gate, creating two for these elite classes, and the other for the rest of us, whose business United apparently no longer values. The difference? The elite groups board first, and in order of just how elite they are. The other difference is the red carpet treatment, and I kid you not. The lane for the elites have a red "United" rug for the people boarding first to walk across. No joke!

Now, as you can imagine, this only adds to the fiasco of getting everyone on board quickly. It is bad enough that this pathetically-managed air carrier has shot themselves in the foot by charging for every piece of checked baggage. That alone causes carry-on madness and overloading, which delays getting everyone on board and ready for departure. Now we have this little game. Every carrier treats its frequent fliers to perks, and that is fine. It is just that United has taken leave of their senses with this plan. Here is the boarding order:
  1. Premier Executive members
  2. Star Alliance Gold "guests"
  3. Global Services customers
  4. 1k customers
  5. United First customers
After all of these guys who obviously paid a lot more money to sit in the same cramped seats get on by walking over the red rug, the rest of us schmucks can finally start boarding to aircraft. And with all the carry on bags, a lot of the end up getting "gate checked" anyway.

Here is what United sent to its "most-valued guests" by email:
Beginning November 12, our Premier Executive members and Star Alliance Gold guests will board before Seating Area 1 customers through the Economy Lane.

The new boarding order will be as follows: Global Services, 1K and customers sitting in United First will continue to board first through the Red Carpet Lane, followed by our United Business customers.

Our Premier Executive and Star Alliance Gold members will then be invited to board. After all of our most-valued guests are on board and getting settled, the regular boarding process of seating areas 1 through 4 will begin.

We strive to consistently reward you, our premium customers, for your loyalty. We hope that as a Premier Executive and Star Alliance Gold customer, you enjoy this added benefit.
Yes, United has decided its other "guests" aren't so valued. It isn't that I care about walking on a silly little red rug in a roped-off lane. It isn't that I can't get on the plane first, as we all arrive at the same time anyway. It is the ridiculous delays that this new policy causes at the gate. United, your elitism is working against you in on-time departures and in public relations.

Just another reason I am a big fan of Southwest and Frontier. United, YOU SUCK! No wonder you keep losing gazillions of dollars, keep going bankrupt, and just can't seem to figure out how to run an airline. Stick that in your red rug and roll it! Hopefully a decently run airline will buy your remnants out of yet another bankruptcy...someone who knows how to run a business.

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