By Kevin Meyer
I never thought I'd be writing something positive about an airline, but good efforts require some kudos. Over the last several months I've done a rather insane amount of traveling, racking up over 60,000 base miles since the beginning of the year – and including such craziness as passing through SFO six times in five days and going to Minneapolis twice in four days. Just when I thought I was done, I had to fly back to the family farms in southeast Kansas for a funeral this past weekend.
Flying that much, especially when it is concentrated on one airline like United Airlines, creates some perks. Some I consider very valuable, like being able to board first so I always have room for my carry on. I also like having a special customer service phone number where the people understand English and realize that SFO and LAX aren't a taxi ride apart. Some are nice like the first class upgrades, but for most flights Economy Plus is good enough even with my chronic claustrophobia so I've been able to give up my upgrade for a returning service member or in one case a lady having a tough day. That's a good feeling. And some of the "perks" are downright ridiculous such as having to walk across a red carpet when I board – if I didn't want to board first so that I could easily stow my carry on, I'd wait simply to avoid that bloomin' red carpet. Perks are one thing, create a snooty class is another. Get rid of the red carpets and invest in a few pillows.
United often isn't the cheapest choice for travel, but I learned they have created one value for travelers like me: being on time. Last year they initiated a major corporate program around this metric and it worked: they've achieved the best on-time arrival statistic for any of the major carriers for many months now. It's evident during the boarding procedure as the flight attendants try to get everyone in their seats even when there's another adverse baggage fee policy that makes more people want to bring their bags on board. They've also adjusted their schedules to allow a bit more time – and be more realistic.
That's worth something to me. It's value, from the perspective of me the customer. Value is not just a good price.
I can plan short notice trips with confidence and I can safely reduce my usual layover buffer – which gives me more flexibility. I can have meetings after my arrival instead of always arriving the night before. It's valuable not just to me, but to the people I interact with. I'm willing to pay a bit more for that.
Good job United, it is appreciated. Now just get rid of the red carpet nonsense.