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EnderWiggin
Topic Author
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:42 pm

United Financials and Global Service

Wed Feb 20, 2019 8:36 pm

I have been both investor in UAL and Global Services member for a while and am experiencing significant changes as a customer since Mr. Kirby fast-paced initiatives took place.
As most of the members of this forum are aware, the high-end (mostly business) customer carries the bulk of mainline profits. This is arguably even more true for United that, in contrast to Delta, has "invitation only" customer tier. In practice, this really means that Global Service tier is reached by following a simple set of rules: spend heavily and avoid coach. In general, GS was an excellent, profit-generating tool: it created a fable of exclusivity and induced fierce loyalty, capturing the most profitable customers (>$50k annually).
Unfortunately, great cracks have appeared in the program:
1) GS phone lines have been obliterated. While not as important as other benefits, it is also indicative of a trend: GS customer now has to wait in phone line. The first signs of GS deterioration appeared with phone service in the first half of 2018, followed by swift downfall into 2019. Recent conversation with GS agent (who served me for years) revealed "that management now mandates that GS service agent also takes 1K customer during the overflow". As an illustration, during the same conversation, she stated that "13 GS customers" are lined up on the phone line. This was unthinkable for GS service, even during Mr. Smisek rein (may that era never return!).
2) Much more serious is the destruction of previously bullet-free protection endowing GS customer in case of a delay or missed connection: it was practically impossible for GS passenger to be stranded - GS staff did whatever it took to protect high value revenue stream embodied with such customer. Remarkably, during the last year, I (along with a fellow GS) did experience near complete breakdown of this, most valuable feature - not only that missed connections were not protected (multiple, consecutive times), but GS agents (IAH/EWR/SFO) were also blissfully unaware that GS customer is in a need of service.
3) When all above is combined with recent changes in boarding procedure (GS customer now has to engage in line-fighting with 1K customers), a drop of ancillary benefits (no more Marriott status that was given in the past to GS customers), the picture is clear - United has decided to downgrade or, in my opinion, eliminate GS tier altogether.
Unfortunately, as an investor, I also believe that this is a gross mismanagement, since GS customer spends at least 3x (and generally much more) than the next-tier (1K). Indeed, United cannot compete with Delta on logistics (and probably no one can): losing fiercely loyal, high-revenue customer class will only increase the profitability gap between the two. After Delta matched my status, I am finding, first-hand, that the difference between GS and highest Medallion status is shrinking - hardly justifying undying loyalty I had with United, motivating me to liquidate my UAL holdings.
My belief is that Mr. Kirby, originally trained with a regional carrier (that was absorbed to AA) inherently does not understand the value that GS program holds for a global carrier such as United. I would be grateful if other members would argue if this is a root cause for recent developments and if my predictions for its profitability impact are wrong.
 
LHUSA
Posts: 829
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2005 10:15 am

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:09 pm

As a fellow GS, I have actually noticed little of what you describe and have been very happy with the GS services provided to me in the last 6 months. I have not personally noticed any degradation of service or level of commitment to myself or fellow passengers.

Gate agents have more autonomy now with their boarding process and can group GS and 1K together, usually decided by number of overall 1Ks. If only a few, then pre-boarding is called at same time for both. If several 1Ks, the two groups are usally called separately.

As is with all loyalty programs, a new benefit to one group is usually a decline for another segmentation. I personally don’t mind 1Ks joining prebording as they tend to be a very travel savvy group. Using the word ‘fighting’ when there is a max 20 people preboarding is a bit strong.

Also, in the last 6 months all of my calls to the GS line have been answered immediately and handled with impeccable care. I’ve only experienced one back up during severe weather - which is understandable. 1K calls are only pushed to GS in rare instances when there are zero GS on hold and 1K is backed up.

Each of our experiences are valid. Just wanted to point out from a fellow GS that I still think it’s an incredible program that drives loyalty and from my perspective has not declined.
 
jayunited
Posts: 3208
Joined: Sat Jan 05, 2013 12:03 am

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:05 pm

EnderWiggin wrote:
1) GS phone lines have been obliterated. While not as important as other benefits, it is also indicative of a trend: GS customer now has to wait in phone line. The first signs of GS deterioration appeared with phone service in the first half of 2018, followed by swift downfall into 2019. Recent conversation with GS agent (who served me for years) revealed "that management now mandates that GS service agent also takes 1K customer during the overflow". As an illustration, during the same conversation, she stated that "13 GS customers" are lined up on the phone line. This was unthinkable for GS service, even during Mr. Smisek rein (may that era never return!).
2) Much more serious is the destruction of previously bullet-free protection endowing GS customer in case of a delay or missed connection: it was practically impossible for GS passenger to be stranded - GS staff did whatever it took to protect high value revenue stream embodied with such customer. Remarkably, during the last year, I (along with a fellow GS) did experience near complete breakdown of this, most valuable feature - not only that missed connections were not protected (multiple, consecutive times), but GS agents (IAH/EWR/SFO) were also blissfully unaware that GS customer is in a need of service.



First and foremost as a UA employee I do appreciate your business.

As far as the phones and having to wait to speak with a GS agent UA has seen an increase in the number of loyal customers who now qualify as a 1K. During the early years of the GS program GS agents at the airport and in our call centers only dealt with GS passengers. If there were no GS passengers waiting to be serviced those GS agents would have nothing to do while their fellow agents were being overworked and at the same time 1K customers were had to endure long wait times on the phone to speak with an agent. Like you pointed out this was changed now instead of allowing GS agents to sit idly by once the 1K queue is full the system will route 1K phone calls over to a GS agent if they are available. At the airports they still try to keep GS agents available to service GS passengers at your dedicated check-in locations but there are times when the needs of the operation may require a C.S. manager to move an agent or two out onto the floor to help clear the backlog of passengers checking in at Premiere lanes.

On to your second point you are absolutely correct there was a time when UA would delay a flight to accommodate a GS passenger and we would never strand a GS passenger. But back during those times UA ranked either second to last or dead last in A14 (arrival within 14 minutes of schedule). Today UA generally ranks around 5 or 6 in A14, there were a few time when we came in 4th place. But the decision to disservice an aircraft full of passengers to wait for 1 GS passenger was wrong and it cost UA millions of dollars, in fuel cost (running the APU), missed connections because to save one GS passenger we probably disservice 25-40 connecting passengers at the down line station especially if it was a hub. I get what UA wanted to achieve when GS was first launch but I think the program as it is today is much more realistic and a lot more fair to everyone. Delaying a fully loaded 777 (and I witnessed this many times when I worked the ramp) to accommodate one GS passengers is wrong.
I hope you don't take offense to this next statement because I mean no offense at all but I wonder if GS passengers ever gave a second thought to all the passenger who were disservice because of UA's policy not to leave a GS passenger behind? Or where you just grateful that you made your connection but to hell with everyone else who has someplace to be. GS agents should always know when a GS passenger is arriving and should be there to meet the flight especially at the hubs. However it is tricky trying to find the right balance that rewards GS passengers for their loyalty because you all are some big spenders but at the same time not burning 20-40 other passengers who have connections at the down line station.
 
tpaewr
Posts: 724
Joined: Sat May 19, 2001 9:01 am

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:51 pm

GS are with out doubt UA best and most important customers. Unfortunately UA for years behaved as if they were their ONLY customers gaining the reputation that comes with that.

The backbone of a business still needs the fingers and toes. Long term investing in everyone’s experience will benifit everyone from GS on down.
 
Art at ISP
Posts: 226
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 10:31 am

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:05 pm

Scott Kirby has contempt for high spend flyers, which he learned from his former leader, Doug Parker. They see us as just leeches, who want everything for free, and does not realize the value we provide (nor the revenue). I could have told you this would happen when Kirby left AA to ruin UA.

For those who remember, I suggest reading Gordon Bethune's book "From Worst to First", the story of how he turned Continental around from a poor carrier to one of the best in the industry. Gordon believed in Herb Kelleher's theory that in order to have happy shareholders, you need happy employees who can make the customers happy... Doug and Scott only care about the shareholders, so it's death by 1000 cuts at both AA and UA.

AA is in much worse shape, but it's only a matter of time in my opinion.
 
B737900ER
Posts: 1028
Joined: Thu Aug 31, 2006 10:26 am

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:16 am

Art at ISP wrote:
Scott Kirby has contempt for high spend flyers

Is this a for real statement?
 
KLAXAirport
Posts: 173
Joined: Sat Nov 05, 2011 11:14 pm

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:50 am

jayunited wrote:
EnderWiggin wrote:
1) GS phone lines have been obliterated. While not as important as other benefits, it is also indicative of a trend: GS customer now has to wait in phone line. The first signs of GS deterioration appeared with phone service in the first half of 2018, followed by swift downfall into 2019. Recent conversation with GS agent (who served me for years) revealed "that management now mandates that GS service agent also takes 1K customer during the overflow". As an illustration, during the same conversation, she stated that "13 GS customers" are lined up on the phone line. This was unthinkable for GS service, even during Mr. Smisek rein (may that era never return!).
2) Much more serious is the destruction of previously bullet-free protection endowing GS customer in case of a delay or missed connection: it was practically impossible for GS passenger to be stranded - GS staff did whatever it took to protect high value revenue stream embodied with such customer. Remarkably, during the last year, I (along with a fellow GS) did experience near complete breakdown of this, most valuable feature - not only that missed connections were not protected (multiple, consecutive times), but GS agents (IAH/EWR/SFO) were also blissfully unaware that GS customer is in a need of service.



First and foremost as a UA employee I do appreciate your business.

As far as the phones and having to wait to speak with a GS agent UA has seen an increase in the number of loyal customers who now qualify as a 1K. During the early years of the GS program GS agents at the airport and in our call centers only dealt with GS passengers. If there were no GS passengers waiting to be serviced those GS agents would have nothing to do while their fellow agents were being overworked and at the same time 1K customers were had to endure long wait times on the phone to speak with an agent. Like you pointed out this was changed now instead of allowing GS agents to sit idly by once the 1K queue is full the system will route 1K phone calls over to a GS agent if they are available. At the airports they still try to keep GS agents available to service GS passengers at your dedicated check-in locations but there are times when the needs of the operation may require a C.S. manager to move an agent or two out onto the floor to help clear the backlog of passengers checking in at Premiere lanes.

On to your second point you are absolutely correct there was a time when UA would delay a flight to accommodate a GS passenger and we would never strand a GS passenger. But back during those times UA ranked either second to last or dead last in A14 (arrival within 14 minutes of schedule). Today UA generally ranks around 5 or 6 in A14, there were a few time when we came in 4th place. But the decision to disservice an aircraft full of passengers to wait for 1 GS passenger was wrong and it cost UA millions of dollars, in fuel cost (running the APU), missed connections because to save one GS passenger we probably disservice 25-40 connecting passengers at the down line station especially if it was a hub. I get what UA wanted to achieve when GS was first launch but I think the program as it is today is much more realistic and a lot more fair to everyone. Delaying a fully loaded 777 (and I witnessed this many times when I worked the ramp) to accommodate one GS passengers is wrong.
I hope you don't take offense to this next statement because I mean no offense at all but I wonder if GS passengers ever gave a second thought to all the passenger who were disservice because of UA's policy not to leave a GS passenger behind? Or where you just grateful that you made your connection but to hell with everyone else who has someplace to be. GS agents should always know when a GS passenger is arriving and should be there to meet the flight especially at the hubs. However it is tricky trying to find the right balance that rewards GS passengers for their loyalty because you all are some big spenders but at the same time not burning 20-40 other passengers who have connections at the down line station.


Very professional response, another reason why I love UA. As a 1K at UA, I always marveled those in GS. I certainly do understand the point that you bring across. In a business standpoint, it simply does not make sense for UA to incur costs of 20-40 stranded passengers all to just save 1 GS. The money just does not add up. I feel for the author as I do respect his loyalty and spending, but in a Financial aspect, I think the moves that UA are making now to prioritize the greater whole is more economical and hopefully reflects so. I don't suspect UA will lose many GS to this...

Cheers,
KLAXAirport :airplane:
 
Art at ISP
Posts: 226
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 10:31 am

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:54 am

B737900ER wrote:
Art at ISP wrote:
Scott Kirby has contempt for high spend flyers

Is this a for real statement?


Yes, based on my meetings in the past with his mentor and idol, Doug Parker. They have no use for high spend elite flyers who expect something in return for their loyalty.

Just look at AA, which has and continues to decimate it's Concierge Key and Executive Platinum programs....much like UA is doing now with Global Services.

I think the lesson learned is that it no longer pays to be loyal to one carrier....
 
stratacruiser
Posts: 236
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2011 7:07 pm

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:13 am

UA also gives GS memberships to high volume corporate customers to distribute as they see fit. I’ve heard from the travel department of my large tech industry employer that we typically receive about forty GS memberships per year, which get assigned to EVPs and the like. The individual lining up for GS boarding may not really be a $50k/year contributor.

Dave
 
LHUSA
Posts: 829
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2005 10:15 am

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:39 am

Art at ISP wrote:
B737900ER wrote:
Art at ISP wrote:
Scott Kirby has contempt for high spend flyers

Is this a for real statement?


Just look at AA, which has and continues to decimate it's Concierge Key and Executive Platinum programs....much like UA is doing now with Global Services.



There is really no evidence that the GS benefits are tangibly eroding. Aside from some anecdotal observations by the OP - which other GS's, like myself, have not noticed. To me, this sounds like a few instances of receiving sub-customary service and immediately jumping to the conclusion that the program is reducing benefits.
 
EnderWiggin
Topic Author
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:42 pm

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:57 am

jayunited wrote:
EnderWiggin wrote:
1) GS phone lines have been obliterated. While not as important as other benefits, it is also indicative of a trend: GS customer now has to wait in phone line. The first signs of GS deterioration appeared with phone service in the first half of 2018, followed by swift downfall into 2019. Recent conversation with GS agent (who served me for years) revealed "that management now mandates that GS service agent also takes 1K customer during the overflow". As an illustration, during the same conversation, she stated that "13 GS customers" are lined up on the phone line. This was unthinkable for GS service, even during Mr. Smisek rein (may that era never return!).
2) Much more serious is the destruction of previously bullet-free protection endowing GS customer in case of a delay or missed connection: it was practically impossible for GS passenger to be stranded - GS staff did whatever it took to protect high value revenue stream embodied with such customer. Remarkably, during the last year, I (along with a fellow GS) did experience near complete breakdown of this, most valuable feature - not only that missed connections were not protected (multiple, consecutive times), but GS agents (IAH/EWR/SFO) were also blissfully unaware that GS customer is in a need of service.



First and foremost as a UA employee I do appreciate your business.

As far as the phones and having to wait to speak with a GS agent UA has seen an increase in the number of loyal customers who now qualify as a 1K. During the early years of the GS program GS agents at the airport and in our call centers only dealt with GS passengers. If there were no GS passengers waiting to be serviced those GS agents would have nothing to do while their fellow agents were being overworked and at the same time 1K customers were had to endure long wait times on the phone to speak with an agent. Like you pointed out this was changed now instead of allowing GS agents to sit idly by once the 1K queue is full the system will route 1K phone calls over to a GS agent if they are available. At the airports they still try to keep GS agents available to service GS passengers at your dedicated check-in locations but there are times when the needs of the operation may require a C.S. manager to move an agent or two out onto the floor to help clear the backlog of passengers checking in at Premiere lanes.

On to your second point you are absolutely correct there was a time when UA would delay a flight to accommodate a GS passenger and we would never strand a GS passenger. But back during those times UA ranked either second to last or dead last in A14 (arrival within 14 minutes of schedule). Today UA generally ranks around 5 or 6 in A14, there were a few time when we came in 4th place. But the decision to disservice an aircraft full of passengers to wait for 1 GS passenger was wrong and it cost UA millions of dollars, in fuel cost (running the APU), missed connections because to save one GS passenger we probably disservice 25-40 connecting passengers at the down line station especially if it was a hub. I get what UA wanted to achieve when GS was first launch but I think the program as it is today is much more realistic and a lot more fair to everyone. Delaying a fully loaded 777 (and I witnessed this many times when I worked the ramp) to accommodate one GS passengers is wrong.
I hope you don't take offense to this next statement because I mean no offense at all but I wonder if GS passengers ever gave a second thought to all the passenger who were disservice because of UA's policy not to leave a GS passenger behind? Or where you just grateful that you made your connection but to hell with everyone else who has someplace to be. GS agents should always know when a GS passenger is arriving and should be there to meet the flight especially at the hubs. However it is tricky trying to find the right balance that rewards GS passengers for their loyalty because you all are some big spenders but at the same time not burning 20-40 other passengers who have connections at the down line station.



I appreciate your detailed response, but we might be talking past each other. On rare occasions I have experienced tight or missed connections (prior to 2018), I have always been greeted by GS agent who usually brought a new boarding pass for a later flight - NEVER stopping even ERJ, and, God forbid a 777 on my behalf. What I was experiencing this year was qualitatively different - no GS agents at all and complete breakdown in GS service. To illustrate: BWI-->IAH with connection that was shaved down to 12 minutes, with NO ONE to show up at the gate. When inquiring where GS agent is, was told that "he clocked out". Another one: HNL-->LAX with connection whittled down to 10 minutes - again, no GS in sight. Even if one is to dismiss LAX as a non-hub, what about SFO, where 10 minute connection did not prompt any GS agents to even be aware of arriving GS customer. With all due respect to UAL agent (as you appear to be one), my $120k spent last year did not entitle me to hold an aircraft full of people - all it took was that GS agent acknowledges that GS customer, paying full (refundable) first class fare, was stranded. Instead of being escorted (as in the past) to the next flight, I now have to wait 10 minutes+ on what passes for GS line, only to be asked "weren't you waited on by GS agent at the gate?". This is NOT the service that merits $100k+ a year, particularly when so little is at stake - we are not talking about delaying the planes - merely being able to meet the stranded GS customer or answering the phone. Perhaps, when Apple-fueled bonanza of freely distributed (not earned) GS entitlements end, Mr. Kirby will realize that there is a huge difference between running America West and truly global airlines with price-insensitive business travelers. Anecdotally, some of my best pursers (who know me from many transpac flights) have already pointed the obvious - "Mr. Kirby is the new Smisek". May God help us all: loyal customers like I used to be and hard-working UAL staff who are now between the rock and the hard place.
 
EnderWiggin
Topic Author
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:42 pm

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:28 am

stratacruiser wrote:
UA also gives GS memberships to high volume corporate customers to distribute as they see fit. I’ve heard from the travel department of my large tech industry employer that we typically receive about forty GS memberships per year, which get assigned to EVPs and the like. The individual lining up for GS boarding may not really be a $50k/year contributor.

Dave


Indeed, I know quite few of these - the problem is that this type of GS giveaway does not instill loyalty as paying with hard cash. The next year, when the company negotiates better deal, with say AA or Delta, these customers will not drop $50k+ into UAL stream. Again, Mr. Kirby is playing the algorithm games that greatly obscure the picture on just how to maintain long-term, highly profitable clientele.
 
VC10er
Posts: 4288
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:25 am

Re: United Financials and Global Service

Sun Feb 24, 2019 3:04 am

I was GS year 1 after being 1k for many years. When the fancy kit arrived, and said I had been selected for this new special group, the benefits explained and that I earned it solely on the amount I spent vs the miles flown. I was GS for many years at my Corp job because of the vast amount of global travel all in paid J, 200-250 actual miles a year. My year end AMEX indicated $55-$70,00 a year on UA. The extra service was truly mind blowing- especially when my UA went mechanical at GRU, the last flight to NYC was on AA, and they snagged me their last seat in First Class (I was in J on United) the GS agent at GRU drove me on a golf cart style buggy over to the AA 767 and placed me in 1A. REMARKABLE!!!
Then I quit that job and dropped down to 1k 4 years ago. BUMMER! However I traveled extensively last year and was shocked to find out I made GS again and hit 3 Million Miler at the same time.
I do not expect FREE things, my 6 GPU’s are fine. But for my 3 Million Miles I was given a choice of very generous gifts to choose from. It was truly lovely. When my gift arrived it was beautifully wrapped in tasteful UA graphics and wrapping paper and a card Thanking me by name in hand written calligraphy!
I’ve been calling the GS line now (many times) with zero wait time. Yesterday I created and bought a 6 leg itinerary in 7 days with a GS agent named “Cliff” who was lovely, knew his stuff, pushed overide buttons and worked wonders, found me really well priced F seats.

As for holding a plane. I remember that from the old days. There had to be a decent number of GS aboard for them to hold a 777 or 747 (not 1), and if they did, it was for 10-15 minutes max.
What counted more than ANYTHING were the very rare irregular ops. Like when they drove me aross the concourses at GRU and found me a seat on their arch enemy airline. (And I have a couple of other similar stories over the years.)
And, YES, the really beautiful NEW GS check-in room at EWR (etc)- expedited security and last being able to combine miles and certificates.
I refuse to believe that losing a customer who spends $55-$70,000 a year is a turn off for him.
I also do NOT think it actually costs them that much per GS member, because it’s NOT really about “give aways” as it is special treatment during rough times.

My BIG question is: how many GS fliers does UA have post merger? Any good guesses?
To Most the Sky is The Limit, For me, the Sky is Home.

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