Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Alienating Elite-Status Passengers (Cont'd)

In a continuing quest designed evidently to alienate the very people who keep the airline afloat, United Airlines is peddling more perks previously reserved for its elite-status passengers, including priority boarding.

Dunno about you, but one of the reasons I maintain elite status (on Continental, which hasn't pulled these kinds of stunts and which treats its elite-status customers right) is priority boarding. This has noting to do with "elite" or "status," and everything to do with being able to get on the airplane quickly and find space for my carry-on near my seat.

On every flight I've flown in the past few months, the overhead bin battles have been intense. With checked-bag fees creating more carry-on bulk, the bins can't handle it. Flight attendants are distressed at the tension.

If you're one of the last 10 or 20 unfortunates to board on many flights, you often find yourself unexpectedly having to gate-check your carry-on, which is a huge inconvenience, considering that you had planned to have that bag and its contents available in-flight.

And I'm not talking about carry-on slobs here who lug on bags the size of juke-boxes that should have been checked in the first place. I'm talking about most of us who play by the rules and honor the social contract.

The checked bag fees have simply overwhelmed the bins.

The point is, priority boarding is a valuable perk. And in selling elite perks for 25 bucks and up, United is pulling the rug out from under its best customers. Again.

In the press release, by the way, a United worthy actually makes the risible assertion that adding more and more fees is a great way to allow customers to "customize their own travel experience."

Jayzus, who lets these guys out in public.

Here's the press release:

CHICAGO, Dec. 8 – Customers who want to breeze to their flights more quickly may now do so with United’s new Premier Line, the newest of the Travel Options by United.

Starting at $25, Premier Line provides priority access to three types of specially reserved lines that offer customers convenience at check-in, security and boarding, including boarding for connecting flights.

"When we asked our customers what travel services are most important to them, they told us that access to priority lines was something they value highly," said Dennis Cary, senior vice president and chief marketing and customer officer. "Premier Line provides convenient access to fast-track lines and is another choice for our customers to customize their own travel experience."

Premier Line is available in the U.S. at United’s five hub airports – Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington-Dulles – and at 9 other airports, including Boston, New York LaGuardia, and Seattle. It may be purchased at united.com when booking a ticket, while checking-in online, or anytime through the “My Itineraries” page at united.com. The option will also be available in the coming weeks at United’s airport kiosks.

United’s Premier Line service is offered to a limited number of customers each hour based on time of departure. Elite Mileage Plus members will continue to enjoy complimentary access to priority lines as they have in the past.

In addition to the new Premier Line service, customers may further enhance their travel experiences with other services from United’s Travel Options portfolio. For example, customers may conveniently ship their luggage overnight with Door-to-Door Baggage, and may choose United’s Economy Plus seating section that has up to five more inches of legroom (for elite Mileage Plus members, access to Economy Plus is complimentary). Also, with United’s Award Accelerator offering, starting at $9, customers may earn travel awards faster by multiplying the number of miles they receive when they fly.


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