It’s one thing to talk about embracing a new service model, but it’s quite another to put it into practice, especially with thousands of agents accustomed to handling matters in a certain way. United Airlines is empowering agents to go above and beyond when diversions occur, a hopeful sign of what is to come.
Nice: United Airlines Tells Staff To Use Discretion In Taking Care of Passengers After Diversions + Even Uncontrollable Events
With the busy summer travel season upon us and the weather not always cooperating, flight diversions do occur. But what happens when a flight diversion occurs can greatly influence–in a positive or negative way–a passenger’s lasting impression of the airline.
A memo to airport staff reviewed by Live and Let’s Fly offers interesting insight on what United agents are actually empowered to do in case of a diversion.
The first issue is one of definitions. United is more generous with amenities for controllable situations versus uncontrollable situations. While the weather is generally deemed outside of United’s control, diversions are “always considered controllable in the diversion station regardless of reason, including weather and ATC.” Consequently, meal and hotel vouchers are available even due to bad thunderstorms if a diversion occurs.
Even more encouraging, United has empowered stations to offer “amenities” (which definitionally include hotel and meal vouchers) even in cases of uncontrollable events:
Stations are empowered to offer amenities, even in uncontrollable circumstances, if the situation warrants doing so.
That does not mean an agent can simply issue vouchers in every situation, yet it is heartening to see such a broad exception: airport staff are truly empowered to make decisions based upon circumstances, not rigidly abide by a set of rules that cannot possibly take into account the sort of unique experiences that happen in the course of travel.
If this memo is a taste of what is to come, expect 1.) happier airport agents, 2.) better customer service, a win-win situation for everyone as long as costs for such hotels and meal do not spiral out of control.
Note, this memo is constrained to diversions, not all cases of irregular operations.
You build a better airline by taking care of employees and taking care of customers. Empowering employees to take care of customers leads to happier outcomes for all parties. It is good to see United offer flexibility in the case of diversions. Hopefully agents will read the memo and act accordingly.
As a 30 yr. , now retired United airlines agent i can tell you we do everything possible to help in uncontrolled diversion to unwhiting station who usually find out its happening at there city 10 mins before such landing..due mainly to pilots decisions which always Trump all.
You can tell employees to use discretion but at what point is a limit drawn ? 5-10 or more flights cancelled at a very busy station, 100’s of people on each flight, ….. you can’t just conjure up enough hotel rooms and meal vouchers for all of them. You could be looking for a thousand hotel rooms in, for example, New Orleans or Philadelphia or Boston, or New York, etc. As well, you’ll always get an agent or two who are not going to do this – they’ll just fob it off on Reservations or Twitter or Instagram so as not to deal with it face-to-face. What happens when storms roll in all day, do you just keep giving out a bottomless pit of hotel rooms at $200 a clip ? Meal vouchers, minimum $10 each person ? Where does United draw the line ? I guess they’re using all that government bail-out money to give away the store.
They’re setting up people for disappointment when all demands cannot be met when they run out of hotel rooms and meal vouchers for vendors that are already closed for the evening. Also, don’t they realize that this will be expected every time flights are very delayed or cancelled for weather ? Used to be it was done only for status holders, …. now you’ve got the “Spirit” crowd screaming, fighting, arguing, demanding things that cannot be met for 100% of the passengers. United lives in a liberal dream world – they should open up business as the Social Services Airline.
If the cancellation is within the airline’s control, this is already SOP, and UA has already testing an automated way to distribute the vouchers via the app. Weather-related cancellations are not included in this policy.
The only change here is in case of diversion the receiving station can be empowered to do more for the passengers on the impacted flight(s) without additional approval from HQ. It is not a blank check, per se, but at least the station manager has the authority to give such approval.
You would have a southern name…..
A further improvement would be to have agreements with other airlines to help diverted passengers where the airline doesn’t serve the airport.
United airlines left me stranded for 3 extra days in Vegas and the only “compassion” I recieved was a “I’m very sorry, but we can’t do anything else.” They said it was due to weather but the flight scheduled before mine left and also the flight right after mine left. It ended up costing me over $1,000 extra in hotel and United airlines did not offer vouchers or any help. I see “weather” is not in the policy but if the other flights before and after mine left, I wonder why the “weather” only affected my flight. They then delayed another flight they put me on and I would miss my connection in Denver and They said they did not have any other flights out of Denver, expecting me to stay there until they could find us a flight days later. At the end they could not find me a flight home and I had to find one myself, arriving in another state that borders my home state. I wonder if they used the “weather excuse” so they did not have to take responsibility. At the end the weather 3 days later was the same weather as the day we were originally suppose to depart. They should have a better protocol for canceling flights, like having another one open the next day at least.
This is a joke as I was just stranded in Denver and they did nothing. I asked for my checked bags and it took over 2 hours for them to get one out of two bags. All they did is to say sorry for the inconvenience and left me to find and get to a hotel. They did send me a link to book a discounted hotel which actually cost me $30 more than if I had just booked direct with the hotel. Nice customer service to stand you then make money off you with bogus discounts.
Let’s see this being put into positive practice before putting up the bunting.