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.