United Airlines posted a dismal January in terms of operational performance and all employees are likely going to feel the pain.
Data released on Thursday shows that United ended the month of January a distant fourth place (behind American, Delta, and Southwest) in terms of on-time arrivals and flight cancellations. With only 73.6% of flights on time, United finished nearly 5% behind third-place American Airlines (78.2%). Southwest finished at 80.2% while Delta finished at 82.9%.
Now let’s be clear. It wasn’t like United suddenly went back to its old ways of the Smisek-era. A horrible vortex storm hit Chicago, where United has a larger hub than American. Weather is beyond the control of any airline.
It wasn’t just weather, though. United has also ramped up schedules in Newark and San Francisco, two delay-prone hubs.
United also cancelled 4.6% of its flights in January. Meanwhile, Southwest cancelled 3.4%, American 3.2%, and Delta only 1.%. Perhaps United is growing too rapidly? We’ll need a few more months to tell.
How This Hurts Employees
I’ve written extensively about the employee bonus program at United.
Put simply, employees receive a bonus based upon customer satisfaction scores and on-time departures stats versus American, Delta, and Southwest. Weather delays, like the Midwest freeze, hurt on-time stats tremendously. The numbers above speak for themselves.
And when flights are delayed or cancelled, even if due to weather, customers get angry. Satisfaction scores drop and employees find themselves suddenly left with no bonus at all.
For months like January, United’s new employee bonus program is indeed more naughty than nice.
We can’t blame all the issue on the weather. United’s aggressive expansion in weather-prone hubs was bound to cause some disturbance. But whether the delays are totally beyond the control of Untied or not, employees will feel it in their pocketbooks.
Why does it matter? Because customers feel it when morale is low, and bonuses are tied to morale. Let’s hope that February is a better month in the Friendly Skies.