“A college student flying Basic Economy today may become a loyal MileagePlus member flying Polaris in the future.”
So says John Slater, the Vice President of Inflight Services at United Airlines. As United takes delivery of new aircraft and expands it global network, it is again reminding flight attendants that their kind words and attentive service are critical for building lifetime loyalty.
United Airlines Reminds Flight Attendants That Loyalty Is Built Over A Lifetime, But Every Interaction Matters
A memo was forwarded to me from Slater which focuses on how flight attendants play a critical role in the long-term success of United Airlines.
During last week’s earnings call, Untied CEO Scott Kirby said:
“The most important part of our product is our people. We are in the people business, and we are about connecting people and uniting the world. I often say that our flight attendants are the face of United Airlines; they spend the most time with customers. There’s nothing that matters as much as how customers feel about United Airlines.”
Following up on that admonition, Slater explained:
“You set the tone and elevate the customer’s travel experience with a smile and warm “Welcome aboard.” Your unique United brand of service contributes to our growth and long-term success as customers continue to make us their airline of choice.”
To effectuate that goal, Slater urges flight attendants to think about the long-term loyalty proposition and how every interaction can influence it:
“We want to think of everyone’s – our customers and colleagues – journey and longevity and how United will provide them with a memorable experience throughout their lifetimes.”
The Disconnect Between Flight Attendants And United Management
But the elephant in the background is the unresolved contract. As flight attendants at American Airlines move closer to striking, United Airlines may not be far behind. United has restored service to pre-pandemic levels while not restoring pre-pandemic staffing levels on its longhaul flights. Whether that is fair or not is not my concern here. My concern is that it does create resentment and comparatively more work for flight attendants today. Most, however, still manage a smile, but it is tough to rally the troops when they feel they are not given sufficient resources to do what they are asked to do.
That is the tension that United must internally resolve if it ever expects its service to be industry-leading.
United has reminded its flight attendants of the importance of friendly service onboard. I quite agree that this is essential and can make all the difference in the world in terms of how someone perceives the airline.
But I also see the bitterness of flight attendants who reason that while pilots have secured a lucrative pay raise, they are left waiting. No matter the merits of that belief (a real pilot shortage versus no flight attendant shortage), that belief is real and runs as a headwind against the stated goal of providing world-class service onboard.
image: United Airlines