United Airlines offers several upsell options when they sell airline tickets to passengers. Despite logging in with total access to my customer profile, they continue to fail at the upsell. Why?
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It Was New To Me
About 18 months ago I switched my loyalty from American Airlines to United. With that came a new way of traveling in some respects after 15 years on the other side of the fence. With United, during a ticket purchase, several upsell options are presented prior to booking. American Airlines didn’t really focus on this as much.
Following the sale of a coach ticket, First Class upgrades by segment are immediately offered if they haven’t sold out the cabin, followed by one final turn to spend more money for Mileage plus redeemable miles at a rate of about 2.5¢/point.
It’s a Great Idea Poorly Executed
Personally, I don’t mind adding something extra that will make my journey more enjoyable. While I don’t want to be endlessly upsold, sometimes I prefer to use a lounge on my journey and my status won’t get me in the door or I am relatively confident I will want the internet.
United, and other carriers, should absolutely push their options at the point of sale when a customer is already considering the total cost of their trip. However, I am not going to buy something I get for free. At this point in the process, I am logged in, they know that not only am I an elite member, but I am 1K. They are attempting to sell me an Economy Plus seat that I will select on the next screen for free anyway. They do the same with checked luggage.
In fact, they can’t even get the imagery to appear correctly on the page.
Additionally, I like a deal and would be inclined to purchase some products but the prices listed are retail. Why on earth would I buy a lounge pass for the same rate as a walk-up when the carrier both knows that I have two free unused day passes from my credit card with them and also that there is zero advantage to doing so.
The worst part is that they know the purchase is illogical because you may get it for free to the point that they put a disclaimer above the options, yet continue to show them.
“Your account may give you access to travel benefits.”
The easiest way for United to generate income from passengers like me is to use data to determine what options should be offered. If I get economy plus seating for free, don’t pitch it to me. If I get free checked bags through my status (which they know since I have logged in) and further free luggage through my credit card (they know this too) then why offer to sell me a bag at the same price that I can buy on the day of my flight?
If I have purchased one specific option in the past, perhaps I am more likely to do so again. Likewise, if I have never purchased a particular option (checking a bag for example) and I take 30 trips with the carrier per year, wouldn’t it make sense to refresh those options some? Wouldn’t it be more likely that I would purchase something – anything – than the same product I have said no to 29 previous times?
Assuming for a moment that I found some I upsells I preferred, wouldn’t it make sense to put something smart up based on this to invite me to purchase it again? Wouldn’t it make sense to save favorites when I executed a purchase and offer to add it at a different segment of the buying process?
Using data and applying basic information would greatly improve the chances of purchases.
Some companies would be enviable to the extensive and intimate knowledge United has of their customer base and their purchase decisions, yet it seems like United is uninterested in applying intelligence to their upsells. They are not the first company to waste massive data troves on poor execution, but when they explicitly acknowledge that you can get some of the same options for free but don’t bother to use that data it’s confusing and frustrating and if I was a shareholder of UAL, disappointing.
What do you think? Would you like to see more or fewer options to upsell? Should they change every time? How would you improve the concept?
Agreed! I have the same issue with SAS (since I live in sweden and that’s the only option). In the last five years, I’ve done one one-way trip in Y, about 75% in C and the rest in Y+. Thanks to my status, I get at least four bags checked in for free (and two carryon), yet I continue to get 2-3 emails and text messages prior to each and every flight asking me if I want to add additional bags at a discount. Makes no sense.
Agree. And United is not the only one messing around. Most airline booking sites are a disaster, and data they have is not put to use.
And not all that difficult to fix.
Are you sure you were signed in? I never see the Economy Plus upgrade offer if I’m signed in (it’s actually sometimes how I know that I’ve forgotten to sign in when I see it). My understanding of the checked bag offer is that it covers if you’re planning on checking a third bag.
I still remember certain CO plants on FT saying “oh their big data capabilities are great now, have been better than UA’s, just you watch out”. 7 years later, still not truly “working” and being utilized.
I’m (only) Premier Silver and used MP points last night to book flights in early December. Was presented with the same/similar nonsensical upgrade “bundle offers.”
What Kyle is describing is the age old problem of Sales & Marketing dictating to IT how products should be sold despite their fundamental lack of understanding of the customer. Good luck trying to convince the know-it-alls in UA’s Marketing group that they don’t know what they’re doing.
What I really love is that after I have booked my reservation as a Platinum, with a United Club membership, they will then still try to up sell me with a bundle for checked bags and/or one day club access. Don’t their stupid IT gods know that I already get those benefits??
The answer is Yes! The airlines know that elite members get these items free but they are betting that there are many stupid people out there that will purchase them anyway.
They don’t care if they’re wasting your time as long as they can get a few suckers to up charge.
Ding ding ding! And the sad part is someone from UA actually reached out to me after my post. https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/united-airlines-mileageplus/1848321-united-com-bundle-offers-checkout-3.html#post30469972
I’m with Kyle, if I could pre-buy a lounge day pass for less than the door charge, I would be more likely to consider it. Then they have my money and I’m locked in. If I wait until the day of my trip, I’m less likely to fork over the dough when I’m already in the airport and see a free seat with a charger in the terminal…
Austrian (OS) also try to sell me extra lounge access on checkin every single time – despite my status granting me free entry.
Of course they know this. Welcome to software development. It’s on a list somewhere that has been prioritized by the teams. For all we know, more important things, including bugs, are being prioritized over this. Development resources are a constraint to make every enhancement and new feature. I’m sure what you shared above was scoped and reviewed when they launched the feature. But it would have doubled or tripled the timeline to get the whole thing done as you wanted it. So, they probably decided, “It’s better to get SOME revenue, get the feature launched, understand usage, and then determine the enhancement roadmap to get this in place.” My guess is that leveraging data like who the user is to drive specific offers from an offer/pricing engine, was quite a bit more complex than just showing the same offers to everyone. So they made a decision balancing the resource constraints, time, and benefits. Heck, for all we know, they ran a small test to see what the benefit would be to showing 1Ks better offers — maybe they found something that told them it wasn’t worth the development investment. Shrug. Whenever I see something that appears not quite right in software, I always try to give the product development folks the benefit of the doubt.
You hit the nail on the head Kyle! I am presented with the same illogical options which I get for free due to my status. I’m so used to ignoring that screen that I would miss seeing a genuine upsell if United were to offer one.
I have found the same thing happens with my gold status. I think it’s a combination of IT development priorities, available resources, and what they consider more important such as upsell everyone.