United Airlines reached out to every MileagePlus member with an email on COVID-19, meant to assuage fears and calm frayed nerves.
The letter, written by outgoing CEO Oscar Munoz, talks about United’s current travel waiver, how aircraft are cleaned, and how filters onboard recirculate air.
Here’s the full letter:
I consider you part of our United family and your safety remains our highest priority.
We are in the business of serving people and in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak it’s important that we give you as much flexibility as possible when planning your next trip. But it’s also important that we give you as much information as possible about the procedures we follow to clean our aircraft and maintain a sanitary environment once we’re in the air.
Our teams are in daily contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), federal agencies and other global health organizations to share the most up-to-the-minute information to ensure the actions we’re taking are comprehensive and appropriate.
So today, I wanted to personally reach out and share a few of the steps we are taking for you, our customer:
Before you fly
To give you the greatest flexibility, when you book any flight with us now through March 31, you can change it for free over the next 12 months – any ticket, any fare type, any destination.
On the ground
Our team of in-house medical experts and industrial hygienists oversee our aircraft cleaning procedures to ensure they meet or exceed all CDC guidelines. Hard surfaces such as lavatories, tray tables, window shades and armrests are thoroughly wiped down with a high-grade disinfectant and multi-purpose cleaner. And when we are advised by the CDC of a person who has traveled on board and is potentially exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, that aircraft is taken out of service and sent through a full decontamination process that includes our standard cleaning procedures plus washing ceilings and overhead bins and scrubbing the interior.
In the air
Our aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art circulation systems, similar to those found in hospitals, which use a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter to circulate the air and remove more than 99% of airborne particles. We’re also adjusting our inflight service to limit person-to-person contamination. This includes handing beverages directly to customers instead of allowing customers to touch a tray and ensuring all flight attendants wear gloves during service.
More information on each of these efforts can be found on the United Hub.
I know I speak for every member of our United family when I say that we take the greatest pride in the role we play in the lives of our customers, personally and professionally.
I want you to know that you can continue to rely on us. So, the next time we have the privilege of welcoming you aboard our aircraft, you can know our commitment to you remains as steadfast as ever.
Will the letter calm nerves? Will it lead people to book? I’m not sure. I tend to think there are people like me who will continue to travel no matter what and there are those who simply will not travel until COVID-19 has passed. It’s almost like politics–I don’t see many undecided travelers; everyone is one camp or the other.
So I guess I’ll ask you, does this letter say sway your opinion one way or the other? Or was your mind made up long before this email arrived in your inbox?
image: United Airlines
No. It’s frustrating because those of us who booked prior to March can’t make changes and will be penalized for any changes while those who are booking now won’t be. So silly especially when a number of the European airlines are offering changes on existing bookings.
Same problem here. I called today to inquire about changing our flight plans on a trip booked before March 1st. They want $200 per ticket to change and the coast to coast non flight is now $99 per ticket one way because of low ticket sales. How does this make sense.
Exactly! The we booked in February for a cruise the beginning of May. And now the cruise line will let us change our reservation up to 48 hours before the departure for any other Cruise in 2020 or 2021 but we have Unruh fundable airfare to Barcelona!
I only fly on Southwest. I don’t need a letter to tell me all that is mentioned. I’m not ready to give up any of my upcoming flights unless forced to. Leaving Tuesday morning.
Totally agree with you on this and it is not just united. Delta advertising leap year fare savings for Europe and then March 1 halting many of them. And then making their window March 1.
How in the world can any airline claim to be cleaning planes between turn arounds. I have found garbage on my seat and in pockets after turn arounds. They just do not have the time to do this.
United should take a hint from AS and come up with a MileagePlus promotion to fill seats. With all their devaluations and the slow down in travel I’d love to see how they come up with something. Maybe double PQPs?
You mean my mile play for 8,900 miles after 5-$300 flights isn’t going to make me go on a booking frenzy?!
I have said it before and will say it again…I think most of us in the same traveler segment who are hunkering down are doing so not because we fear getting sick on a plane, not because of fear of the virus itself, but fear of contracting it in some random place thousands of miles from home and being quarantined for weeks alone and away from family, friends, and your familiar medical care.
So, no, this letter does not address those concerns. Sure, it may make you feel better about flying. But it offers nothing to say, ‘If you get sick and quarantined in Anchorage and sent to a military base we got your back!”
With that said, If Four Seasons Hotels offers quarantine services/packages at its properties I will gladly start traveling again this month.
Kudos to Stuart to nailing it on the head. I’ve not scheduled anything, waiting for this to blow over and i’ve been instrumental in convincing others to cancel or postpone for this very reason. No point in having your life put into suspended animation for 4-6 weeks or longer following a 1 week of travel. Nah. I’ll stay home and golf, putter in the garden and wait for the Four Seasons to offer their quarantine package
No. Munoz points out all positives which they are doing , & singles out new customers / reservations but leaves everyone else behind on waivers , yes I am in most vulnerable at 82
Or someone on your plane/cruise ship/bus/tour group/etc. gets sick and/or lies about where they’ve been, and you’re then tracked down and ordered into quarantine “out of an abundance of caution”.
It’s super annoying that they limit the window for change between March 3-31 seeing as how most people booking flights right now as away of possible dangers.
The people who booked the last few months are you the ones United should be looking out for and allow us to make changes/postponements without penalty.
As of yesterday, this part is a blatant lie, “Hard surfaces such as lavatories, tray tables, window shades and armrests are thoroughly wiped down with a high-grade disinfectant and multi-purpose cleaner.”
The planes are being given the usual “quick turn” treatment which means large and obvious pieces of trash are picked up off of floors and seats, and paper picked up off the lavatory floor, but nothing else is done to clean the planes. After an overnight stay, my plane still had tray tables sticky with soda in the morning and the lavatories hadn’t been cleaned or restocked at all.
The planes probably are much cleaner than they’ve ever been because at least half of all passengers seem to be wiping down their seats and tray tables with Clorox or similar disinfecting wipes.
I recently flew United, (Monday) the seat was filthy definitely not cleaned, food crumbs, garbage in the seat pocket hair on the seat belt buckle, terrible. The person in the seat next to me felt so bad for me she reached into bag and gave me one of her wipes. Then today I get the look at what we are doing for you letter what a joke! He should get out from behind his desk and see what his employees are doing, what a disgrace.
I just wish corporations would stop with the “I personally wanted to reach out” BS.
I plan to continue flying knowing that extra cleaning care is being provided including the use of HEPA filters. We cannot become paranoid.
HEPA filters don’t remove viruses! This is a dangerously disingenuous thing for United to include to make us “feel better.” Literally no HEPA filter in the world removes viruses from the air.
Of course some of these assurances are comforting. Unfortunately some of the preflight security providers haven’t caught up with preventative strategies ( …or just don’t care).
EG, twice in the past 10 days I’ve had security staff wanting to rummage through my hand carry, wearing the same gloves used for God knows how many previous passengers. The first time I was too late to complain but when I did just got the usual Bangkok couldn’t-care-less shrug; the second time, in Bali, the guy changed his gloves for me and I was happy.
Similarly the gloves used by FAs are not there to protect the passenger.
If they were really concerned they would block out the middle seat to reduce contact with other travelers instead of packing us in like sardines and forcing exposure to the person next to you.
Of course that would impact their bottom line too much so caring about their passengers really does have its limits. The only reason for the refund policy change is to get people to book, not because they are truly concerned about the health of the passenger.
I’m about to go to Sydney and it doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I’ll be wiping down the usual surfaces of my seat. UA is already consolidating flights and as a result my first flight will be packed although the main flight from SFO to SYD looks like a ghost town except for Polaris. I, too, am upset that we don’t get breaks on tickets bought before March 1st. I don’t know how many trips I might have to cancel in the coming months and waiving change fees would be nice.
I have no fears to assuage except for upcoming surveillance and the current hysteria.
United should cancel all the changes to MileagePlus. Undo and walk it back a couple a years and we’ll be all good.
100% agree, plus reverse the way to qualify for 1K, Platinum.. unless UA reverse these bad changes (which we all know that will not happen), I don’t support its business again.
Lot of this is just fake news. Trump has said this is just nonsense. And his minions to should accept it.
It’s time united asked people their party affiliation. Republicans are not allowed to make any changes without any change fees.
The snarky political comments aren’t helpful. Or appreciated.
You sound like a republican hypocrite.
Munoz letter clearly points out all positive things United is doing including” daily ” contact with agencies . If United ” walked the talk ” then provisions would be made for most venerable , elderly , not just those who book in March , walk the talk means waive change fees , oh yes my wife & I are 82
I agree with Stuart. There’s only so much the airlines can do to restore confidence. In this environment where governments can impose travel restrictions from certain locations with no advance notice, and can order you into quarantine “out of an abundance of caution” because ‘we determined you were in contact with someone infected with Covid-19″, what can they do, exactly? A change fee waiver doesn’t help me much if I end up trapped somewhere or involuntarily out of work for weeks.
Things won’t get better for the airlines until the panic and overreaction blow over.
If Oscar considers you part of the family, not providing waivers for people who booked months ago is a rotten way to treat your family. Sounds more like a Kirby move.
Matthew-. I would be interested in reading your thoughts about continuing to travel during COVID-19 and at what point you would stop traveling.
I have a trip to LHR scheduled in a week and a half and trying to decide if I should cancel or not.
This doesn’t look good…
Again….what about the reservations that were made pri9r to march …our fears of contamination are just as valid as those who recently bought a ticket…are we in this togther or not….i would at least like the option to keep my dates or make changes to my existing dates…..
The airlines obviously are not disinfecting all planes after all flights, although they’d love us to buy into that. How hard would it be for the airline personel to hand you a couple disinfecting wipes as you board? Not too hard at all, but that would slow the boarding process immensely and that’s a problem for the airline.
The worst part about this is mentioning they have HEPA filters for the circulating air. It’s completely irrelevant and meant to trick people into thinking that means viruses are filtered. No HEPA filters filter viruses from the air nor do they even claim to do so.
I will travel. Going to Germany then Ireland tomorrow from ORD.
Will try to be very careful.
Who concert in Dublin, then London for a week before back to ORD.
DEBIT you sound like a Liberal Democrat IDIOT!!!
And you sound like your nose is so far up Trumps behind that your nose is coming out his mouth.
Ps. Did you also buy your wife in East European market?
The e-mail was a condescending joke; it never stated that the flight attendants would wash their hands, before serving any snacks, or meals; also, it did not state if United would clean any of the blankets that it keeps onboard.
If United was genuinely concerned, they would have extended the flexibility of travel, free of any additional charge to all those who planned to fly between March 1st and March 31st, regardless of when they booked their flight. So, NO, the letter doesn’t address primary concern of most travellers.
In Greece now, flew to Athens last Friday. Decide to go home four days early and was charged $300. Look at seat map and there were only 35 people on plane Wednesday morning from Brussels to DC. And I am Gold level. Ripped off
How many people working in all the airlines the USA if the stop flying completely nobody’s have a job and not only the employees
Please try to understand
I am working for one airlines and right now is not looking good
Loosing your job is not fun
You guys worry to much about your mileage status but if tomorrow you don’t have a job what you going to do whit your status???
I can understand your concern and I hope things turn around soon, but in fairness, if I take a trip I don’t need to take, isn’t that better for the airlines rather than worse?
chill out. the virus gives people 80 or under a cold. you recover and go about your business. stop complaining.