United, more seats, new aircraft and nicer staff?

Many United customers were perplexed at the news the airline is managing to shovel another 21 seats into some of its 757-300’s by using the new slim-line non-reclining types so popular with airlines these days.

The airline is moving the layouts and using the super-slim seats to ‘ensure customers can travel when they want to by offering more seats at peak times on the right aircraft’. OK if you say so. It’s about customer focus – and I thought it was about making more profits!

The airline also announced a whole batch of routes for its new 737 Max 9’s. They start on June 7th in Houston with the longest route flying to Anchorage.

At the same time United has begun training its staff to be less driven by their job titles and widen their ability to deal with customer issues on the spot. It’s teaching its operatives to think more empathically, to work as a team to solve a problem – not simply spout policy and say no.

Allegedly message delivery has also been something staff are being encouraged to think about, how you say it, not just what you say.

One person who’d been through the training said he was ‘learning that we’re all in this together and we’re a team’.

The fact that he had to be taught that and didn’t realise it before really underlined how desperate the training need was. What sort of attitude is United addressing? A jobs worth with no concept of service at all? It explains a lot – especially incidents like David Dao last year, when airline instigated police brutality dragged him of a plane bleeding and screaming from their actions.