You Probably Won’t Believe You’re Flying the Friendly Skies

By | November 23, 2009
United Airlines Boeing 737-522 landing, San Jose.
Image via Wikipedia

Last week, the Airline Industry Examiner asked the question Whatever Happened to United’s Friendly Skies? We wonder about that too, although not always specifically in relation to United.  For years, United Airlines was the free world’s largest airline. Now they are third.

Check out the Airline Industry Examiner’s assembled collection of classic United Airlines videos.

That was then, this is now. The Chicago Tribune reports that for the first time in a decade, United is renovating its domestic fleet. The dated interiors of many planes are being replaced with new first class cabins and new blue leather seats in economy.The fleet remodeling will take another year and a half to two years.

United Airlines is upgrading its international fleet as well. But on many fronts, it is competing with  carriers with vastly improved in-flight service. On international routes, that means many carriers with deeper pockets than United, although many international carriers are hurting as well. On domestic routes, discount carriers have fleets that are, on average, younger, cleaner, and with more frills than them.

As the industry has hit hard times, customer satisfaction has dropped for every major carrier except Continental Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Last year, United realized it needed to change direction, and get back to its roots. “The airline needed to run on time, with clean planes and courteous employees, all while delivering industry-leading revenue and keeping costs in check.” The downturn has helped with that. United, like many carriers, have slashed capacity, which has allowed it to improve on-time performance by building more time into the schedule.

I think United is slowly trying to become an airline again,” said airline consultant Darryl Jenkins. “They’re doing what airline people ought to be doing: having good-looking planes flying the schedule.

United customer service is almost an oxymoron,” said Bob Trevelyan of California, saying he prefers Southwest. “A new fleet and everything else is great. But until they change the attitude of management and in-flight [crews], it’s not going to matter.

Chris Elliott, last week, profiled United Airlines Captain Denny Flanagan, who talks about ways pilots on United are engaging their passengers while not neglecting their primary duty of getting them to their destination safely. As he put it, “Every day I fly the friendly skies it is constantly referenced by employees and by customers in emails I receive from them; it is in their hearts.

So, there is the answer. The Friendly Skies are in our hearts. Some people just prefer their friendly skies to be less profound and more overt.

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Author: Guru

Guru is the Editor of Flight Wisdom and a long time aviation enthusiast.