Tag Archives: United Airlines

UAL hires communications pro; the airline needs him

Josh Earnest earned his PR stripes serving as press secretary during the second term of Barack Obama’s presidency.

He’s now got a new gig that looks to be every bit as challenging — if not more so — as trying to convey a presidential message.

Earnest is now vice president in charge of communications for United Airlines, the carrier that has been bombarded with negative publicity over the past year.

Do you remember the gentleman who was dragged off a UAL flight because he declined to give up his seat? It was caught on video as the cops wrestled the guy off the plane. Not a good moment.

Oh, and then just recently we had the issue of the puppy that died after being stored in the overhead luggage bin, also aboard a UAL flight. Bad news, too.

Earnest will be asked to convey the airline’s message as it continues to struggle to regain its footing in the wake of these high-profile incidents.

Good luck, Josh Earnest. Just don’t turn into a corporate propagandist.

They’re pitching this new flight service — seriously!

I’ve lived in Amarillo, Texas for more than 23 years.

During that time I have not seen such a concerted advertising campaign to pitch airline service out of this city’s international airport.

Until now.

American Airlines is about to launch new daily non-stop service from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It’s a big deal. I’ve said as much already on this blog. I get the attraction for business travelers as well as for families seeking quick and convenient air service to a vacation destination.

AMA: economic lure for Amarillo

This new service appears to hold considerable promise for the airline and for the city. I appreciate and understand the value of modern, convenient air service. We have it here, to the great credit of City Hall and the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

That promise must explain the TV advertising I keep seeing.

It  makes me curious as to why.

  • Delta Airlines once launched daily non-stop service between AMA and Memphis, Tenn. It didn’t take. Delta terminated the service after a brief period of time. Then the airline stopped flying to Amarillo altogether.
  • Southwest has been flying daily to Las Vegas out of Amarillo for several years. I haven’t seen the TV ads promoting that service.
  • United has flown non-stop to Denver for some time, too. No ads. Now the airline is flying non-stop to George Bush-Houston Intercontinental Airport; it assumed that service when United merged with Continental Airlines. No ads, either.

Perhaps we are witnessing a new, more aggressive marketing strategy with American’s new service between AMA and PHX.

Given that TV ad time doesn’t come cheap, I hope the investment pays off for the entire city.

AMA: economic lure for Amarillo

I read with some interest a story this week about the Amarillo City Council approving a contract with American Airlines that sets up direct flights between Amarillo and Phoenix, Ariz.

The non-stop flights begin in April. The contract will be for one year; American Airlines will decide at the end of that year whether to extend it depending on its profitability.

My sincere hope is that American keeps the jets in the air between AMA and PHX.

Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has been a favored lure for the city as an economic development tool. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation once subsidized American Airlines jet service between AMA and Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport; AEDC took a portion of the sales tax revenue it collects and paid the airline to maintain jet service.

AEDC eventually ended the subsidy. The airline dropped jet service for a brief period, but since has restored full jet service to DFW. It now will fly jets out of Amarillo to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

I’ve long touted the value of Amarillo’s air service to my friends and colleagues for as long as I have lived here. We don’t have many air carriers serving this community — American, Southwest and United. But two of those carriers, American and United, have plenty of international flights. When you depart AMA aboard either of those carriers, you are essentially just one stop away from connecting to flights that will take you anywhere on Earth.

Southwest is a highly profitable regional carrier and AMA gets service not just to Dallas Love Field, but also non-stop jet service to Las Vegas, Nev.

While much of our attention — mine included — has focused on downtown revival and on the extensive highway reconstruction along Interstates 40 and 27 as well as on Loop 335, we also can look with considerable pride at the airport that serves the Texas Panhandle.

I once spoke with Sarah Freese, the former aviation director at AMA, about the possibility of getting more carriers to serve this airport. She was hopeful at the time of attracting at least one more carrier. Freese has since moved on and I don’t know the status of the city’s effort to lure more carriers here. I hope it hasn’t withered away.

Amarillo’s airport remains a potentially big draw that will lead to the city’s brightening economic future.

UAL settlement means airline messed up big time

Dr. David Dao has just received a lot of money — reportedly — from a commercial air carrier that treated him quite badly.

Many millions of Americans have seen the video that went viral almost immediately after it was recorded: airport security officers dragged Dao off a United Airlines flight after he declined to give up his seat. Dao suffered facial injuries, he lost some teeth, while passengers shrieked their indignation at what happened.

You know the story. UAL wanted to make room on a fully booked flight for four airline employees who needed to get from Chicago to Louisville. The airline sought passengers to volunteer to surrender their seats; no one answered the call. UAL then selected four names at random and ordered them off the plane; three of them complied. Dr. Dao said “no.” He had patients to see at the other end of the flight.

The airline then called security. Officers wrestled with Dao. They hauled him off the plane.

Well, that ain’t how you treat your paying customers, United Airlines. The airline’s boss, Oscar Munoz, at first defended the officers, then backed off. He now calls it a “system failure” for which he is responsible. “I own it,” he said.

Commercial air travel hasn’t been much fun since 9/11. You know what I mean. Air security has tightened. Passengers are subjected to random searches. Flight attendants get testy when passengers gripe too vigorously.

The settlement today tells me the airline has acknowledged it messed up. United has announced policy changes. It will offer significant amounts of money to passengers who give up their seats on overbooked flights.

This incident tarnishes an entire airline needlessly. Why? Because it employs a lot of folks who do their jobs well and who had nothing to do with the incident in question.

David Dao’s settlement amount is a secret. My sense is that it was for a lot of dough. Fine.

The bigger issue rests with the policy changes that United has enacted. May it not be lost on other air carriers who depend on the public to keep their birds in the air.

No legislative remedy needed for United Airlines mistake

It took no time at all for a member of the U.S. Senate to weigh in with a legislative solution to an incident that has outraged millions of Americans.

Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., has announced plans to introduce a bill that would make it illegal for a commercial airline to remove a ticketed passenger from an airplane.

I detest these kind of legislative responses to vast public outrage.

You know the story. United Airlines the other day tried to evict a passenger after seeking volunteers to vacate the flight to make room for four UAL employees who needed to fly from Chicago to Louisville. The airline picked names of passengers at random. One of the passengers refused. So the airline called in security officials, who then manhandled the passenger badly, pulling him off the plane after knocking out a couple of his teeth and breaking his nose.

The passenger, a physician who said he needed to see patients the next day — and just couldn’t surrender his seat on the flight — has vowed to sue the airline for damages.

UAL suffers terrible PR damage

Now we hear a member of the Senate weighing in.

Congress does this kind of thing on occasion, as do state legislatures. Public outcry emerges from an event, prompting lawmakers to propose state or national laws to make something illegal.

The way I see it, Congress need not act on this matter. Why? Well, United Airlines has gotten the message from the rage the public already has expressed over this incident. Moreover, I am quite certain executives at other airlines have heard it, too, prompting them to rethink their own passenger-removal policies.

I believe in good government and I am not one to dismiss the need for government to act when the cause merits it. I just don’t think this particular matter requires congressional action.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz already has made a mess of his own response. He said initially that airline personnel acted according to policy; then he apologized to the man who got roughed up; then UAL announced air fare refunds for every passenger on that Chicago-Louisville flight.

United Airlines is now reviewing its policy. That’s good enough for me.

My strong hunch is that UAL won’t allow this kind of embarrassment ever to recur on one of its aircraft. I also would be willing to bet real American money that the other air carriers will follow suit.

This isn’t ‘customer service,’ United Airlines

You’ve just taken your seat on a commercial jetliner. The plane is full. The crew gets on the public-address system and asks passengers to give up their seats in exchange for an $800 travel voucher.

No one takes the offer. The plane is overbooked. The airline, United Airlines, needs to find four seats for UAL employees to occupy to fly to their destination.

No one takes volunteers to leave. So what does UAL do? It selects four passengers randomly. The airline demands they leave. Most of them do, begrudgingly. Then they approach a gentleman, a physician whose name was drawn. He says he won’t get off; he has patients to see at the other end of the flight.

The airline then calls the cops, who struggled with the guy and dragged him off the plane.

Customer service, anyone? is this how you treat folks who shell out good money to use your product, which happens to be an overbooked jetliner?

This incident erupted at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The plane was bound for Louisville, Ky.

How does the airline justify what occurred?

Someone has some explaining to do

I believe I have a solution: How about United — and all other commercial air carriers, for that matter — stop the practice of “overbooking” their flights? I understand the need to ensure a full airplane, but this is the kind of story that surprises me in one way: I’m surprised we haven’t more of these kinds of incidents already.

The doc had to get to his destination because he had patients waiting for him. Couldn’t the airline have picked another name? Couldn’t it have found another way to get their employees to Louisville?

Some passengers recorded the incident on their cell phones. Some of them were heard yelling their anger at the airline for the rough manner in which they treated the doctor. They were outraged, I’m telling ya.

Interesting, yes? Any one of them perhaps could have given up their seat to avoid the disgraceful behavior and the humiliation suffered by the physician on board. But they didn’t.

Meanwhile, United Airlines had better offer some justification for treating a paying customer in such a brutish manner.

Air fare glitch helps someone else … again

So help me, I need to get in the good graces of the god of Air Fare Glitches.

Delta Airlines posted some ridiculously low air fares online this week and some customer snapped up the fares. The airline company fixed the mistake, but said it would honor the fares purchased before it caught the mistake.


Why can’t I ever get in on that action?

Understand, of course, that Delta Airlines doesn’t fly in and out of Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, so this goof wouldn’t benefit me in the least. But other airlines have had similar problems — United, American and Southwest, for example, which do fly out of AMA.

I’m always caught flat-footed, never getting wind of these mess-ups until after they’ve been resolved.

Heck, my wife and I can barely redeem frequent-flier miles when we’ve earned enough of them to travel somewhere for “free.” I get on the website, look to book a redeem the mileage and learn that all the seats set aside for those with such awards have been taken up already. Crap!

We did hit the jackpot once, redeeming miles for a free flight to Buffalo, N.Y., to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary at nearby Niagara Falls. OK, so I’m not a total loser in this regard.

I’ll hand it to Delta, though, for honoring its mistake. I just wish I could have been one of the honorees.