Being the world’s largest airline has its benefits, but there are also going to be negatives. The larger and more complicated you are, the more that can go wrong. Then add in a merger to the mix and you are just asking for trouble.
United Airlines had a bit of a challenging week this last week and it raises some questions. Even though some mistakes were made, it was sad to see how much of the media grabbed on to the stories, even after the stories were already resolved. Let’s take a closer look at what happened:
UNITED CHANGES ON TWITTER
Previously, United and Continental had two separate Twitter accounts (@UnitedAirlines and @Continental). United had about 194,000 followers and Continental had about 144,000. Having 338,000 followers is quite impressive, but this is where things go wrong. Twitter told United that they can’t combine both accounts. It seems silly that Twitter wouldn’t budge, even for money, but I guess that is how it goes. That didn’t mean that United had to give up all their followers.
With Twitter you can change your account name and still keep your followers. So the question becomes, should the new United take the old United account or the Continental? Sure, alienating either group of followers isn’t the best idea, but neither is giving up 338k followers to start a brand new account — which is exactly what United did.
I really like the idea of United changing their Twitter handle to just “@United,” but they have had one heck of a time getting anyone to follow. Out of 338,000 followers, as of late Friday there are just short of 10,000.
Since the new “@United” handle has been used, it has mostly been interacting with customers who have had bad experiences. Sure, it is great to reach out to your Twitter followers to help them, but if someone just reads the Twitter feed, it looks like nothing goes right at the airline. When responding to a poorly placed ad (see below), they sent the exact same message to over 100 people. That is not the proper way to handle the situation. It is okay to post just one reply to everyone.
I think Delta Air Lines has a slick system with @Delta to keep positive @DeltaAssist to help travelers with issues and @DeltaNewsroom to interact with media. That way fans of the airline that are watching @Delta see positive and helpful information and those customers who have issues still get help by @DeltaAssist.
AD IN NEW YORK CITY
Honestly, I wouldn’t have even known about this ad, except for the fact that United was apologizing to hundreds of people about the ad via Twitter. Anyhow, it looks like United put up an ad that states by ground zero in New York City stating, “You’re going to like where we land.” Okay, maybe not the best call, but come on people. This was an outside ad agency that placed the ad. Do you really think United wants to be associated with what happened on 9/11? They made a mistake, they are correcting it, they are apologizing, now let’s all move on.
REINSTATING 9/11 FLIGHT NUMBERS
With the merger of United and Continental, a computer system assigned the old flight 93 and flight 175 to current Continental Airlines flights. Currently, all flights fly both as United and Continental, so it would appear that United flight 93 and 175, which were involved in 9/11, were flying again. It was an honest mistake that was unintentional.
This was not a group of employees sitting around and deciding to re-instate the old flight numbers. It was more disturbing how big this story got versus what actually happened. Even after the flight numbers were explained, I saw legitimate news sources still waving the “omg why would United do this?” blame flag. I ended up more disappointed in the media than I did with the airline on this one.
CUSTOMER DAY ONE
Say what? I wonder if many of you even know about this. On Wednesday United unveiled their new look and brand at their main hub at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD). United put up all new signs and there are no more tulips to be seen. Even though it is sad to see the tulips go, this was a big day for United, their employees (Continentals too) and even for the city of Chicago. Unfortunately this story got shoved under the rug due to all the other things going on this week.
United might have dropped the ball a few times, but what company doesn’t? It just seems that airlines get unfair attention put on them when they do mess up and it keeps the idea that airlines are some evil company.
We can only hope that next week will be better!
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