United lists ten “changes to improve customer experience”

United B737 Max 9

United Airlines has had its feet held to the fire these past few weeks, ever since video footage emerged of security personnel forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked flight on April 9.

Following numerous announcements and official statements – including from United CEO Oscar Munoz committing to a “thorough review” of how it works with law enforcement and deals with overbooked flights – the airline has now listed out ten changes that it will be placing into effect with regards to how it flies and serves customers.

According to the announcement, the airline has committed to do the following:

  • Limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only
  • Not require customers seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk
  • Increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to US$10,000
  • Establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination
  • Ensure crews are booked onto a flight at least 60 minutes prior to departure
  • Provide employees with additional annual training
  • Create an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans
  • Reduce the amount of overbooking
  • Empower employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment
  • Eliminate the red tape on permanently lost bags by adopting a “no questions asked” policy on lost luggage

The airline is bringing into effect some of these changes immediately, while others will be rolled out throughout 2017.

Following the announcement, Munoz said: “Every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect. Two weeks ago, we failed to meet that standard and we profoundly apologise.

“Today, we are taking concrete, meaningful action to make things right and ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

A full review of United’s changes can be viewed here.


United’s new Polaris business seat to head to Tokyo

Sleeping on United Polaris

Tokyo is set to receive United Airlines’ new Polaris business class seat product starting June 14, when the airline will upgauge from a Boeing 747-400 to a B777-300ER on its San Francisco-Tokyo Narita route.

United took delivery of its first B777-300ER in January this year, with its first international service taking off in March between San Francisco and Hong Kong. As with the Tokyo Narita service, the Hong Kong route was previously served by a B747-400 before the upgauge to the B777-300ER.

United currently aims to retire the “Queen of the Skies” from its fleet by October this year.

While the equipment change will see the introduction of the new Polaris business class seat, it will also mean the disappearance of first class seating on United’s non-stop San Francisco-Tokyo Narita service. United configures its B777-300ER in a three-tier format, offering 60 Polaris business (1-2-1), 102 Economy Plus (3-4-3) and 204 economy class seating (3-4-3).

The new Polaris business class seat has been described by United as its most significant product transformation in more than a decade. Polaris Business features fully flat beds all with direct aisle access. The pods also include mood lighting, one-touch lumbar support, do-not-disturb signs, multiple storage areas and work spaces, electronic privacy dividers (for centre seats) and a 16-inch HD screen. In-flight wifi is also offered.

For a review of United’s new Polaris business class seat product on its San Francisco-Hong Kong route, click here.


United amends bumping policy, while Delta will pay passengers more to get bumped

United B777-300ER at SFO


United Amends Bumping Policy, and Delta Will Pay Passengers More to Get Bumped


By Bob Curley


United Airlines has amended its policies to ensure that passengers already boarded on its aircraft won’t get bumped to make way for company employees to fly.


United Airlines has amended its policies to ensure that passengers already boarded on its aircraft won’t get bumped to make way for company employees to fly.


“No must-ride crew member can displace a customer who has already boarded an aircraft,” states a new policy directive circulated to United employees in the wake of a Chicago passenger being bloodied and dragged bodily from his seat so that United crew members could fly. The incident, caught on cellphone cameras, has been a public-relations disaster for the airline.


The new policy states that crew members can only be booked onto oversold flights 60 minutes or more before the flight is scheduled to depart. In effect, this means that United employees can still take passengers’ seats, but not once they are actually seated on the plane.


An airline spokesperson told the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/us/united-passengers-removal.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news) that the policy change is part of a broader review aimed at ensuring that an incident like the one that occurred in Chicago “never happens again.”


Other airlines are also taking a harder look at their overbooking policies in the wake of the United incident, where passenger David Dao was roughly treated by airport security, including having two of his teeth knocked out, after refusing to give up his seat on the flight to Louisville, Ky.


Delta Air Lines, for example, is increasing the amount of compensation that employees can offer passengers to give up their seats on overbooked flights. Delta gate agents can now offer up to $2,000, an increase from $800, while supervisors can offer up to $9,950, compared to the previous maximum of $1,350. Delta is more likely to bump passengers than any other U.S. airline (https://www.businesstraveller.com/airlines/delta/2017/04/02/delta-air-lines-bumps-passengers-flights/).


United was broadly criticized for capping its offer to passengers on the Chicago flight at just $800 before resorting to the involuntary bumping of Dao and other passengers to make room for crew members who needed to get to Louisville. United officials said they also are looking at the airline’s compensation policies.

United’s new B777-300ER makes international debut to Hong Kong

United B777-300ER Polaris Business class

Hong Kong has become the first international destination to see United’s new B777-300ER, following the launch yesterday of the aircraft’s inaugural international route connecting Hong Kong with San Francisco.

The airline’s new B777-300ER notably features United’s recently unveiled Polaris Business seat product, which the carrier describes as its most significant product transformation in over a decade.

“We are very excited here in Hong Kong to be offering the B777-300ER,” said Walter Dias, United Airlines’ managing director, Greater China and Korea, Sales. “[The Polaris Business seat] is the first new product in the front cabin for United in over ten years. Having it originate from Hong Kong as the first international flight for this new product is very exciting for all of us in Hong Kong. It really demonstrates the importance United puts on our customers here in Hong Kong who have been loyal customers of United for over 34 years.”

Designed in partnership with Acumen Design Associates and Priestmangoode, and manufactured by Zodiac Seats United Kingdom, Polaris Business features fully flat beds with direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration. The pods also include mood lighting, one-touch lumbar support, do-not-disturb signs, multiple storage areas and work spaces, electronic privacy dividers (for centre seats) and a 16-inch HD screen. In-flight wifi is also offered.

Meanwhile, United travellers in Hong Kong will also have access to a Polaris Lounge exclusively for those holding a Polaris Business ticket. Following 12,000 hours of research, United found that sleep is one of the most important aspects of a long-haul flight. As such, meal offerings will be a key focus of the lounge so that passengers can enjoy a good meal before the flight, then sleep uninterrupted for the duration of the journey using the do-not-disturb function.

United’s first Polaris lounge opened in December last year at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Lounges in eight other locations, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and London Heathrow, will open this year.

The B777-300ER is United’s newest aircraft and is being positioned to replace the airline’s B747s. United has a total of 14 B777-300s on order. Meanwhile the new Polaris product is also set to be retrofitted to the airline’s B767-300s and B777-200s, followed by its Dreamliners.

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific had the chance to fly on board United’s first B777-300ER flight departing Hong Kong, with a full review of the flight coming soon.


Asiana and United expand codeshare

Chicago Cloud Gate

Korean carrier Asiana Airlines and United Airlines are expanding their codeshare agreement to include each other’s flights between Seoul Incheon and Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

The codeshare is due to take effect starting March 17, though reservations for the flights have already opened. United will be placing its UA code on Asiana’s OZ236 and OZ235 flights between Seoul and Chicago, meanwhile Asiana’s OZ code will be added 16 of United’s routes from Chicago to domestic destinations, notably Pittsburgh and Boston.

“The expansion of the codeshare with United Airlines is a part of Asiana Airlines’ strategy for strengthening its network to and from the US,” the Korean carrier said in a statement. “Asiana Airlines will continue to deepen its partnership with United Airlines to achieve customer satisfaction travelling to America.”

Once the codeshare comes into effect later this month, Asiana and United will be codesharing on all flights operated by Asiana to the continental US, which includes services to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

Asiana flies non-stop between Seoul and Chicago five times weekly. Its service currently flies on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, though from March 26 to October 28 the service will change its Saturday operation to a Thursday operation.

Details of Asiana’s Seoul Incheon (ICN)-Chicago O’Hare (ORD) are as follows (all times local):

Flight No. From To Date Departs Arrives
OZ236/UA7316 ICN OHD 12/3-25/3 2020 1940
26/3-28/10 1935
OZ235/UA7315 OHD ICN 12/3-25/3 2355 0400+2

flyasiana.com; united.com

United’s year-round Auckland service goes seasonal

Te Whau Waiheke Island, Auckland - Credit: Julian Apse

At a time when numerous carriers in Asia and beyond have been launching or enhancing services to Auckland, US carrier United Airlines finds itself going against the grain following the conversion of its year-round San Francisco-Auckland flights to a seasonal service. 

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was alerted to the change by industry website airlineroute.net and confirmed on the carrier’s schedule that the service is no longer being offered during northern summer between April 16 and October 28.

Flights UA916 and UA917 were originally planned to operate throughout northern summer as a daily offering operated by Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner.

Though UA916 and UA917 will no longer be operating between mid-April and late-October, United’s schedule lists Air New Zealand’s direct NZ0007 (UA6755) and return NZ0008 (UA6754) service as available during the northern summer.

And while United is converting its year-round service to a seasonal one, its San Francisco-Auckland route will receive a flight frequency boost in northern winter this year, airlineroute.net reports. In addition to its seasonal daily service, a three-times-weekly service will begin starting December 16. UA073 will depart San Francisco on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, while UA074 will depart Auckland on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Both the seasonal daily and three-times-weekly flights are tentatively scheduled to be operated by B777-200ER aircraft.

Details of the flights are as follows (all times are local).

Seasonal daily service (starting October 29, 2017):

Flight No. From To Departs Arrives Days
UA917 San Francisco Auckland 2245 0855+2 Daily
UA916 Auckland San Francisco 1510 0630 Daily

Added three-times-weekly service (starting December 16, 2017):

Flight No. From To Departs Arrives Days
UA073 San Francisco Auckland 1940 0550+2 Tue, Thu, Sat
UA074 Auckland San Francisco 1740 0900 Mon, Thu, Sat

Back in July, fellow US carrier American Airlines began direct flights between Los Angeles and the New Zealand city. Meanwhile, numerous Asia-based airlines have begun offering flights to Auckland over the past six months. Tianjin Airlines’ three-times-weekly Tianjin-Auckland service began in December, while Hong Kong Airlines’ daily Hong Kong-Auckland and Hainan Airlines’ three-times-weekly Shenzhen-Auckland services both took off in November. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific also began offering Airbus A350 flights between Hong Kong and Auckland in October.


United launches B777-300ER to Hong Kong

Sleeping on United Polaris

United launches B777-300ER to Hong Kong

Report by Alex McWhirter

Hong Kong will be the first international destination to see United’s B777-300ER.

United has ordered 14 of these large B777-300ERs. It plans to base them at its hub in Newark New York.

All 14 of the new aircraft are expected to be in service by the end of next year.

This three-class B777-300ER is configured with no fewer than 60 of its new Polaris business class (configured 1-2-1) * , 102 economy plus seats (configured 3-4-3) and 204 seats (also configured 3-4-3) in regular economy class.

Polaris business replaces first class. Polaris business lounges will open in Hong Kong and San Francisco in 2017.

* For full Polaris details see Online News, December 1 https://www.businesstraveller.com/business-travel/2016/12/01/united-begins-polaris-rollout/

It had been thought United would choose the flagship New York-London route to launch the B777-300ER but it is not to be.

Why ?

The reason is that the B777-300ER is intended to replace United’s B747-400s which have provided it with loyal service over many years.

And the B747-400s are mainly seen on the transpacific routes to Asia and Australia. They are rarely seen on transatlantic routes.

Although United’s B777-300ER will be flying overseas from March 25 it will be possible to sample the new aircraft on domestic flights effective February 16 through to May 3.

United will be operating the B777-300ER coast-to-coast between New York Newark and San Francisco six times a week. The idea is that crew and airline staff can familiarise themselves with this particular aircraft type.

What is disappointing is that, according to the seating plan, this aircraft appears essentially as a two-class plane. https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/inflight/aircraft/777/300/default.aspx

In the absence of a proper premium economy cabin (which rivals American Airlines and Delta are poised to introduce) the real space and comfort is to be found in Polaris business class.

With aircraft configuration already set in stone there is little United can do to rectify the situation.

But as sure as night follows day United will eventually have to follow the lead set by its rivals.

On the busy San Francisco-Hong Kong route United will be directly competing with Cathay Pacific, American Airlines and Singapore Airlines (the latter has fifth-freedom rights).

And all these carriers offer a combination of award-winning products in first, business and premium economy. With both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines still offering roomier 9-across (3-3-3) economy seating.

So United has a tough job on its hands.


United and Alitalia launch flights to Havana

The Malecón, Old Havana, Cuba, with local Cuban residents and visitors relaxing and walking afternoon promenades. Featuring a broad esplanade, roadway, and seawall, the Avenida de Maceo is a famous place and tourist destination. People travel to view the Caribbean Sea waterfront, national capital city urban skyline, and community culture.

United Airlines and Alitalia have launched direct services to Havana.

United flights depart daily from New York’s Newark Liberty International airport and every Saturday from Houston Bush Intercontinental airport, both served by a B737. Flight schedules have yet to be released.

Alitalia flights from Rome Fiumicino will depart Tuesdays at 1035 and Saturdays at 1435, returning from Havana on Tuesdays at 1830 and Saturdays at 2230, both operated by a B777.

Earlier this year, JetBlue became the first US airline to make a commercial flight to Cuba in 55 years, flying from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara.

American Airlines also recently launched its first scheduled flight between Miami and Havana, with Delta and Spirit Airlines set to follow with inaugural services later this week.

See our Dec/Jan cover story for more on Cuba’s growing relationship with free trade.

united.com; alitalia.com

United unveils renovated LAX lounge

LAX United lounge outdoor terrace

United has unveiled its newly renovated lounge at Los Angeles International airport (LAX).

Part of a US$573 million project to renovate all customer-facing spaces at the airport’s Terminals 7 and 8, the LAX United Club lounge is now one of the airline’s largest, spread across 1,900 sqm.

Features include a larger kitchen and bar, lounge and work seating and an outdoor terrace offering views of the Hollywood Hills and Los Angeles skyline.

Julia Haywood, United’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said: “LAX is a key piece of our global route network, and we’re incredibly proud that it will house one of our finest United Clubs.

“Aesthetically, it’s unlike any other, with panoramic views of the city and an outdoor terrace. These unique amenities – along with fresh food, wine menus, craft cocktails and, most importantly, exceptional service and hospitality for our customers – will elevate the entire experience to something that will truly impress and delight visitors.”

In the last year United has opened an economy lobby, baggage claim areas and a new security checkpoint in partnership the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), featuring five automated screening lanes.

United and TSA to streamline airport security

United B767-300

United Airlines is collaborating with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to modernise and improve the efficiency of the airport security experience at several of the airline’s largest hubs in the US.

The joint initiative will see United and the TSA implement the following:

Automated Screening Lanes

United will first introduce new automated lanes at Newark Liberty International Airport this fall. According to the airline, the entire security checkpoint at Terminal C will feature 17 automated lanes, which will enable up to five customers to fill their individual bins simultaneously and move through the screen process quicker.

United also plans to install additional automated lanes at its Chicago and Los Angeles hubs later this year.

Redesigned Security Checkpoints

  • The Star Alliance member and TSA are also redesigning the checkpoints at several hubs throughout the airline’s network. Key initiatives include:
  • Audio and visual enhancements in the security queuing area to provide travellers with more information
  • Consolidating the four checkpoints at Newar Liberty International Airport into a single, centralised checkpoint
  • Redesigning the security checkpoints at Chicago O’Hare
  • Constructing a new check-in area and security screen checkpoint in Terminal 7 of Los Angeles International Airport

TSA Precheck Enrollment Centres

TSA Precheck was launched in 2011, and allows US citizens and permanent residents that have successfully registered for the programme to receive expedited screening for domestic and select international flights.

As part of their partnership, United and the TSA plan to open permanent enrolment centres at the airline’s hubs in Chicago, Newark, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, thereby providing eligible travellers with the ability to enrol for TSA Precheck status directly at the airport.

For more information, visit united.com

Clement Huang