Saturday, February 14, 2015

The new - A First Look

A refreshed homepage gives users quick access to information.
I had the pleasure of seeing the new over a year ago.  But, like many things in the airline industry, it took a long time to get out to the public.  This week United allowed beta users a first look.  And once again, United has taken the right steps to continue on its path to being the world's most Flyer Friendly airline!

While this is a major change to the website, many of the functional pieces still operate using the old system.  United's plan is to slowly make changes to one section at a time.

The form of the website is designed to work well in both desktop and tablet.  Large buttons making it easy for folks like me with fat fingers to use.  Also, the ability to switch backgrounds is great.

The Account block gives you quick access to your stats for the year.
The user experience starts with the buttons that allow you to switch between Account, Book, Status, Trips, and Check-in.  This is a very cool HTML5 trick that allows the buttons to become larger blocks once clicked.

The Account block allows you to see all of your important information without having to go to the old account page.

The My Trips block allows you to see all of your trips without having to click on the "View All Reservations" link.  Each trip gives date travel information as well as allowing the user access to all of the links they may need.

The Flight Status block is about the same as what you're used to.  As well, the Check-in block allows you to enter a confirmation number or view from your current reservations.

Booking a Flight
The biggest change to the system is the booking engine.  At face value, entering your flights plans is about the same.  It's what's behind the scenes that impresses me.  When booking, you can click on a "More Options" link, which is where the fun really starts.

One of the great features added is a "Recent Searches".  I am the type of person who will look for the same flights over and over in a week, this new feature makes it much easier on me.

For a person who loves to fly great distances, there are a few extras now in the search logic.
The first great thing is that there is an updated Sort by, which will allow a user to sort by Longest Flight, Departure Time, Arrival Time or more.  But the feature I love the most is the "Preferred connections" and "Connections to avoid."  During the spring, I hate flying through Houston because of weather delays, but shares often pushes me through there.  Now I can tell the website, "Hey, I don't want to go to Houston," and it will find me alternative routes.

Once you are in to the search results there is a much more Flyer Friendly layout:

In the details section of each flight it allows you to see all available fares, which allows folks like me the ability to shop price while still wanting to use my upgrades.  Another great feature is the seat map.  On the old website, you had to go to a different page to see the seats, now it's built right in:

The entire process has a much better feel, and in fact moves faster than the old site.  There's a lot more to it, and a lot more to come.  I don't know when United will take the site out of Beta testing, but I know you will love it when it happens!  Kuddos to the IT staff at United!

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?

United Announces More Outsourcing

Under the guise of a financial decision, United Airlines has announced the expected outsourcing of approximately 1,100 jobs across the United States.

All I really want to say is this: Thank you.  I have flown in and out of a number of the affected airports, and these employees have helped me greatly.

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Alaska Airlines offering Non-Stop flights between Seattle and Oklahoma City

Image copyright SkyWest Airlines
Alaska Airlines will begin offering non-stop service between Seattle (SEA) and Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport on July 1st, 2015.  This new service is a part of an expansion between Alaska and SkyWest.  The route will be serviced the Embraer E175 (and, yes, I know I have a CRJ700 in the picture).

It has been said that the route depends largely on the fact that Boeing is expanding its operations in Oklahoma City.  Although I really love the fact that Oklahoma City is getting a direct link to Seattle, I won't be flying on it.

Oklahoma City is largely serviced by "regional" aircraft.  Thanks to United we have seen an increase in the E170 and E175 fleet in Oklahoma City, but our mainline presence is slowly being replaced by these aircraft that "blur the line between mainline and regional."  Here's the fact, an E170 or E175 serviced by SkyWest or Mesa isn't mainline.

The other interesting thing about this move is that Alaska has a maintenance agreement with AAR.  Alaska flies their 737s to OKC to be repaired, much like Allegiant with their Mad Dogs.  Why not utilize the route as a profit point?

I'm excited to see new service, I just wish United was bringing a 737-800 to service the route.  Truth be told, I don't expect to see the route last all to long.

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

United is great at Social Media!

It's no surprise to anyone that I love United.  And if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you know I love @united.  Also, if you have kept up with United's inflight videos recently, you've probably seen this:

Here I am on set just before the interview.
In early January I was invited to come to Chicago to be interviewed about why I love United's Social Media team.  The questions I was asked really forced me to think about the reasons that I think United is doing such a great job on Social Media.  Since my focus in the edited version of the video is all about how fast and flexible they are, I wanted to talk a little more about some of the other things that United is doing right!

United is being proactive.
It is very easy for Social Media teams to ignore the bad, and let's face it, there's a lot of bad out there when it comes to airlines!  "My flights are cancelled."  "I missed my connection."  "I'm stuck in Atlanta."  United has worked hard since the early days of their social media department to reach out to the frustrated customers and attempt to help them out.

I heard one story a few years back about a group of bridesmaids that were trying to get to a wedding, and with a whole bunch of cancellations due to weather, they were two days behind schedule.  The United social media team reached out to the Network Operations Center (NOC) and managed to get a plane held so the ladies could make their connection, and the wedding!  Sure, that's not the norm, but it really does display a lot of whatever it takes friendly.

I watch a lot of conversations where United is simply taking the time to thank people for flying with them.  That means a lot that a multi-billion dollar company wants to thank for for my instagram post.

Most importantly, did you know that United's social media is staff with agents who can help with rebookings and other reservation needs?  High up in the Willis Tower is a staff of agents dedicated to the social sphere to hep you when a flight gets delayed, you miss a connection, or weather gets in the way.  I can easily take care of my needs while I'm in a meeting without ever having to get on the phone.

@united becomes @mike_j_morgan ambassadors.
I've talked a lot in the past about how I am a brand ambassador for United, Taco Bueno, Marriott, and others.  But, @united has become a @mike_j_morgan ambassador.  When I'm in trouble out in the friendly skies, I can tweet @united, and they come to my rescue.  ^LO, ^RS, ^SQ, (this is the way they identify themselves on twitter) and many others have helped me when I've run into a problem and I can't talk on the phone.  There have been a number of times that I've tweeted from a flight and had my issue taken care of before I ever touched the ground!

The truth is, it's not just the social media team, it's United employees all around who I have become connected with that will do just about anything for me.

There are a lot of other great things that @united provides.  I encourage you to visit with them on the interwebs and see what they can do for you!

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How I Vacation in Kauai, Hawaii

The pool and beach at the Kauai Marriott Resort
Once a year I desperately need to relax.  My wife will tell you that the very first place that comes to my mind is the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian islands.  Where do I stay?  What do I do?  How do I get there?

It will come as no surprise to any of you that I always fly United to the islands.  In more recent years I have been flying direct from LAX, SFO, or DEN to LIH (Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii).  This service is always done with a Boeing 757-200.  I always suggest sitting on the left side of the plane as the arrival will give you a great view of Nawilili Bay, which you can see on the left in the photo up top.  

Find The Kauai Marriott
on Social Media:
The Kauai Marriott Resort is the only place to stay on the island (sure, there are other hotels and all, but this one is the very best).  After a very long drive from the airport (the hotel is only about a 10 minute drive), you are greeted to the Garden Isle (Kauai's nickname) in a truly tropical paradise.  The main entry stands a few stories above the main lobby in the middle of a forest of palm trees.  The lobby is in the middle of the hotel buildings, and has a beautiful handmade canoe in it.  But who really cares about checking in?  Let's get to the good stuff.

There are three buildings on the property.  The furthest west tower that sits on Kalapaki Beach is made up of Marriott Vacation Club rooms.  The North tower provides a great view of the gardens, and houses the two-story Presidential Suite.  The east tower is by far my favorite; it primarily has views of the pool.  However, the last room on each floor is a two-room suite.  These suites provide both a view of the pool and a view of the bay.
The view from the southwest corner of one of the suites.  Even on a cloudy day it is beautiful.
The Kauai Marriott has a lot to offer.  With food options from Kukui's to Duke's to Portifino's, the pool (one of the largest in Hawaii) with five hot tubs, and the Kalapaki Beach, there's always something to do.
The view of the pool from the Terrace.

The thing that you have to remember is that there is a lot to do on the island.  In future posts I will share with you more of the specifics, but if you're going soon, remember to hit Bubba Burgers, and spend some time in Hanalei.  Oh, and plane spotters, the golf course at the Kauai Marriott offers some greate plane spotting views.

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

United Outsources 12 Airports

I'm often very excited about posting things about United, but today I'm feeling much more down.  United has been working hard to cut costs and return to the black.  Their solution is to cut costs by terminating the employment of their co-workers at 12 airports with mostly United Express service.  From what I understand, the current employees have jobs until September 30th, 2014.

The airports that will be outsourced:

  • Detroit, MI
  • Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Charleston, S.C.
  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • Columbus, OH
  • Des Moines, IA
  • El Paso, TX
  • Sioux Falls, S.D.
  • Wichita, KS
  • Pensacola, FL
  • Salt Lake City, UT
Note: Items that are bolded are cities that I regularly travel to.  Italicized cities are destinations I am about to start traveling to.

With the termination of these employees, there is a bright side.  United will be bringing back about 400 at some of the United hubs.  So, the 600+ employees being terminated will have the opportunity to take one of the 400 jobs if they are willing to relocate.  

What pains me is that I have come to know people in these cities as I have traveled.  They are friends of mine.  They are the people who take care of me.  I will greatly miss them.  This is a major blow to United, and the Flyer Friendly brand promise.

To all of those who have put in many years being Flyer Friendly, thank you for your service.  To those of you in CLT, DSM, and PNS who have helped me personally.... Thank You.

But, hey, I'm just a guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?