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:
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
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?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What makes Delta look so good to a United Flyer.

See more of my photos on Instagram
Wow, right?  For a blog that primary focus is on United Airlines (with a side of Taco Bueno), it's strange to think that I would title a post like that.  I know that everyone is frustrated with changes to the Mileage Plus redemption structure, but I still believe it is the best Airline Loyalty program out there.  So, what could make me walk away?

Last year I accrued 170 thousand EQM (elite qualifying miles), and 221 EQS (elite qualifying segments).  I only needed 100K in miles and 120 points to get to Premier 1K (learn about United's status levels here).  So what happens at the end of the year to those left over points and miles?  Nothing.  It's all for not.  I almost stopped flying United once I made 1K so that I could earn something more than miles.  You see, I love to set goals, and now all I'm working for are additional upgrades that I rarely use.

Marriott has given rollover nights for years.  What ever I earn after my 75 nights, rolls to the next year.  This is the most amazing thing in the world for me because it allows me the freedom to not have to travel as hard one year if I'm needing to be at the office more.

Here's the kicker... Delta does it.  Read this:

ROLLOVER MQMS

It’s easier to earn status with the only Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) that roll right into the next year. This exclusive Medallion benefit allows you to keep MQMs earned above your qualification level at the end of the year to help qualify for Medallion status the following year.
Don't believe me... read it here (scroll down to the rollover mqm section).  For me, it's worth being able to work towards next year's program today.  I know that I will ever switch airlines.  But, just maybe, United will read this and consider it.

Beyond earning Status...
Screen Shot from Delta's Website.
So this year I became a Global Services Member on United.  There's a lot of people who speculate on how to get GS, but it's pretty straight forward.  Spend a lot of money.  An airline is just like any other company, they need to meet certain bottom line goals.  To do that, United needs people to purchase F, A, Y, and B fares (I point these out because they make the most money).  So why don't they do things to encourage that?

When Delta announced their 2015 SkyMiles program I actually got excited.  The whole idea is stolen right out of Southwest's playbook.  Earn miles based on spend, not miles traveled.  And then they give bonuses based on what status the person is.  To get status they have to spend money.  It is a beautiful thing for a business, and even better for a flyer like me.

Ask United, they will tell you that I spend a lot of money with them.  Think about how much I would love to earn those types of miles.

But the truth is I won't be switching to Delta.  I still don't believe that their redemption rate is better, nor do I believe that their service or route structure matches United's.  More importantly, I believe that United is, on all accounts, the best airline in the world -- from customer service, to fleet, to loyalty program.  It just makes me think.
But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?
Delta takes a play right out of Southwest's playbook.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The United Fleet

Do you ever wonder what's going on with the plane you are flying on?  What is its history?  There is a great resource for that if you fly United:

The United Airlines Fleet Website is a great place to learn all about the plane you are traveling on.  I highly suggest that you go visit.

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

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Airlines and Profit

Disclaimer: Anyone who has ever spent more than 5 seconds on this blog knows I am obsessed with United.  You know that I admire Jeff, his team, and everything about the airline. That being said, the things I'm going to say below are not directed at United, but at the airline industry as a whole.

Need stock photos?  I sell some at iStock!
The Golden Days Are Gone.
I often sit at my kitchen table at home and look at my Genealogy of US Airlines poster.  I think back to when air travel was something special.  Now don't get too excited, because I've never dressed up just to get on a plane.  The days when the customer was king are long since gone.

I love Free Enterprise.  I love that in America companies can work hard to earn their money the way they want.  Now that all of the mergers are started or behind us, the fear is that US based airlines are going to become focused on one thing - the almighty dollar.

I heard a rumor last night that one of the major airlines is considering replacing their ramp employees with outsourced labor.   This was an effort to cut costs, but at what cost?

Save a Buck now, or make a million later?
CEOs world over look for ways to make their company more profitable today.  But often they are near sighted.  Our fast food world has bled into the way we think about making money.  How much money can I make TODAY?  A move like the one I described as to do with making money today and not creating a lasting legacy.

The economics are pretty simple: Customer Satisfaction brings more long-term money than cutting expenses ever can.

Let's just say the airline mentioned above is United.  Here's the scenario:

Post-merger, both sCO and sUA employees and customers have been highly dissatisfied with the changes.  Each feel like a part of their culture was ripped away from them (and it was).  Jeff had one very important job: create a new culture that everyone could get behind.  Since the single reservation system on March 3rd, 2012, the culture and customer satisfaction have improved.  However, with the CLE announcement, sCO folks are up in arms again.  The question is really, "what's next?"

So let's say Jeff decides to outsource ramp work.  In an already unstable environment, employees see half of their co-workers get fired.  The remaining employees become constantly afraid of losing their jobs.  That fear manifests itself into frustration that is often taken out on the customers.  With lack of customer service already being the biggest complaint among United travelers, United can't afford any more customer service problems.  This sends satisfaction ratings on a downward spiral.  Customers begin to look elsewhere.  They see fun and exciting cultures on Virgin America and Southwest.  They leave.  United falls.

Anyone remember TWA or PanAm?
"Too big to fail" is the ultimate downfall.  A CEO who believes that he can fire half of his staff and still keep his employees and customers happy must be living in Colorado (you know, because he's stoned out of his mind).  Look at the three remaining legacy carriers.  Each of them has huge market share, but none of them are the best.  Any one of them could make a few changes and not only become profitable, but also become sustainable -- or any one of them could fall to the perils I talked about.  Who knows, we might see a surge with the LCCs, and the legacies may fall to Aviation History.

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