Lots of UA changes (none of which are good)…. the marathon to the bottom has begun

A company memo was posted on FlyerTalk today (which is not a joke, sadly), highlighting some of the latest UA changes. I can now confidently say that UA’s race to the bottom has begun, and they’re winning so far!

Instead of me re-posting it here (and possibly having UA’s legal team involved), check out the link above.

Just a few thoughts:

  • We must be living in the Weimar Republic. Fresh snack items were still $5 a couple of months ago, and will be $9 in October. WOW!
  • I actually don’t have a huge problem with UA providing free BOB and booze in Business domestically. The part that will suck is that they’re going to FAA minimums. That means that a 767 will have FIVE flight attendants. That’s right, FIVE! Don’t count on a refill for your drink in business, that’s for sure.
  • No more pre-arrival snack on PS breakfast flights. Seriously, I think PS has had the quickest deterioration of any product I’ve ever seen. A few months ago they were pretty full service, and now they cut one FA in F, have tray service in F, got rid of the appetizer in C, got rid of menus, got rid of dessert choices, and all around ghetto-fied the meal service. Clearly it’s time to take the “Premium” out of PS.
  • I’m very saddened to read about them charging for meals from IAD to Europe. I’d probably prefer the BOB food anyway over the garbage they serve now, but it’s very sad to see UA, a carrier that has been a leader for so long, be the first to do this.

I hate to say it, but I think this might just be the beginning of the end, at least at the current rate. I can’t say it often enough, UA NEEDS a new management team. With Tilton at the helm UA’ll be gone soon, and that would be a very sad day.

Filed Under: United
  1. To be fair, oil prices have done a “Weimarer Republic” jump since last year, too (though more recently they have gone down again a bit).

  2. Very true Oliver, but that doesn’t mean it makes business sense to raise the prices on meals like that. There’s no doubt in my mind they were making money selling them at $5, and I’m sure they were making even more money selling them for $7. I thought it was a great deal at $5 and was willing to pay $7, but there’s no way in hell I’m paying $9 for a sandwich. My point is that I think this will hurt UA more than help them, and there’s simply a lot of disconnect between oil prices and charging for sandwiches (especially when oil prices have dropped a bunch in the past few weeks!).

  3. I agree that this is quite possibly the beginning of the end. I feel bad for people who’ve booked trips for next summer and will get an ugly surprise when they show up. No free dinner etc…

    One of the majors needs to go belly up to cut capacity domestically maybe UA will beat US to be that first one.

  4. Funny, I paid $9 for a sandwich last night at a local cafe. Sure, it included a cup of soup, but still, out here in the Bay Area $9 sandwiches aren’t anything special. Not that I am glad about it or anything, but it’s fairly indicative that $5 was too low of a price if you thought it was a good deal.

    Just look at what movie theaters charge for popcorn and soda … and while they have a similarly captive audience, they don’t have the same cost basis (e.g., getting the stuff up to 30,000 ft).

    Last weekend I flew SFO-PHX-SFO. Outbound on US, return on Ted. I bought a bottle of water at SFO and had a few sips during the 90 min flight, but it really didn’t bother me that they now sell $2 water/soda on US. It’s a small price and I can bring my own if needed. I am used to doing that when I fly internationally in Economy as I like to always have water available.

    People don’t like to get nickeled and dimed, but they also want cheap fares. Just look at your own blog — you want to travel in premium cabins for next to nothing (as you wrote the other day). Someone’s got to pay for that 😉

  5. Lucky- I thought UA would never do this. Now they are starting to be like US. UA has been a leader of USA airlines for so long and it will be sad to see them take such a fall. I have always flown them and will continue to but I would have to agree that if you are going to introduce a product (PS) and call it premium, keep it that way. I do not see any difference now between PS and IAD-LAX on the 777. I will never pay $9 for BOB and will never buy food on an TATL flight when it should be free.I would not go out of my way to fly PS. Now once i hit 1K insted of going for the extra SWUs. When I need to get to the west coast I will fly Virgin America.

    What needs to be done to get rid of Tilton?? I agree UA needs a change of Management. Good thing I can fly CO next year and make eilite status.

    UA has gone rock bottom.

  6. When you think that UA has hit rock bottom, they still top themselves with this.

    With all due respect, oil prices are falling and UA has increased prices for flights substantially, so that ol’ fuel prices excuse is starting to get old now.

  7. I’m curious what this will do to code shares and Star Alliance relationships. For example, Lufthansa is still offering full (multiple) mean service with free booze on its flights to the US. Will they really be happy with having the Lufthansa brand associated with travel at United’s sub-minimum service level?

    The only United long-haul that I will still fly is trans-Pacific, because it would be suicidal for them to try these kinds of cutbacks in those markets. Wouldn’t it? Hmmm, maybe I should reconsider.

  8. Geoff, that’s a good question. I would have thought the same problem would have come up when UA started charging for booze, since the Germany booking a “full service” airline like Lufthansa sure expect free booze, regardless of whether or not it’s an LH codeshare.

    I don’t think LH will be happy about this at all, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see LH get a lot more involved with CO once they join Star and a lot less involved with UA, although I’m not entirely convinced that the change will stick with UA….

    As for booze on TPAC flights, I’ve been hearing stuff…. I would expect it gone soon as well.

  9. The irony of it all: it’s seems UA will “fee” itself to death. Is the UA behemoth beginning its death throes? If somehow Tilton and his cronie are overthrown, will there be enough time or $$ left for new management to save the airline. Stayed tuned, folks!

  10. As I 1K, Million Mile flyer on United, I have to say I’m concerned for them. On the shuttle to the airport (for my fourth delayed flight in a row, all in the 3 hour delay range), a group of us were talking and the low cost carriers like Alaska and Jet Blue were getting the good reviews. The legacy carriers were all “stay away from them.”

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