United Airlines offers its corporate customers a vow of punctuality
▶ United guarantees on-time flights for big corporate customers ▶ “If it were a short-term blip, we wouldn’t be making this” promise
United Airlines, which has spent much of the past three years near the back of the punctuality pack among U.S. carriers, would seem to be the last airline to guarantee business fliers they’ll arrive as scheduled. Yet United is promising its best corporate customers
it will be as reliable as American Airlines and Delta Air Lines next year, or offer credits for upgrades and fees. The guarantee is based on rising flight reliability rates that pushed the carrier to among the top half of its peers, says Jim Compton, United’s chief revenue officer. New union agreements also could speed performance. “If it were a short-term blip,” Compton says, “we wouldn’t be making this commitment.”
The offer, which follows a similar pledge by Delta last summer, marks a move beyond airfare discounts and available flights as the main reasons corporate travelers choose an airline. A key difference is that Delta’s credits can be used to pay fares, while United’s will be good only toward seat upgrades and other ancillary costs.
United had been mired in 10th place among 13 U.S. carriers for on-time arrivals for the 12 months ended in September, with a rate of 76.5 percent, according to U.S. government data. But its ranking jumped to fifth in September, with a rate of 86.2 percent. It logged similar rates in October and November, says researcher Flightstats.
The carrier’s new “global performance commitment” will cover domestic, international, and regional flights in 2016, while Delta’s includes just its domestic mainline operations. United will count flights as on time only if they meet or beat scheduled arrival times; Delta counts those that land within 14 minutes of their scheduled arrival. Delta spokesman Anthony Black says reaction to its guarantee program has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
United’s compensation would include upgrades to cushier Economy Plus seating, and waivers of change fees and charges for name changes (letting a company transfer a ticket to a different employee). Eligibility depends on how much travel a company does on United. Says Dave Hilfman, the carrier’s senior vice president for worldwide sales: “They find this has every bit of as much value as if we were offsetting fares.”
Edited by James E. Ellis Bloomberg.com The number of original TV series that Netflix says it plans to produce in 2016. The company has a budget of $5 billion for the year to develop and buy TV series and movies. The bottom line After rising to fifth place from 10th in on-time arrivals, United Airlines is trying arrival-time guarantees to woo corporate travelers.