I have been a loyal United Airlines flyer for over 10 years. This loyalty has been driven primarily by the fact that I live in San Francisco – a United hub. However, I have clearly bought into the various perks that United puts in place to keep me coming back. I appreciate being able to board in Zone 1. I am happy to chill out in the Gold lounges across the globe. I am thrilled with the upgrades to business class – in fact, six of my last seven flights were upgraded. Pretty hard to beat that.
(This is a guest post from TravelSkills reader C.K.)
Yet, despite all the focus United has on paying extra special attention to its most loyal flyers, I was disappointed with an experience that happened on my last flight.
I was flying in business class from Sydney, Australia to San Francisco – returning from a quick week-long trip catching up with family and friends. I had been monitoring my Mileage Plus account and I knew that I was getting pretty close to hitting my 1 Million miles flown with United. For those familiar, you’ll know that United celebrates this event by awarding the flyer (and a companion) with lifetime Gold status. Meaning, forever lounge access on international flights; forever fast track; forever priority boarding. Pretty cool!
As I was settling in for the 13-hour flight back to San Francisco, the Inflight Service Manager came over and welcomed me by name to the flight. She then noted that my name had a gold star next to it. These days, United flight attendants are using mobile devices connected to the Wi-Fi onboard to access real-time flight information, including passenger details. In this way, the flight attendant was able to click and find out why my name had been marked with a gold star. Her device confirmed for her that in the course of this flight, I would hit my 1 million miles with United. She turned to me and said, “You’re hitting your million miles. High five!”. We exchanged a high five and she then said, “I’m not too sure what that gets you…”. Nonetheless, she welcomed me again and then continued on with her work greeting other passengers.
Now, I don’t want to be a diva about this. But I would have thought that hitting a million miles would warrant more than a high five. Further, shouldn’t the Inflight Service Manager actually know what it gets you? And even if she didn’t know, you would think that she could make it up. For example, offering a glass of champagne (okay, this one they already do as part of business class), or asking the pilot to come by and say congratulations and thank you, or even offering you a photo with the pilots in the cockpit to commemorate this milestone.
I wasn’t expecting them to have a cake in my honor, or a card with my name on it, or anything like that – since I realize the logistics of doing that are far too complicated. However, since they are now arming flight attendants with the information that a passenger has reached this milestone, they should also arm flight attendants with guidance on how to thank the passenger for all those years of loyalty.
For an airline obsessed with going the extra mile to build loyalty, this was a simple fail in my book. I’m not too sure what I was expecting and nor do I know how often passengers reach this milestone. Perhaps these days it’s no big deal given the amount people fly. In my case, not content with my high-five, I decided I would create my own celebration by enjoying many glasses of champagne over the course of those next 13 hours
–C.K.- new member to United’s Million Mile Club
So readers, what do you think? Is a high-five enough recognition for a newly minted United Million Miler? If you are a million miler, are you satisfied with the level of recognition you get (or got) from United? Please leave your comments below.