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As I’ve written about many times, I’ve shifted the majority of my flying to Delta Air Lines this year. A big part of my decision was around service and the little extras that Delta offers to make its experience more premium. Now, this is the ultimate First World problem, but United can’t even get predeparture beverages right.
I’m fortunate to always fly in the pointy end of the plane. When I fly Delta, I know that 99.9% of the time that the flight attendant will greet me with a smile and offer me whatever beverage I want before we takeoff. On United, I’m lucky if this happens 10% of the time. When it does, it is a limited choice. United thinks it’s perpetually breakfast time and offers champagne, orange juice, and water all day long (again on only about 10% of the flights I’m on).
On my flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to LaGuardia Airport (LGA), no beverage was offered. We were on time, there was time to serve drinks, and the flight attendant brought the pilots a coffee and club soda, but First Class passengers got nothing. This was the same on my last flight to Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL), to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), and the list goes on.
Why Can Other Airlines Manage This but Not United?
I think it comes down to actually caring about doing a good job. This is not to say that all United flight attendants don’t care, but many of them are complacent and figure that they shouldn’t do the basics when their colleagues are not.
United has even steered away from trying to be great. Its latest ad campaign touts that “good leads the way.” After many years as a Global Services member, I’m glad that I sparingly fly United. I’ll likely still make Premier 1K® this year based on spend (because flights are expensive at the moment), but I’m not looking to fly the airline any more than I absolutely have to and Delta has picked up tickets purchased in Delta One® to Italy and Peru among many other domestic flights. I’ll hit Diamond Medallion and think I’ll be happier with that status than I was when I was a member of United’s secret society (Global Services).
It’s the little things that set an airline apart. I’ll always fondly look back at the Delft houses collected from KLM flights or the rubber ducks I got in the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. With United, I look back and wonder why I spent so many years and so much money on such a sub-par product.
Anthony’s Take: It shouldn’t be this difficult to get a predeparture beverage. Once the current travel insanity dies down, we’ll see if United tries to up its game or will always be content to be just good because it’s certainly not leading the way.
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