An open letter to United’s CEO

May 23, 2014


I’ve reached the end of my rope. I’m done with United.

You are literally the worst experience I have with any company. Any.

TSA is a more delightful experience than flying United.
The DMV is a more delightful experience than flying United.
Root canal is a more delightful experience than flying United.

These are not hyperboles. I mean these quite literally.

Your company is awful.

I have more than 430,000 miles on United. Most companies would consider me a good customer.

I would think you’d want to court me. To induce me to fly your airline more.

Instead, you are doing backflips to make flying United as miserable as possible. You are making it harder for me to bring bags on board. Even bags designed to be carry-on bags! I come 10 minutes too late to check a bag. Back in the good old days, you would gate check it. Instead, you make me take a later flight. To another airport. So now, instead of the red-eye followed by a nap, I have a red-eye followed by meetings. Guess how happy I’ll be tomorrow.

I have no idea what you’re thinking. Yes, I imagine McKinsey has run the numbers for you and this will goose your short-term numbers. But do you really believe that any company can long survive when it makes its customers miserable?

And on top of that, consider what you’re doing to your employees. They begged me to send you this email. Because like decent people, they hate having to make customers miserable. They hate looking across the desk and having to unreasonably say no because of some arbitrary policy you created. They hate having to make some woman cry. Which apparently they just did. To a woman flying business class who was also not permitted to get on her flight and gate check her bag. Apparently she was crying on the curb at SFO. Because of you.

It doesn’t take Nostradamus to figure out that you have a fundamentally unsustainable business model. One that puts your perceived sense of success in direct opposition to the interests of your customers. Sooner or later, that is guaranteed to fail.

With me, it is guaranteed to fail starting now. I have another reservation or two on your airline. After that, I will go out of my way to avoid United.

It’s just too damn painful.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Adam Shatz June 20, 2014 at 10:28 AM

This was painful to read. Well written, the pain came from feeling true empathy for you and the poor woman on the curb. I’ve been there. Why is it that the airlines, a distressed industry if there ever was one, is still playing financial engineering and operational optimization to try and save themselves? Turning to empathy and re-imagining the travel experience through design would be SO much more effective. Dare I say that stellar customer experience might even allow them to raise prices without much complaint from the traveling public???
FWIW, I know (at least) two firms that could help United (and the rest) with this! 😉


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