Research Related to United Airlines: Customer Service is a Top Priority
At the turn of the twentieth century, two geniuses Wilbur and Orville Wright invented a machine in which humans could operate to fly in. Since the invention of flying, traveling has never been the same; the aviation industry makes traveling to a destination faster and more efficient. The aviation industry continues to improve the technology used in domestic and international travel, as well as everything that goes into riding on one of its airplanes. United Airlines is no less different than many of its competitors.
It provides transportation for passengers and cargo by using jet aircrafts. United Airlines contracts with other companies to provide regional jet and turboprop services, as well as other services such as selling jet fuel, catering, ground handling, and maintenance (“United Continental Holdings, Inc.”, 2018). “The company operates over 4,500 flights a day to approximately 338 airports including 216 domestic destinations and 122 international destinations and serves 49 countries” (Business Source Complete, 2018). It strives to “unite the world by connecting people to the moments that matter most. This shared purpose drives us to be the best airline for our employees, customers and everyone we serve” (“Our Shared Purpose”, 2018, Connecting people section para. 1). United Airlines values its customers because that is where the majority of the company’s revenue is received.
United Airlines can trace its roots as far back as 1926, when Walter Varney founded Varney Airlines in Boise, Idaho. Since then, United Airlines has undergone many different name changes and company holdings to get to where it is today. Throughout United Airlines history, it continues to have many first’s regarding technology. United Airlines boasts about the technology the company uses as it was the first to use electronic flight simulators and computers to plan a flight path. It then went on to include TV’s for passengers aboard its Jets in the 1960’s (“United Airlines: First in Aviation”, 2018).
United Airlines Negatives
United Airlines has multiple threats and weaknesses including customer satisfaction, effects of climate change, competition, a significant debt burden, and government regulation. All business entities that deal with industries related to the handling of humans should make customer service its top priority. United Airlines has claimed over and over again that it values its customers. However, time and time again it falls short on behalf of customer satisfaction.
In a world where cell phones are among the most accessible items we carry, it is easy to capture everyday moments. In 2017, several phones captured a man being drug off of a United Airlines flight. This not only caught the attention of aircraft guests, airline employees and other united customers, but it also caught the attention of competitors. One middle-eastern based airline was not shy about speaking out when their president used words such a “shame” and “disgrace” when talking of the incident.
To make matters worse in response to the videos that were instantly across a variety of social media outlets, the CEO of the company also took to twitter. He apologized for the “re-accommodation” of customers regarding the incident. Not only were their videos of the man being drug off of the aircraft, the CEO indicated that the incident may not have been as bad as it seemed without doing research of his own. This tweet was not well received by several people over social media and even instigated a protest against the airline via twitter.
Disciplinary action was inevitable as the passenger claimed to be profiled due to his race and had hit his head on an armrest while being forcefully taken off the airplane. The incident led to the suspension of the officer who drug the man off of the plane. However, the article suggests that the man played a part in the incident after refusing to exit the aircraft after several attempts to talk him in a calm manner. Regardless of the initial attempt to get the man off of the plane, there is no denying the public relations disaster that it instituted for the airline company.
This is a relatively recent example of poor customer service that the airline has developed a reputation. While there are many other incidents, this one seems to hit home the point that something will need to instigate change from the top of the company down the chain of employees.
Alternatively, United Airlines is facing threats concerning climate change. United Airlines has hubs in many cities around the United States. However, in 2017 it had the grand misfortune of having one of its largest hubs located in Houston, Texas. This was where the devastating Hurricane Harvey took place (Zhange, 2018). Along the same lines, the airlines industry contributes to an “estimated 2 to 3 percent of all manmade CO2 emissions (Economy, 2018). The airline industry is getting bad press because of this. Scientists have made accusations that the airline industry is the leading cause of human related climate change.
Another negative threat is the amount of competition United Airlines faces in the airline industry. The company’s biggest competitors are American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Air France, and Qatar Airways Company (“United Continental Holdings”, 2018). It is essential to be competitive in the airline market to have competitive fares when people are booking their next flight. This in turn leads to price wars between competing airlines that can lead to decreased revenue in the company.xxxx
Another negative aspect is that United Airlines has had decreased revenue which has led to an increased debt burden. A financial statement which tracked the growth of the company over a five-year timeline from 2013 to June of 2018 showed an 18.1 percent decrease in total revenue from 2014 to June of 2018 (Netadvatage Financials, 2018). At the end of 2017, United had 15,248,000( dollars of long term debt (“Long term debt,” 2018). However, with this being said, United Airlines had undergone a lot of risk associated with the investment of a new line of airplanes. Time will tell if this huge debt burden will prove to be a strength or a weakness. However, currently we have deemed this excessive amount of debt is a threat.
Lastly, government regulation has led to significant costs for United Airlines. Airlines are held to the regulations set by the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) (“Company Profile”, 2017). An airline company cannot operate without a passing certificate from the DOT. These certificates are extremely costly to obtain. Not to mention, the costs associated with complying with the laws, rules, and regulations regarding these government organizations. Again tracing back to United Airlines significant debt burden that the company currently possesses which is a negative aspect regarding this company.
United Airlines Positives
United Airlines has multiple strengths and opportunities, including accessibility to a worldwide customer base, enhanced technology, strong customer values, and proved safety and reliability.
United Airlines is a member of Star Alliance and the co-founder of this group of airlines. Star Alliance is a network of airlines connected around the world. Accessibility to regional and international airlines is much easier because it has such strong alliances. Because it has made such strong alliances all over the world, it makes United’s flight frequencies much greater and more convenient for its customers. This has led to United’s access to customers all over the world, which in turn will lead to greater profitability in years to come.
United Airlines continues to implement new and enhanced technology to its company. In February of 2017, it announced that it would debut a new string of Boeing 777-300ER’s that will fly from New York to San Francisco. These airplanes are equipped to have better fuel efficiency, an upgraded interior, better range, and improved comfort for customers (“United Airlines. Firsts in Aviation”, 2018). To upgrade United’s technology even more, in July of 2017, it announced an agreement with Boeing to convert 100 of its 737 Mac 9 airplane orders to Boeings more enhanced 737 Mac 10. The 737 Mac 10 has better fuel efficiency and increased range. This has placed United airlines as a frontrunner as a Mac 10 customer and in the aviation industry as its technology is among the best in the world (“United Airlines, Firsts in Aviation”, 2018). This announcement to implement these aircrafts into its fleet has displayed United’s dedication to improving its technology to try and be face of better technology in the airline industry.
Public Relations Management Suggestions
When it comes to public relations management, particularly in today’s society, one area that United Airlines needs to work on is social media. According to (in text citation), after the incident in which the doctor was drug off of the aircraft, the CEO took to social media. Without a plan or thinking about what repercussions the lash out may have, it backfired on the airline. We believe that it is absolutely imperative to make sure to use language in an objective manner to make sure the point they are trying to make is clear.
In this case, the CEO of the airline company used the word “re-accommodate.” The word choice was not well received by the public and the company received negative feedback. In this case especially, we recommend that United Airlines take the time to not only come up with a PR crisis plan overall and a crisis plan specifically for social media. Social media is a huge communication tool in today’s society and can have information out to millions of people within seconds, constituting a crisis plan regarding social media to be a high priority.
Regarding legal issues, we recommend that the company remain as transparent and objective as possible. While there have been many mistakes in the past of this company, the business is still thriving. By taking steps to make sure their crisis plan is in line with its mission statement and goals, the company will be better suited to handle when situations arise. In addition to this, we also recommend that they have in depth customer service trainings annually, particularly to employees that will be on the aircrafts, to further efforts in reducing the amount of issues.
Like all things, United Airlines certainly has their strengths and weaknesses. Following this research project, we think that given the right management and some better direction, it will be able to further avoid public relations disasters and continue to move forward in a positive light. A well derived plan will aid the publics of the airline including its customers, employees and other airline companies by laying out how they will handle such situations and prove their integrity. By implementing crisis plans and delegating time for trainings regarding customer service, United Airlines will be able to go above and beyond to become a top airline competitor.
United Airlines, like all companies has its strength and weaknesses. But with proper management and public relations, the weaknesses and threats can be reduced and overcome, and the strengths and weaknesses can come crashing through the glass ceiling holding them. By following our recommendations, United Airlines can continue to profit, making their stock prices skyrocket, which satisfying the myriad of customers that use United Airlines daily to make their travels more convenient and easier.
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