United airlines but not united systems


St. Louis is a wonderful city to explore. The architecture, the history, the people and the magnificence of the Mississippi (I can hear myself spelling m-i-ss-i-ss-i-pp-i as I had done as a child while skipping rope). And do not forget the arch, the gateway to the west, whose picture you can see and which I took this morning on the way to the west and my home.

Alas I find myself at Lambert Field, the airport not the ball park, where the scenery is rather more mundane. I’ve been here since 08:00h for a flight to Denver that has still yet to arrive. Now I am going to San Francisco and there are many ways to get there from here.

Now I am a fan, a huge fan, of United Airlines. I travel much and The Star Alliance is my global home. United takes very good care of me and their service is impeccable, predictable and entirely adequate for my needs. I have found myself admonishing fellow passengers for bad-mouthing United when some wholly unreasonable expectation has not been met.

From time to time, weather, mechanics, traffic density, even volcanoes (see banner picture), interfere with the good running of the schedule. I am a mellow passenger, after all I have seen it all, so when a delay occurs I can always find things to do. Like blogging.

So it comes as a surprise to me when United doesn’t solve the easy problems the easy way. Today is STL-DEN-SFO. But the STL-DEN flight is now delayed 4 hours. In those four hours 2 flights to Chicago have departed. So why didn’t United rebook me on STL-ORD-SFO? Well because the routing is different.

I did receive a call, as I knew I would, from Gloria at Global Services telling me they had been monitoring my flight and had “protected” me on the next flight out of Denver in case I missed, as is almost certain, my connection there. Now this is great service, and I’m sorry you don’t get this too, but it is rather myopic service. Really United Global Services should have been gaming the options even when the first delay occurred.

A much better call to get would have been “if you stick with your routing you’ll be in San Francisco at 7:30 pm but we can get you there by 5:30 if you go via Chicago.” I was supposed to be there at 3:30 by the way.

So United have the systems to track their most valuable passengers, people like me, and they are willing to call me up and let me know they are taking care of me. They are just not ready to start thinking outside the routing.

This is the classic problem with modern systems. They are too often designed to give the one answer and not to offer up alternatives that may seem foolish to a computer, or even a travel agent, or even a United gate agent but not to a seasoned passenger.

Time to pay United a visit I think …

About Kevin

In the past year Kevin has spoken at 20 conferences and seminars on a range of leading IT topics, including methodologies, business analysis, quality assurance techniques, governance, open source issues, tool interoperability, release management, DevOps, Agile, ITIL, from the mainframe to distributed platforms to the web, mobile, wearable and embedded systems. He is a much sought after speaker, recognized around the world for his provocative and entertaining style. Kevin is a 40 year industry veteran, holder of three technology patents and today is VP of Worldwide Marketing and Chief Evangelist at leading Application Development and Deployment vendor Serena Software. In the past decade he has been crossing the globe and has met with over 4,000 people. At Serena he works closely with industry analysts, the press, customers, partners and employees to exchange ideas about industry direction and business issues. He was born and educated in the UK and lives and works in the Bay Area, California.
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