Follow along with me. Near the beginning of 2018, United Airlines made some reductions in the meal service on certain domestic first class flights. Then, less than two weeks ago, United cut meal service even further. Except it really wasn’t 100% clear what they were cutting.
While my brain was still hurting trying to figure out what exactly they were cutting, United reversed course. They announced that they were reversing the previous cuts, or at least some of them. Meal service gets expanded a bit on those shorter flights over 3 hours in first class. But, according to Live And Let’s Fly, the service does not get restored to the levels from the beginning of the year. He wonders out loud if maybe that was the plan, to cut twice and restore once, thus getting some cuts to meal service in.
Was This The Plan?
Was this the plan by United all along? Did they lay out a plan to cut domestic first class meal service more than once, then roll back some of the cuts? It’s an interesting theory, but I don’t really think that’s the case here. I don’t want to be overly critical. However, I think it’s more likely United just underestimated how much pushback they’d get from customers.
It’s not the first time United has rolled out a change only to roll it back. In early March, United told their employees that they were changing a key bonus plan, making it less rewarding for team members. After predictable negative feedback, they swiftly changed course, restoring the bonuses.
United CEO Oscar Munoz seems to get that he needs to work on the airline’s culture. He passed up a large bonus recently to try to help set the right tone with employees. Airlines, like any business, need the ability to make negative changes at times to stay competitive. Untied just seems more willing to dip their toe into controversial change, only to take the lumps and roll back the changes. It’s the worst of both worlds. They don’t get the desired cost savings, but they absorb the bad PR.