Airlines Play the Blame Game and United’s Not-so-Red-Carpet Treatment

I’m writing this while sitting in the United Red Carpet lounge at O’Hare waiting for my flight to Minneapolis to attend our Small Airports Conference. I’m sitting in a group of people from everywhere watching the Germany-Spain World Cup semifinal. Another example of the airport as the new global town square.

Two airline-related items recently caught my eye:

First is the story of several airline CEO’s blaming government for their companies’ troubles. Blaming the government is fun and it is easy. Most people want to believe the government is wrong, so it is also an easy way to deflect attention from any role you might have played in creating your own problems.

The United Red Carpet Club at O'Hare International.

But I find this a little rich from an industry that accepted $5 billion and a loan guarantee program after 9/11; an industry that loves government protected special treatment on international routes when it can get such protection; an industry that has asked for more than $6 billion from Uncle Sam to pay for air traffic control equipage and an industry that lobbied me when I ran that presidential commission years ago in a futile attempt to get us to recommend a series of tax breaks and handouts. I just find it interesting.

The second thing just happened here. I was entering the club and a family was ahead of me. The father’s status did not entitle him to bring his (entire) family in with him (he has small children). So I offered to have some of them as my guests (I was entitled to two). The fellow at reception in a very serious tone accused me of contributing to the bankruptcy of United Airlines. It wasn’t a joke, but a serious comment.

I hope that was an isolated incident (the cabin crew on my flight into ORD was terrific by the way), but it was not a way to win friends and influence people.
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3 thoughts on “Airlines Play the Blame Game and United’s Not-so-Red-Carpet Treatment

  1. Very nice of you to host the family! A little lounge space and a couple of sodas is very inexpensive, potentially positive PR for United, they should be happy to do it.

    Being unhappy to do it is very BAD PR, in any business. I wonder where the attitude of some of these employees come from- they don’t realize that being an advocate, cheerleader and problem-solver of the customer is the best way to help their company – being a chiseling rat about tiny details causes more harm than good.

  2. Maybe the receptionist in the Red Carpet Lounge was having a bad day, but I doubt United is headed for bankruptcy with the Continental merger on the horizon. There’s no excuse for rude remarks to customers. They do, after all, help keep the paychecks coming. Seems to me United’s apologized more than once on Twitter for complaints about rude employees, although they’re not exactly unique to United.

  3. The counter guy was smart. I don’t want to see any young children in a lounge where I’m trying to relax!

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