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United Pilots Get Personal

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United Pilots Get Personal

Old 10th May 2006, 02:06
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United Pilots Get Personal

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...050801330.html

United Pilots Get Personal

By: Keith L. Alexander

Tuesday, May 9, 2006; D01

That impersonal voice from the cockpit -- "This is the captain speaking" -- is getting friendlier at United Airlines.

Pilots at the carrier are stepping up a campaign of friendliness in a bid to win customers' hearts -- and loyalty.

Under the program, you'll be more likely to see an actual pilot at the gate to explain to you why your flight is delayed. While airborne, frequent fliers may find a flight attendant pressing a note from the pilot into their hands: a personal thank-you for being aboard. And kids traveling alone will in some cases be offered a chance to call home while in flight, using a pilot's credit card.

United's pilots hope the initiative will boost passengers' satisfaction with the airline.

"We're the CEO's direct ambassador," said Bud Potts, United's first officer and flight operations supervisor. "Some folks want to get that eye contact. It's like when you go into a store and the clerk doesn't make eye contact with you. You may not feel like you want to be there."

The pilots also are hoping to win some affection for themselves. Their warmer touch could translate into a bigger bonus. United awards bonuses based on passenger surveys conducted each quarter by an outside research firm. The size of the pilots' bonuses depends on how much they surpass the airline's internal goals for customer satisfaction.

Potts and Denny Flanagan, a United 757 and 767 captain, are leading efforts to motivate the carrier's 6,400 pilots to be more of a presence for customers.

Flanagan says he has flight attendants pass out cards to all passengers in first class, and he includes his e-mail address. He says he receives about six to 10 responses a week from passengers who he says appreciate the gesture. "The majority of people really don't want to fly. They should have a good travel experience when they're on the airplane. So we try to treat each customer as if it was the first time they've ever flown," Flanagan said.

But some passengers have long memories and may be less receptive. It's been six years since United's pilots outraged travelers by refusing to work overtime during bitter contract disputes in the midst of the busy summer travel season. United was forced to cancel 25,000 flights.

Rockville management consultant Evan Leepson said he received a card from the captain on his April 26 flight from Reagan National to Chicago. The card read: "Mr. Leepson, we appreciate your business. . . . Thank you for flying United."

The card wasn't terribly personal. Instead of a phone number or e-mail address, it had a post office box at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Leepson said he thought the gesture was "nice" but was basically a waste of time. "I think it's stupid. It's peripheral to the real issues such as getting me to my destination safely and on time," he said. "Those are the satisfiers, not handing me a business card."

United pilots also pass out trading cards with a picture of the aircraft and facts about it, such as the name, size and other details. At the bottom of the card is a note to travelers thanking them for flying the airline. As with the business cards, United's pilots pass out the cards to only United's top frequent fliers. The airline reimburses the pilots for printing their cards.

For the past 20 years or so, about 10 percent of United's pilots handed out the business cards to passengers. During layovers, most pilots would review the passenger manifest and identify which passengers were top frequent fliers. The pilot would then write a personal note thanking them for flying the carrier. The current campaign hopes to broaden card-giving by pilots.

It also aims to reach a bit into the pilots' wallets. To place phone calls for unaccompanied children on board, the pilots give their personal credit card to a flight attendant who swipes the card in the in-flight phone. The pilots receive a discount for use of Verizon air phones but are not reimbursed by United for the calls. Flight attendants police the calls to make sure the kids don't stay on too long. "You don't want them talking too much about what they had for lunch on the flight," Potts said.

Mary M. Duffy, a Menlo Park, Calif., food service consultant and frequent flier, said she could "care less" about interacting with pilots. "I just want to make sure the pilots are in their seats, sober and ready to fly. I don't need to know if he or she has a warm personality."

At a time when passengers are paying higher fares and have more fees for curbside luggage check-in, meals and other amenities, Arlington consultant Jeff De Cagna said business cards and other gestures won't be met with "anything but cynicism by most people."

But some passengers said they would appreciate such contact, especially those who are nervous about flying or who want to learn more about the flight.

Frequent flier Steve McDuffie of Richland, Wash., said he likes being able to get a sense of the personality behind the person operating the plane. "Normally, it makes a passenger more at ease."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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Old 10th May 2006, 04:09
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Yep, looks like those boys got a little "attitude adjustment" after all they did to chase business away in 2000...
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Old 10th May 2006, 04:43
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Yo, Bubba! You Tennessee boys sure are smug, aintcha?
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Old 10th May 2006, 05:52
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Well, as the article says:

"...But some passengers have long memories and may be less receptive. It's been six years since United's pilots outraged travelers by refusing to work overtime during bitter contract disputes in the midst of the busy summer travel season. United was forced to cancel 25,000 flights."

I was one of those passengers, I haven't bought a United ticket since then.
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Old 10th May 2006, 11:27
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Crew/customer interaction comes with the fourth stripe. This is a practice that should be customary, and not suggested, nor is it a novel idea.

When a flight is delayed I talk to the passengers at the boarding gate. Honest information... thatís all the passengers want... is honest information. Will the passengers be happy when they get to their destination? Letís say theyíre not as unhappy because I keep the passengers informed of the situation. Also I as the skipper owe it to my back end crew too. Flight attendants don't need the abuse from any dissatisfied customers. This solidifies the team concept of all crewmembers on the jet alike.

And guess what.... I've been doing this for almost 30 years and I'm not with UAL!

Good thing UAL does not have the copywrites on customer relations... or we could be sued under the copywrite laws
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Old 10th May 2006, 14:26
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Crew/customer interaction comes with the fourth stripe.
Then why doesn't the flight deck care that every announcement they make comes across as garbled gibberish to the pax in back? Have they bothered to ask the CC if they can be understood? As an audio engineer I would hope my ears are indeed perceptive, but well over half of the time I wind up with something like: "welcome aboard flight ausghfo, I'm caiusdgfa, adhfouadfaf nb fhufs bvfo oshvb sdmkvsafjnvcv.asmvnlvmnc." My god man, remove the microphone from the back of your throat and speak clearly. It can't be that much noiser in the cockpit than it is in the cabin...
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Old 10th May 2006, 14:28
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Say what?!

The Company expects the Captain to hand over his credit card so that some little no-neck monster can call home? What planet are these people on? If this is such a hot idea why shouldn't they have a Company phone card available? Some little weasel will get the Tokyo Speaking Clock on the line, sure as eggs is eggs.
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Old 10th May 2006, 15:16
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Originally Posted by Air-Geko
My god man, remove the microphone from the back of your throat and speak clearly.
The PA systems on newer aircraft are far superior to those of the older generation aircraft. I fly quite often as both pilot and passenger and have no problems hearing the captain or crew when making announcements. The PA is not a piece of equipment for your enterntainment. Its primarily for your safety. If a PA system is scratchty or distorted, it is report to mx for immediate repair.

Perhaps you have your sound system turned up to high. After all, to many dbs can harmful to your hearing.
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Old 10th May 2006, 15:18
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Originally Posted by chuks
The Company expects the Captain to hand over his credit card so that some little no-neck monster can call home?
That part of the story has not been confirmed by any UAL crewmembers yet. Therefore that part can be discounted until we hear the true poop.
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Old 10th May 2006, 15:19
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If your name was Bud Potts would you not prefer to call yourself "First Officer' on the PA system...???
Apologies if this does not amount to a "constructive" posting.........
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Old 10th May 2006, 15:34
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Thanks for the warning to/for all to wear appropriate hearing protection in noisy environments. As an engineer who specializes in recordings of classical music, I'm not too worried about "too many decibels" out of a typical chamber ensemble. As a side note, I was recently asked my my local municipality to take sound pressure measurements regarding the outdoor paging system at a local car dealer's lot. It seems the neighbors had been complaining about the disruptive volume of the pages being made. I arrived and took my measurements on a calibrated and certified machine. I turned my findings in to city hall, and had revealed that one of the neighbor's lawn mowers two yards away was far louder than any of the pages being made!

Edited to add, I've never had a problem understanding the CC making their safety announcements, but announcements from the flight deck have definately been hit-or-miss.
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Old 10th May 2006, 22:14
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Originally Posted by chuks
Some little weasel will get the Tokyo Speaking Clock on the line, sure as eggs is eggs.
How do you know I did that? Who have you been talking to!
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Old 11th May 2006, 04:31
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About PAs which are difficult to understand.

It is rare that cabin crew tell us that they are not clear, but we don't know whether they are too busy to listen, or whether they are up in the galley during the PAs, where there is always more wind noise.
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Old 11th May 2006, 13:44
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The PA is not a piece of equipment for your enterntainment. Its primarily for your safety. If a PA system is scratchty or distorted, it is report to mx for immediate repair
I'll tell you what - there is one airline in Australia that encourages its FA to "entertain" its "guests" by acting as in-flight comedians from the time the engines are started until close down. Example from male FA "Our beautiful girls welcome you aboard and I am pretty, too." or There is a whistle on your lifejacket which you can blow to attract passing sailors."
Or "Flight attendants please take your seats for landing and hold hands."
And this crap is officially sanctioned....
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Old 11th May 2006, 15:16
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Ahh Centaurus, it sounds like you've got the Aussie version of America's Southwest airlines. That sort of stuff is par for the course... I've only been on two SW flights but I remember one speech reminding us that "In the event of a water landing our seat cushions could be used as a floatation device. Simply kick - paddle, kick - paddle all the way to dry land. And upon reaching dry land, feel free to keep your seat cushion as a souvenier courtesy of Southwest."
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Old 11th May 2006, 16:13
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[T]here is one airline in Australia that encourages its FA to "entertain" its "guests" [....]
Also tried by "Song," the Delta low cost splinter.

Referred to their F/A's as "talent." It was macabre, requiring humorous chatter after all those years of culling the personality out of the ranks.

At the launch party the VP in charge led an "impromptu" conga line to show just how fun they all were. Like watching Baptists at an open bar, it was....
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Old 11th May 2006, 20:09
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Originally Posted by weasil
How do you know I did that? Who have you been talking to!
Probably weasel junior
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Old 11th May 2006, 21:25
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Originally Posted by Centaurus
"Flight attendants please take your seats for landing and hold hands."
And this crap is officially sanctioned....
All safety briefings are conducted by flight attendnats with the utmost professionalism from before engine start to door slides being crossed check. What goes on in between is fair game. Most passengers do enjoy the light entertainment. Soutwest Airlines, a major US carrier provides the same type of program too. Good morale for the passengers. True there are some passengers such as yourself prefer the standard flight attendant briefings without the frills.
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Old 11th May 2006, 22:50
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Hello, this is your Capting speaking.
Just enjoy your meals and relax and meanwhile I will tell you a funny story happend to us last week when we lost one engine just after V1 on a takeoff from Quito, Ecuador...........
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Old 12th May 2006, 02:09
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Originally Posted by CargoOne
Hello, this is your Capting speaking.
Just enjoy your meals and relax and meanwhile I will tell you a funny story happend to us last week when we lost one engine just after V1 on a takeoff from Quito, Ecuador...........
Quito?! That's what I call over-egging the pudding...

R1
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