Why United Trails American & Delta 4 Years into the Merger

by Adam

In my two most recent United trip posts to Europe, I remarked that “operated by your Continental crew” was the greeting still being used by Newark flight crews, sort of amazing four years into a merger. I remember the first year or so when this was happening and sort of expected. I never thought that in 2015 it would still be going on and that employees would view themselves as members of two separate teams!

Michael Sasso of BloombergBusiness has an article titled – “United Trails American as Merger Benefits Fail to Show”, which takes a look at why United has had so many more problems than Delta and how American is already eclipsing United in terms of merger benefits.  Check out the full article in the link above. Some of my favorite quotes and notes that I was able to republish:

  • For investors, the deal’s benefits have been as slow to appear as some tardy United jets. Costs still exceed the industry average. American Airlines’ profit through five quarters is expected to exceed the profit United has made in the four years since its tie-up with Continental.
  • …More than four years into the merger with Continental Airlines, United ranks next to last in J.D. Power’s 2014 airline satisfaction ranking, is No. 1 among major airlines in bumping passengers involuntarily and ranked only eighth or ninth out of 14 carriers in on-time arrivals through most of last year.
  • American Airlines’ profit through five quarters exceeding the profit United has made in the four years since its tie-up with Continental. United is No. 4 in the U.S. industry by market value, even though it’s the world’s second-biggest airline based on passenger traffic.
  • “It truly feels like we’re emerging from this metaphorical conference room, where we’ve been stuck in a merger,” said Brian Znotins, who plots United’s schedule as vice president of network.

Recent United posts:

United - Continental

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DavidB February 9, 2015 - 10:27 am

Sitting in the UC at ORD waiting for my flight to HKG/SIN after a harrowing Sunday getting an alternate flight to ORD from YYZ after UA cancelled my original Monday routing via EWR due to weather (understandable, very good 1K phone agent fixed me up). Will be flying a UA 777 and crew to HKG and a CO 777 and crew back (to EWR). Last time I did this, there was a definite difference, not only because the CO planes have a superior biz seat, but the crew was just so positive and keen while the UA crew was rather perfunctory in their attitude. Nothing bad just didn’t come off the same as the CO crew. Yes, I do find it odd that many (CO) gate agents are still referring to Presidents Club elite status tiers when listing who can board in which group, but at the same time it says to me that the good stuff of CO is still there and those employees are proud of the product they’re giving us. Over on the other side (and it is still a distinct split) the UA staff — while many are very good and customer friendly — tend to go through their day and work as if they’re the defeated, occupied power, just getting it done and trying not to assimilate into the “conqueror’s” culture.

Now this is not to say the CO management that took over at UA are the same as their front line staff. I still have doubts about many of the decisions made recently, particularly decimating MileagePlus with several bad moves (which might have appeared smart since DL did them first!). Not sure there is a solution for UA’s problems. While I still fly enough to make 1K, I fly enough to also earn ExecPlat over at AA and that is becoming my preferred carrier…but this year my UA/STAR flying will be halved (I’ll settle for Gold, possibly Platinum) and I’ll give AS some of my western US business. Change is difficult for an older work force, and I sense this is at the root of the problem with UA where it is the UA staff that is a generation or two older than what I see on the CO side. Perhaps in 10-years with retirements and refreshment of staff, the integration will finally work as a single corporate culture.


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