Swiss CEO Takes a Swipe at United

United’s single-class TED operation is no more, but its lesson shouldn’t be forgotten — and don’t underestimate the ability to forget, as it wasn’t United’s first foray into the low cost carrier subsidiary market (though Ted was a worse idea – Shuttle by United at least offered a first class cabin and with complimentary upgrades for 1Ks years before United introduced that feature for elites program-wide).

CrankFlier interviews Swiss CEO Harry Hohmeister, and Hohmeister makes the point that you cannot have a successful international premium class operation without premium connecting flight offerings.

Cranky: And what about the premium cabin?
Harry: It’s very much under pressure, so we have to rethink it. But, business class has an important value with hub connecting itineraries. You can’t fly someone in business class from San Francisco to Zurich in business class and then within Europe in coach.

Cranky: United did that when they had Ted
Harry: Maybe not a good idea
Cranky: Yeah, well it’s gone now fortunately. You could fly over the Pond in business class and then you’d have to fly coach for the 4+ hours to Las Vegas on Ted.
Harry: [Shakes his head]

It’s worse even than that — once United stopped providing its Economy Plus product to patner elites and full fare passengers, a paid international first class passenger who wasn’t also a United elite would be asked to buy up to Economy Plus for domestic Ted segments subject to availability at check-in.

Ted will not be missed, let’s just hope that United (and other onlooking carriers) can remember its lessons.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The guy is apparently rather myopic if he sees the Swiss intra-Europe Biz product as substantially different from a coach product. Blocked middle seat? Really?

  2. +1 to Wandering Aramean’s comment. Intra Europe biz product is a joke.

  3. actually I disagree. The Swiss intra Europe biz product is very good compared to the general competition. The food is far better than what you get in “first class” domestic product on any US carrier and the service is perfectly suitable for the 1-2 hour flights that the majority of Intra Europe flights are!

  4. I flew LAX-SAN in a tiny plane with business people connecting from Switzerland through LAX, final destination SAN. They were not amused.

    I will bet after overhearing their comments that they would have the travel department check their connections more carefully in the future.

  5. I haven’t flown Swiss intra-Europe, and I hope Josh is right (my first LX flight is later this summer). But other intra-Europe business class I’ve flown is consistent with WA and EV. Of course it’s better than Ted, especially on a 4+ hour flight, but most days I’d take domestic F over European C.

  6. I agree with #1 and #2 that the intra-Europe business class product on most of their carriers is a joke (I’ve flown it on LH, BA, AF, AZ, and LO). The food is generally OK and good quality for what you get but I think it is a bit of a stretch to say it is better than domestic US first. What’s surprising is that the many Euro carriers serve the food in business class even on short routes (i.e. 1 hour). To me, seat comfort is the all-important criteria and I’d rather have the wide US-style seat, even with no food, than the Euro “economy with blocked middle seat” configuration. And no, I am not a big person – average as average can be.

    The problem on both continents is the extensive use of regional jets (now found on even longer routes where mainline equipment used to fly, due to the economy). A few carriers, United included, are started to put first seats in the RJs…in my opinion, they can’t do it fast enough.

  7. Add me to the chorus. E+ on TED was better than domestic premium on intra-Europe flights.

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