United Airlines Has A New Plan For Flight Attendants To “Wow” Customers

United Airlines wants flight attendants to greet customers and thank them. They want cabin crew to offer to hang coats in premium cabins and offer pre-departure beverages. And they don’t want crew gossiping loudly in the galley.

If the airline’s flight attendants can do this, United believes they will earn a revenue premium since they argue that research suggests “service is more important to customers than price.”

They’re communicating this to employees via internal memo that was first shared by Live and Let’s Fly.

Flight attendants play one of the most critical roles in providing customers with excellent service. A recent study shows, “Service is more important to customers than price.” For our customers onboard this starts with boarding and ends with deplaning:

  • Creating the WOW factor when the customer boards with a simple smile and offers a greeter item, is a great way to welcome customers onboard and set the tone for a great flight.

  • Offering to hang coats for customers seated in our premium cabin creates a great moment for customer engagement.

  • Create a relaxing environment by minimizing galley and overhead bin noise.

  • Deliver a welcome beverage in our poly-carbonate glassware (internationally) and ensure all non-disposable glasses are collected and stowed prior to door closure; if a customer wishes to keep their welcome beverage, transfer the contents of the glass into a blue disposable plastic cup.

  • “Thanking customers” for flying with us. It sounds easy, but this can change someone’s day during deplaning and help to create lifelong customers!

United manages to do an amazing job recognizing customer milestones inflight. The airline encourages this, but no employee is made to do it. They don’t get rewarded for it that I’m aware of, and there’s no penalty for ignoring milestones like million-miler flights or MileagePlus anniversaries.

And, ironically, United Airlines even made cuts to its program for bonusing employees when they deliver results for the company.

Yet employees who take pride in their word can be reminded of the goal. They can be given a clear sense of what the airline wants to accomplish. They can be brought in on what’s at stake, and made to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.

Nancy is who they want flight attendants to be:

Most people want to be well-compensated, sure. But they also want to like and respect their colleagues. And they want to feel like what they do matters. Their union contract often is a part of the first piece and can work at odds with the second one (by protecting poor performers and shirkers who impose a bigger work burden on everyone else). But creating a sense of purpose and belonging comes down to leadership.

Ultimately I find that Southwest and Delta flight attendants are happiest and friendliest. That Alaska Airlines employees usually seem to like their jobs, too. And all of those employees are generally more service-oriented than United cabin crew overall – though there are many exceptions! I don’t expect that this memo alone will turn this around. Former CEO Oscar Munoz made a stab at it, being accessible and articulating a vision for the airline while connecting with employees. That motivating leadership piece is very much needed alongside the carrier’s strategy for routes and growth.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Nancy doesn’t work here anymore.

    It takes more than a memo beseeching FAs, without incentives, to be nicer when UA employee groups have sought to undermine almost every management team since the Ferris / Allegis days. Why start now?

  2. How come unions are the problem(Issue?) at United, but not at Southwest or Alaska?
    Could it be…..A management issue?

  3. Flight attendants haven’t taken genuine pride in their work/appearance/service in the US in over 20 years. If foreign carriers are ever allowed to operate domestically (even at a substantial premium cost) the US carriers are toast.

  4. OMG, what’s next? Will they admit that flight attendants are there not (only) for passenger safety? Naah, forget that.

  5. United FA serving up the WOW factor – “Here’s your lunch sir”
    Me – “WOW, that looks like horrible. WOW its tastes worse than it looks.”

  6. A bit of a chicken and egg scenario. If survey results show that service is the highest priority , then management must supply FAs with a product that makes them proud to serve . It’s very hard to Wow a customer when you are serving slop in premium cabins .

    Customer engagement may begin and end at the cabin door but there is a lot more to providing a wow factor . Restore Polaris service cuts and return to the early days of the Polaris experience. Upgrade catering and wines . Roll out meal pre-order to all meal flights . Do those things and maybe just maybe you will get wows AND a revenue premium.

  7. Omg is it all millennials running this stuff now!?!? This is how it USED TO BE!!!! Elect expect a

  8. Omg is it all millennials running this stuff now!?!? This is how it USED TO BE!!! It’s not rocket science.

  9. I became an explorer card member because I would not get charged for my checked bag. Now united says their economy fare is not covered. Scam airline. I don’t want you to hang up my coat, just honor your promises. not happy. Fly southwest.

  10. Not being hub captive I prefer flying with Southwest the most why because. You Are. Greeted with a smile when you enter the plane and you are Told thank you with a smile When you exit. Second would be delta who consistently does this. If i’m flying international it is always with a foreign airline from the US. because you are greeted and thanked for your business. The Asian airlines in business class. Take your boarding pass greet you by name and then walk you to your seat. Many times in economy they will look at your boarding pass and greet you by name. I haven’t flown AA since 2018 and that is by choice

  11. I applaud them for trying. And I do find a number of UA crew members who seem to pride themselves on providing great service.

    Certainly a memo of this type is quite different than AA executives, who keep claiming the product is the schedule and nothing else.

    As an ORD-based flyer and AA loyalist, I’m certainly considering switching loyalty to UA . Why? AA’s schedule out of Chicago increasingly stinks for the business traveler (e.g., last nonstops to major business destinations leaving at 2p or 3p) and the service is often unremarkable.

  12. Too Late. The damage is already done. Cranky old flight attendants will be the norm in America for a long long time.

  13. @Alan…I hear you! I mean I get so tired of all the old people! Can you imagine how we all have to look at over 35 yr old flight attendants, 40 yr old over the hill pilots and the worst is all those over 30 yr old passengers? What is this World coming to? I just had a Drs appt yesterday and the guy was about 45. I was totally disgusted. He should have been home in his recliner and not out in public working. So glad to know you Alan are age appropriate. 23 maybe. Eye roll…

  14. When did they stop doing that? I worked over 30 years domestic FC. I always hung coats, did departure drinks. And stopped and thanked each one before taking my jump seat. I was old CO and UA each one of those things were required and accomplished.

  15. The problem isn’t age, the problem is people who are attracted to the idea of being able to have someone arrested as a “terrorist” for asking them to do their jobs or looking at them sideways. Everyone who signed up as a flight attendant during the power tripping era of the 2000s and the ones who doubled down on it during the mask-police year needs to be purged and replaced with people who understand what the job actually is. If you find pouring drinks to be demeaning and have to inflate yourself into some sort of “safety” or law enforcement presence, then find another job because that’s what this one is.

  16. These comments are hilarious, and obviously have no idea what goes on behind the scenes at these airlines between management and employee groups.

  17. Well definitely you can think the regulation for all this mess. I remember back in the day when our jet livery had ‘Luxury Liner’ on it, it meant something. Also too we had the jet set class. Flying was something that you dressed up for when you flew? Now these days it’s Greyhound bus passengers for the most part and the attitude that goes with it. I doubt if you could pay me enough to even be a flight attendant these days to put up with the crap that they have to put up with! Let alone the poor ticket agent at the gate. That was another prestigious job… Was. These days the passengers not happy. They’ll punch out the person at the gate because it’s their fault because it’s a weather delay or it’s their fault because they won’t let their drunk ass on the airplane. If that was my airline and you pulled that crap, I’d make sure you never fly my airline ever again, and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. Those small percentage of people really make airline jobs that miserable, let alone a flying hazard to the people who work inside those planes!

  18. Flight Attendants will be more than happy to do this (all during the 25-40 minute boarding period) if hey were paid for boarding. How about the airlines start there! As usual Delta leads the way way and shows airlines will not collapse for when paying flight attendants for boarding (anybody know why they’re not paid from clock in to clock out)??

  19. I am not sure about UA flight attendants would go above and beyond ton “Wow” customers. However, the 1K agents are rude, careless, and do not understand what customers’ needs are. Instead of helping, they advertise about Chase credit cards!!! If any flyers fly Polaris these days, they would notice that the service & meal deteriorate significantly. Fly the friendly skies & United rising (not sure rising to where).

  20. @Ron Mexico…oh, OK Mr Mexico. You obviously don’t know anything about the job of a flight attendant. I’m wondering why you even commented. You must be living under a rock. We don’t need to “inflate” ourselves into safety and law enforcement professionals. The only thing we inflate are slides, life rafts and life vests. We ARE the safety and law enforcement professionals once you pass that door with the big pretty silver handle. Wake up and grow up. I have a feeling you’re the type of guy, when pulled over for speeding, you don’t treat the officer respectfully. When you or I get behind the wheel of a car, he’s in charge of the road and reports to his Captain with the final say. Same with me Mr ‘I think I know everything’ Mexico. I am the eyes and ears of my Captain when on that metal tube and have that responsibility to make the best decisions I can for what the situation warrants. Start acting like an adult.

  21. Flying these days is just a mode of transportation. Unreal expectations need to be left in the parking garage. Every airline management team thinks they are managing a 1970s airlines. Glorified Greyhounds are todays operation. Until the suits wake up to reality and admit flying and the public has changed, their business model will continue to fail. It is not going change a thing with memo on how to do a job that is unattainable

  22. @Maxine Disagree. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. Many of us, including this flyer, expect good customer service and civilized atmosphere – not a Greyhound bus experience.

  23. United Flight Attendants are NOT paid for boarding when the “drinks, hanging coats and stowing luggage” is supposed to be happening.
    United Flight Attendants are also still working with “Covid skeleton minimum crews.” This means most flights have fewer flight attendants than pre Covid.
    Seems United should bring back staffing levels and maybe just maybe the Flight Attendants will feel valued and actually have time to do these tasks.

  24. @Flyer1, just shut up and pour the Diet Coke. You’re exactly the kind of delusional mall cop FA who needs to go.

  25. Re:Flyer1 says:
    March 30, 2023 at 7:27 pm
    @Alan…I hear you! I mean I get so tired of all the old people! Can you imagine how we all have to look at over 35 yr old flight attendants, 40 yr old over the hill pilots and the worst is all those over 30 yr old passengers?

    Response: LOLLLLLLLLLLLL !!! Bravo

  26. For Flyer1 who said…
    March 30, 2023 at 7:27 pm
    @Alan…I hear you! I mean I get so tired of all the old people! Can you imagine how we all have to look at over 35 yr old flight attendants, 40 yr old over the hill pilots and the worst is all those over 30 yr old passengers?

    Response: LOLLLLLLLLLLLL !!! Bravo

  27. @Toni, he definitely does. He’s been rejected too many times. He believes he has to stomp down on others to make himself feel better.

  28. I am so surprised that when you are flying first class, paying for first class domestically that 8/10 times are you rarely offered the “ cup of water”, “ plastic cup of orange juice” or a predeparture cocktail as part of the “ premier first class treatment” what’s wrong with this picture?

  29. See the utter delusion and disconnect with airline management? Ttruly think a pleasant greeting and goodbye makes up for miserable services such as slop in premium cabins, cramped seats in economy and staff that is stretched so thin you can see through them?
    What a sad joke.

  30. All these were delivered in the past when I flew UA. If it was possible then, no reason why it can’t be done today

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