Even before the pandemic United Airlines in the Scott Kirby era was looking at ways to cut costs. In January they stopped sending out travel vouchers as an apology for flights delayed less than six hours. Of course United attributed this to ‘customer feedback’ because clearly customers are happy with delays up to 6 hours, and don’t like being given travel vouchers or receiving apologies.
Then May 1, with the need to conserve funds fully evident, they reduced denied boarding compensation by 75%. This wasn’t cash, but airline scrip, but they presumably feared a customer they had failed to deliver transportation to might choose not to spend money with the airline in the future if given a big voucher (as opposed to because the airline had failed to provide them with the transportation they had purchased).
Now United is reminding agents not to cover a customer’s meal unless their flight is delayed at least four hours.
People often ask how the travel experience will change. On the big stuff, I am not sure we know yet. On the small stuff, the view is clearer. Airlines will do EVERYTHING to save money. Today, a @united tipster dropped this into my inbox. Expect similar belt-tightening everywhere. pic.twitter.com/857RVyPBvk
— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) July 29, 2020
There aren’t that many places open in the airport anyway these days, so in many cases you aren’t missing much more than what’s on sale at Dunkin’ Donuts or Hudson News. But United wants you to know that under no circumstances will they pay for your donut while they make you wait for your next flight.
United isn’t alone cutting costs by doing less for customers when they’ve already let those customers down. American Airlines, for its part, suspended goodwill compensation for service failures without warning a month ago.