United’s CEO Munoz says they’ve reached the limit on how much they can shrink seats personally I already avoid flying United coach, and would choose JetBlue or Southwest domestically and many foreign airlines internationally.
The issue with seats is a function of:
- width (9-abreast Boeing 787s and 10-abreast 777s are tight)
- pitch (you can’t work effectively on even a small laptop when there’s just 30 inches from seat back to seat back)
- reduced padding in slim line seats that cause my back to ache on flights over a couple of hours.
“I think we are nearing a point certainly that we can’t do that anymore,” he told ABC News’ Senior Transportation Correspondent David Kerley.
Munoz acknowledged having to stay competitive with peers and match many of their moves, but he admitted passengers may have had enough.
Munoz also acknowledges that United’s wifi is a problem but suggests they just can’t find the right technology which is weird because in everything else they don’t seem to have an issue copying competitors (and the wifi is generally fine on Delta and domestically on American).
“It’s complicated technology,” he said. “We will fix that, and, frankly, we would stop a lot of our growth if we could just stop and find the right provider and get that done. That’s how important Wi-Fi is to us and to our customers.”
He acknowledges the problem but offers no plan to fix it, because it’s somehow out of his control. I avoid flying United because I simply cannot count on the time on their planes being productive, whereas the prevalence of satellite internet on Delta and American means that on board time is far more likely to be valuable time.
The excuse-making — blaming the technology for being unable to offer better wifi — doesn’t end there. Passengers are frustrated but, he says, the stress of air travel really isn’t their fault — it’s really what happens before customers board: “from when you leave, wherever you live, to get into traffic, to find a parking spot, to get through security… by the time you sit on one of our aircraft” so United can’t even do much about it “”improving the flying experience won’t ultimately depend on ‘what coffee or cookie I give you.’
United had promoted its Illy coffee and stroopwafels and major passenger experience improvements, but of course he’s right it isn’t about the coffee or cookies it’s about the seats, service and reliability but he blows past those entirely.
This is typical of Munoz, whose example of a terrible flight is a 30 minute departure delay, waiting for a gate on arrival, and feeling like it’s taking a long time at baggage claim. Oh, and naturally it wasn’t even United’s fault, it was a contract regional carrier he was flying when this happened. And even then it had a happy ending because of great employees!