Andrew Nocella, United’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer – who came to United with Scott Kirby and who was responsible for many of the negative changes at American Airlines once legacy US Airways management took over – offered some important observations about their customers at the airline’s media day.
- Business travelers are leisure travelers. He says that “business customers don’t just fly for business” they also go on vacation. He doesn’t take it to its logical conclusion, though, about extending great treatment to top tier elites who will have to spend $18,000 a year minimum for 1K status (which is more than competitors) and how those customers are treated with their families on the cheapest (basic economy) fares.
- Premium passengers usually sit in back. International business class flyers are usually flying for work. Businesses often have travel policies that will pay for the highest cost seats on trips over a certain number of hours – 6, 13, etc. – and that means most passengers flying domestically for work most of the time are in back. Nocella notes “a majority of the time [business class passengers] aren’t sitting in the front cabin.”
He notes that United has more extra legroom seats than competitors. They’re delivering Economy Plus to Gold elites 80% of the time.
Nocella throws shade at American Airlines over densification, even though he’d have been involved in these discussions when he was at American, suggesting that United could add seats to their 737s but they need extra legroom seats for customers.
They’re also adding first class seats because they need more both to sell and for upgrades.