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Julie Kinn

Thank you for shedding light on this issue. After I read the original post I sat next to an unaccompanied 5-year-old on a long flight. In addition to feeding him, giving him my iPad, and letting him fall asleep on me, I stuck with him for the 1.5 hours after we landed until he was picked up. I hope I would have done the same if I hadn't read your blog, but I can't be sure. I had always assumed that the Unaccompanied Minors program was surefire.

juliekinn.wordpress.com

Rod J

Bob, your question about "what to do" is interesting and intrigueing. Because I find this story scaringly analagous to the turn around story in the early 90s at Continental Airlines under the fresh leadership of Gordon Bethune and Greg Brenneman (B&B). They had to deal with the indifference challenge at the time. When they arrived at Continental, Continental was in serious financial shape and run by accountants and lawyers, and it was run by the book. Story goes that every one-off issue relating to anything and everything had a policy written for how to handle it - and was placed in a book that was at every employees disposal. The book supposedly grew to 9 in. in thickness - it was termed by employees as the "Thou Shalt Not" book. In essence, the book was unmanageable and it was safer and easier for employees to say "No" than provide guidance or assistance. Customer service at Continental was the poorest for the industry at the time.

B&B knew they had a huge problem to face, so this is what they did They asked all their HQ employees to meet them out in the parking lot at a designated time, where a 55 gallon barrel stood. As employees arrived, B&B walked over to the barrel, threw the book in the barrel and then poured gasoline over the book. and with a single match the book went up in flames. They told the employees, "Continental Airlines is your company to make great. Go do it - Now."

The symbolism of this action was huge and within days, customer service started to improve and within in a couple of years - was the best in the industry. Continental profits and customer loyalty grew.

Bob I don't know, but it feels like the new United (a merged United and Continental) is at the exact same spot as the old Continental when you go back and look at the historical context. Can a similar script to turn it around also be made?

Jerrigillean

I read your original post and was really distressed by the events. A day or so later I picked up your book (without any clue there was a connection) and I think this calls for the recipe for an apology.

I applaud Annie and Perry for their courage to stand up for what is right, not just for their family but for all families.

Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing, but I find it is always worth it.

twitter.com/jaycross

I think United is terminally stupid. You'd thin the < a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo">United Breaks Guitars incident, where their cold-shoulder response to their screw-ups hammered UAL's market valuation for $100+ million would have taught them a lesson.

Petersims

Bob, thanks for raising the flag on this, and I'm one of the many very unhappy former United customers. I also think it's a very, very important case study. When I talk with United flight attendants and employees, their biggest gripes have to do with losses they have incurred. Through terrible pension management (see http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/31/business/yourmoney/31pension.html?pagewanted=all), bankruptsy, merger, the employees lost wages, and much worse I think, significant chunks of their pensions. I haven't done the analysis, but in speaking with these employees, they harp on these losses. As we know, according to the loss aversion research, people want to avoid losses twice as much as they are to make gains. Therefore, I see what happened United as a microcasm for what is going to be the trend in many areas. Like a city that is nearly bankrupt, under the weight of pension obligations that weren't properly funded, or countries, or many other companies with defined benefit pension plans, rather than defined contribution plans, no one takes ultimately responsibility and in the end, people end of extremely unhappy -- all of which rubs off on everyone around them. So, while I'm not an expert on any of this, I would be curious to learn more about just what happened to United, and what, if anything, can be done. Thanks again.

Kathleen Solange

"We certainly appreciate their business and would like the opportunity to provide them a better travel experience in the future."

I can't imagine why United would think they would want to travel with them again. I'm reminded of the time a friend of mine found a cockroach in his can of salsa. When he called to complain, they offered him coupons for something like a free year's supply of the stuff. His response was ummmm.....no. With some expletives attached, I believe.

I do about anything I can to avoid flying United. I think their motto should be "We're Too Big to Care." Plus after the many times I've been on interminable hold with them, I've soured on Gershwin for life.

The only appropriate response to this mess would have been an abject apology.

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