United’s Smisek Apologizes, Front-end Improvements Coming to SHARES

Tidbits of information about forthcoming improvements to SHARES, the reservations system for United Airlines, were revealed during the second quarter earnings call last week.

In addition to apologizing for a range of customer disservice issues we’ve all experienced since March 3 (seat assignments falling off, missing upgrades, miles not posting, etc.), CEO Jeff Smisek said, “We plan a number of improvements, including an enhanced front-end interface for our airport and contact center agents.”

Apparently a beta test of a new “fastair” and “fastres” (the old nicknames for Apollo’s efficient front-end GUI) were conducted last month. Some of the improvements said to be coming for airport and reservations agents will be an easier ability to handle premium cabin up-sells, same-day upgrades and standby requests.

A full release is expected in October and Smisek says it will include “a new user-friendly design and experience, easier elite recognition, automatic calculation of service charges and better flight amenity details.”

Sometime in 2013, United plans to roll out a “comprehensive new front-end for our airport and reservations agents, which enables us to deliver a higher level of service than we’ve ever been able to offer in the past,” he added.

I’m sure there’s a little PR going on in what he said, but I’m happy to hear improvements are coming – and I’m certain airport and reservations agents are happy, as well. I still have a feeling that within five years, United will dump SHARES for a new reservations system, as United executives had previously noted that SHARES was “the best short-term solution” when it was announced as the system to be used in the merged airline.

What I’m still having a hard time swallowing, though, are the policy changes (from pre-merger United, anyway) of selling “tens of dollars” upgrades to non-elites reducing my upgrade chances and giving a higher priority on each ticket’s transactional value over long-term loyalty for the same upgrades. Ah well… revenue-based loyalty will soon be the norm. I guess these changes are slowly getting me used to the eventuality of it.

Comments

  1. Smisek has been told that he needs to apologize so he does. So far his apologies ring hollow. United’s operation is falling apart with the delays and cancellations. New planes and an industry leading route structure are meaningless when your operation is so cancellation/delay prone relative to its competition.

  2. The TODs upgrade issue has been resolved and all upgrade offers to F should be the fare difference between the customers currently booked fare class and the lowest instant upgradeable fare class for elites, and the lowest available F fare for non elites.

    • @Golfingboy: I didn’t know the TODs issue had been resolved… thanks for the update.
      @NB: That was my first thought, too (UA being able to sell things more easily), but I do believe some of the new “fastair” features will help resolve some of our customer-centric issues.

  3. I’ve not seen the full release but what Smisek has said concerns me: “a new user-friendly design and experience, easier elite recognition, automatic calculation of service charges and better flight amenity details.”

    This suggests that the changes are primarily there to make it easier to sell people things, rather than to improve service. The whole issue with Shares concerns service: it is time consuming to make even simple changes to reservations, so when things go wrong it takes forever to sort them out. This is what needs addressing urgently.

  4. Of course they are going to say it will help them improve revenue, it is a call with investors. Just like when talking to elites he will say it will help them. It’s not just made for that, it’s just that is a benefit.

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