We still don’t have official confirmation that Economy Plus will remain on the post-merger United, but at an aviation summit in New Orleans yesterday, United’s vice president of operations planning and international operations, Cindy Szadokierski provided this glimmer of hope:
United hasn’t determined whether it would have three-class or four-class service on international routes. Szadokierski said one thing customers have made clear to the new United – they don’t want the company to end its Economy Plus product, a class of service that offers slightly more leg room.
For those not familar with the Economy Plus product, UA has transformed the forward part of their economy cabins across the entire mainline fleet and on larger regional aircraft to provide up to five extra inches of legroom. On "premium service" (p.s.) flights between New York Kennedy and Los Angeles/San Francisco, all seats in economy have extra legroom. These seats are allocated for free to United’s (and now Continental’s) elite flyers. Other passengers have the ability to purchase an "upgrade" either on a particular flight (~$19-$149 depending on flight length) or to purchase an Economy Plus annual pass for $425.
Continental does not offer extra legroom, other than in exit and bulkhead rows, so the lingering question is whether Economy Plus will survive the merger.
I can tell you that I am a huge fan of Economy Plus and that having those few extra inches of legroom makes sitting behind the curtain much more bearable. I can also tell you, though, that if UA abandoned Economy Plus I wouldn’t abandon UA. After all, they’re the only legacy airline that currently offers the extra legroom. Still, I remain hopeful that UA will keep this very nice perk, especially on their internationally-configured aircraft.
On an unrelated matter, the quote below also caught my eye in the article linked to above:
“If anything keeps me up at night about the merger, it’s learning the culture,” Szadokierski said, adding that she expects United will learn more from Continental’s ways because Continental has a better reputation for customer service than United. “The one thing we’re hearing is that we want to serve our customers well.”
This doesn’t comfort me at all and will be the subject of another post later in the week. Continental may have a reputation for better customer service, but I would advise UA to proceed cautiously when examining whose customer service paradigm will win out. Frankly, I think UA wins hands-down in this particular area…