United Airlines has christened its first 777-300ER the “New Spirit of United”, a name meant to highlight UA’s optimism it is turning the corner from a stormy past.
Indeed, CEO Oscar Munoz added–
This special aircraft represents not a commemoration of the past but a commitment to the future. It captures the spirit of excellence we aspire to deliver with each and every flight we take.
A post on United Hub even compares this christening with the naming of the Memphis Belle and Spirit of St. Louis.
But is this merely letters affixed to a fuselage?
Labor relations are the best they have been in years, United Polaris has ushered in an upgraded premium soft product (with a new hard product coming), and even United’s operational reliability is on the upswing (UA achieved its best full-year on-time performance in company history last year). [today’s computer incident notwithstanding…]
With the new 777-300ER will come a competitive business class product with direct-aisle access in every seat and another illustration of United’s effort to be a player on a worldwide stage. Of course United has been that for decades, but for years has been dismissed for its inferior product, often rightfully so.
But here’s the thing — while United is still inconsistent, I do notice marked improvement. I see that food is better in both economy and premium cabins. Internet and IFE are competitive with the best and no, United is not Singapore…but its product is undeniably competitive and I’d choose UA over many Asian and European competitors due to in-flight Wi-Fi.
This is not just United cheerleading. I’ve flown dozens of new airlines in business class for this blog over the last couple years and frankly while I could recommend dozens of improvements, United is not being put to shame anymore.
Is Looking Back Such A Bad Thing?
I get Oscar’s point — there is merit in being forward-looking. At the same time, how many of you remember that “Worldwide Service” used to be painted on every United aircraft? Here’s a picture from a United Express CRJ at SFO in 2005–
While I do like everything the “New Spirit of United” is intended to convey, United must not just cease highlighting its rich history. Rhapsody in Blue and the “Friendly Skies” trademark resonate a lot more with me than the “New Spirit of United”. Even the “Worldwide Service” lettering brings back such happy memories of flights to six continents on United.
For every United horror story, I am convinced there are several positive memories and United should capitalize on its past success and future promise as it seeks to be a serious competitor in quality on the global stage.