United Airlines presented its first quarter results today, which are quite healthy. But do the numbers and many accomplishments tell the whole picture?
I’m not going to breakdown the numbers, but it was a strong quarter. Q1 is traditionally the slow quarter for United, but it reported excellent numbers across the board. Instead, let’s focus on what United views as its Q1 accomplishments:
First-Quarter 2019 Highlights
Operations and Employees
- Flew the most revenue passengers ever for a first quarter in company history.
- Despite a weather-challenged first quarter, achieved second-highest mainline on-time departures rate performance versus the major U.S. airlines.
- Launched Backstage 2019 which will bring all 25,000 flight attendants to Chicago for an event which will help us elevate the way customers feel about their United experience.
- Earned 100 percent score on Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s annual scorecard on LGBTQ workplace equality.
- Broke ground on a state-of-the-art Technical Operations Center at Los Angeles International Airport that will enable the airline to provide exceptional service for all of its aircraft fleets.
- Announced headquarters will remain at the iconic Willis Tower in the airline’s hometown of Chicago, while making investments to completely transform the current workspace and experience.
- Introduced a re-imagined mobile app to customers around the world featuring a more dynamic experience that updates customers at each step of their travel journey while adding enhancements that make managing travel easier.
- Announced free live DIRECTV on 211 Boeing 737 United aircraft equipped with seat back TV, providing more than 100 channels of live television.
- Introduced the relaunch of the United MileagePlus X app, which offers United MileagePlus® members a unique opportunity to earn award miles for everyday purchases.
- Opened the fifth of its award-winning United Polaris Lounges at Los Angeles International Airport.
- Opened a brand-new 5,000-square-foot United Club at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport – the first of four new United Club locations set to open in 2019.
- Announced next step in airline’s commitment to making customers more comfortable by adding more than 1,600 United Polaris® business class and United First seats to nearly 250 international and domestic aircraft.
- Launched new state-of-the-art United Meetings product, available on the airline’s business portal, United Jetstream, which makes managing travel and redeeming rewards for meetings and events quicker and more streamlined.
- Became the first U.S. airline to offer non-binary gender options throughout all booking channels in addition to providing the option to select the title “Mx.” during booking and in a MileagePlus customer profile, providing customers the ability to identify themselves corresponding with what is indicated on their passports or identification.
- Began new service from four hubs to 18 cities in 12 states and one province and launched new nonstop seasonal service between San Francisco and Amsterdam.
- Announced 11 new domestic routes.
- Filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a total of six daily nonstop flights to Tokyo Haneda Airport from six of the airline’s hubs.
- Announced a brand new and revolutionary regional flying experience with the addition of the two-cabin, 50-seat Bombardier CRJ 550 aircraft, offering customers on key regional routes more legroom, storage and amenities than any other 50-seat regional aircraft operating today.
- Became first carrier in the world to operate all three Dreamliner models as its first 787-10 began regular service in January from Los Angeles International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport.
- Took delivery of four Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft (prior to the March 13, 2019 Federal Aviation Administration order grounding U.S.-registered 737 MAX aircraft) and four Boeing 787-10 aircraft.
Community and Environment
- Donated $1 million to Feeding America’s Shutdown Response Fund to directly support the food banks providing food for families of federal workers.
- Launched Her Art Here, a first-of-its-kind contest designed to find and uplift underrepresented women artists by providing a chance to paint a canvas like no other – a United Airlines aircraft.
You’ve got to admit, that’s pretty impressive. The MileagePlus devaluation (which will also be spun as a positive move) is not there because it occurred earlier this month, in the second quarter. We’ll likely hear that being lauded next quarter.
I guess I read all of that and think…what is the problem then? Why did I have a bad flight last week? Why are my emotions mixed?
My recent EasyJet delay reminded me of how operationally reliable United has been for me this quarter and really over the last couple of years. I appreciate that greatly and we begin to take it for granted when it becomes commonplace. I also appreciate that overall, service has been good.
Perhaps my sadness stems from the diminishing value proposition of MileagePlus. Perhaps it just stems from recent cutbacks to Polaris and domestic first class dining which simply do not make sense (to me) if United is trying to create a leading world-class product.
But I’ve got to give Scott Kirby some credit. In many ways flying on United is better than it has ever been (new Polaris seat, Polaris lounges) and the company is making money despite rising oil prices. And despite my occasional gripes, I’m not looking anywhere else for the bulk of my travel.
So kudos to United for a good quarter. Strong performance from United (and Delta) will continue to be seen as validation of the eroding of certain benefits, but life will go on.