Sunday, April 25, 2010

United Airlines' 10 Rules on How to Make Customers Hate You

Last time I was on a flight with United Airlines, I had a decidedly unpleasant experience. Curious about how this whole experience came about, I snagged a small pamphlet from the flight attendants' break-room.  And wouldn't you know it, I read....

  1. Every major airline has had to massively delay flights lately, keeping customers trapped on planes while they attend to security issues. Our differentiater here at United will be our absolute and utter refusal to speak to our passengers and customers while they are trapped on our plane. This serves the quadruple purpose of (a) making us look busy, (b) making us look important, (c) keeping customers in their place, and (d) saving time.
  2. In fact, to enhance the effectiveness of Rule #1, United recommends that all employees avoid making eye contact with customers and passengers while the plane is stuck on the ground. Needless eye contact only invites what we at United are trying to avoid here: communication.
  3. While other airlines may trap their customers on planes for legitimate security purposes, we at United will differentiate by trapping them there due to our inability to correctly measure passenger weights. This will allow us to delay flights in order to give us time to decide who to kick off the flight, so that the plane is light enough to actually fly. This also helps to keep our customers in line, as they will constantly be frightened that they will be next to go (this also eliminates the communication and eye contact issues mentioned in Rules 1 and 2).
  4. After the plane finally takes off (after kicking off several of the larger passengers), make sure to comment on how you're certain to get everyone to their destination on time, regardless of the fact that you're now departing close to an hour late, and the flight was scheduled for just over an hour in the first place. Remember that most of your customers are terrible at time management and basic math, so the patronization will go right over their heads. By the time they get to their destination and realize how late they are, they'll be too far away from you to complain.
  5. Just prior to touchdown, mix up the gate assignments when you announce your passengers' connecting flights. This will give their frantic runs through the terminal a decided sense of adventure and enigma, as they will be unable to guess precisely where they will end up.
  6. As your customer finally makes his way to his connecting flight with just a few minutes to spare, be sure to berate him for being so late for the flight. Tell him how lucky he is that you waited for him, and how the plane's just about to take off. Then, just before he actually boards the plane, stop him and make him wait ten minutes or so while you tell him how his carry-on bag will no longer fit in the overhead compartments (even if there quite obviously is a significant amount of space in the carry-on compartments). We must educate our customers on our policies!
  7. After take-off, even if the flight wasn't delayed due to our inability to determine how much our planes weigh, stick with Rule #4 and brag about how you'll get everyone to their destination on time, even if the plane actually shows an arrival time of 45 minutes later than originally scheduled. This will give customers a deep sense of contentment as the flight attendants start the in-flight entertainment: advertisements for various failing sitcoms and washed-up comics, and a Kenny Chesney retrospective.
  8. Rather than the sandwiches and full meals other airlines serve, differentiate on United flights by offering 'snack boxes' - basically glorified Lunchables with crackers, cheese, and meat - at high prices to increase our revenues. Offer free salmonella and other food-poisoning substances, introduced directly into the food, as a free bonus for our passengers, and make sure the toxins are powerful enough to incapacitate our valued customers for at least 48 hours with fever dreams and dehydration. Our passengers will have to buy our food regardless; after all, their last flight didn't make it in time for them to buy any real food in the airport!
  9. Lose your passenger's luggage (see rule 5 - enhance the sense of adventure and enigma). This adds mystery to our customer's lives as they wonder when and if they will see their bags again, as it increases their dependence on our services! Make sure not to make eye contact with the customer or apologize as you inform him that his bag is gone.
  10. If you find the bag and deliver it to the customer, open the bag, pour water on the contents, and close the bag. Again, adventure and enigma is the United Way!


  1. Haha I just flew on US Air, and this is 100% true!

  2. I remember that I had to go to a business conference out of state a few weeks ago. I've always had an aversion to flying, not out of fear of crashing or anything, but of losing luggage or dealing with paranoid security.

    I'm used to driving everywhere, and I can honestly say that I would perfer driving 6 hours to a destination than deal with a 1 hour flight.

    By the way, you gave a seminar at the conference I went to. You were definitely the best one of the speakers, and a highlight of the trip. Keep up the good work!