Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Fun With O'Hare Airport

So, I spent most of yesterday wandering around O'Hare, since my flight got in 'round about noon-time, and I had my interview at 3. I didn't want to take the flight that got in around 2, since if it somehow was delayed or cancelled, I wouldn't have a chance to drive down in time, and that would have sucked big. So, I wandered the Worlds Busiest Airport for 3 hours. Things I noticed:

- The new United paint scheme looks pretty damn good, actually.

- O'Hare isn't only busy, it's insane in that it's really organized piss-poorly.

- United sucks.

That last bullet point, coming from me, is quite the revelation. I've always been proud of United Airlines. It's been a part of my life for as long as I know. In the last say 10 years or so, though, I can't recognize this company. It really seems like they've sort of thrown their hands up in frustration. Now, I'm an airline employee and am riding United for pretty much free, so I have absolutely no latitude to bitch, and I'm not. What I have seen though is interesting, what with three hours to sit and really observe.

People riding United and United Express are pissed. I mean, beyond just unhappy that their flights are late and they have to walk 10 minutes with bags and shit to make it to their next flight, down right pissed off! Anyone who has been to O'Hare knows what that walk from the F gates to the C gates is like. Imagine doing that after the Express flight you just flew in on was delayed getting into the gate and now your 1 1/2 hour connection time has turned into 30 minutes! For those that don't know, the walk from the F gates to the C gates is, literally, a mile and a half. Try that with 2 kids, 3 bags and 30 minutes!

This got me to thinking further. United isn't out of the woods yet. They're on the right financial track, but let's face it, at the rate United is alienating their customer base, they may find themselves with much less revenue then they need to survive. In the last few months, United as managed to:

- Piss off 1 in 3 customers by lack of ontime service

- Piss off their retirees, who retired on advice from United so that they would protect the benefits United now seeks to cut.

- Piss off their stockholders by declaring the stock they hold to be worthless

- Piss off the industry analysts by spinning up Ted in the face of objection by everyone in the world, except maybe Saddam Hussein... Nah, He'd object to.

- Set up their low fare carrier to operate at a higher cost per seat mile then their mainline service, and at that, they've failed to actually, you know, set up fares that are low enough to be competitive with Southwest or Jetblue. Way to not only miss the ball, but forget to take the bat to the plate!

I'm no business expert, but I have a bad feeling about where all of this is going. Hopefully I'll watch from the sidelines, and not get sidelined by it. If United goes down, it's taking Air Wisconsin with it.

More later... Going to hit the road to Mom's place.


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