Tuesday, May 29, 2012

United Airlines updates its mobile app, though customer resentment from carrier's on-time performance, merger, can not be cured through an app

Even a hard core advocate for mobile and tablet media has to admit that no app can save a company intent on destroying itself. Today's update of its mobile app by United Airlines looks to fix some issues with the previous release, and add in some features, but UA's brand will take a long time to recover.
United Airlines, the only app currently in the App Store under the new United Continental Holdings, Inc. name, is for the iPhone only, leaving travelers to use the regular website on their iPads (it appears to work just fine). United's in-flight magazine, Hemispheres, appears in the Newsstand under the name of their custom publishing partner, Ink.

The Chicago-based airline recently merged with Continental, which then forced its existing, long-time customers to get new customer numbers. But the airlines actual performance is what has rankled flyers.

This weekend the Chicago Tribune profiled the problems for flyers in their lengthy story for the Sunday paper: Merger pains for United Airlines leave passengers hurting.

On March 3 United switched to a computer system called Shares. In a rip-off-the bandage approach, United on the same day also merged websites and frequent-flier programs. The airline experienced technology glitches and rampant inefficiencies throughout the system. The results were widespread flight delays for several days and customer inconveniences, such as long phone hold times, for weeks afterward. Frequent fliers howled about problems with their rewards accounts and confirming their proper seat upgrades.
But the real kicker is that this system, which United chose to move it, involves knowing strings of commands, rather than simple point and click. No wonder then that the company wants to roll out an even newer system by the end of the year.

Right now United on-time performance trails its rivals, badly. At O'Hare, its hub, United flights depart on time only 71 percent of the time, arrive on-time only 73 percent of the time. American Airlines, by comparison, sees its departure leave on time 85 percent of the time.

As for United's mobile app, the most recent user comments have been mostly negative due to parts of the app not working. Maybe this update will be an improvement, no doubt United customers could use a bit of good news.