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Measuring Up

IF YOU ARE SITTING on an aircraft offering United Economy Plus, you (or the person sitting next to you) may be part of the reason that extra-legroom seating even exists. Customer feedback from post-travel surveys showed that those in Economy Plus were more satisfied with their flights.

“Our frequent flyers are very passionate about flying, and they typically have a lot to say about it,” says Customer Insights Senior Manager Matt Hadfield, who spends a good part of his day poring over the surveys.

Shortly after a MileagePlus member travels on a direct flight, United sends him or her an email invitation to offer feedback. More than 8,000 customers each day rank their experience with the airline on a scale of 1 to 10. In a text box that allows for open commenting, customers provide a wide range of feedback. United uses sophisticated text-recognition software to read that feedback—and act on it.

Such commentary influences every part of the customer experience, as United uses travelers’ feedback to continue to tweak its service. Hence the installation of more premium-cabin flat-bed seats than any other U.S. carrier, and the addition of satellite Wi-Fi on some 300 airplanes this year.

And feedback has also played a role in the airline’s offering of two other customer favorites: tapas snack boxes and the Thai-style chicken wrap. If you like them, surveys show that you’re not alone.

With Captain Mike Bowers

Q: On occasion I have been on airplanes that, after pushing back from the gate at my home airport of Newark, moved ahead of others already waiting in line to take off. What circumstances would cause a plane to jump the line?

A: Normally, takeoff order is as simple as first come, first served. But at busier airports like Newark (EWR), where air traffic controllers blend departures with those from LaGuardia and JFK, there may be “openings” on some departure routes and delays on others. To manage that, EWR controllers may instruct an aircraft to bypass the one that’s first in line to take off. In addition, air traffic controllers may “meter” aircraft at certain times to reduce the waiting that might result from weather or traffic delays. Although it might seem confusing at times, it is well orchestrated and done to get as many departures off a given runway at any one time, safely.

Do you have a question for Captain Bowers? Write him at askthepilot@united.com.

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