United Airlines has announced it will be offering two free bags on flights between Australia and the US this morning.
United’s vice president, Atlantic and Pacific Sales, Jake Cefolia, is in town from Chicago, and spoke to Travel Weekly about how United is strengthening its competitive edge and pushing boundaries.
“We’re looking into the future and listening closely to the market,” Cefolia told TW.
“And on the basis of feedback we’re announcing two free bags for services between Australia and the US for travel from December 17.”
The offering will be available to bookings from November 4, and Cefolia said it’s “particularly for the leisure traveller,” which is a market the airline is looking to expand further into.
“We have typically built our business around the business traveller, but the leisure traveller is growing in importance, and we are seeking them out and spending more on them.”
Cefolia added that the new offering will make United “more attractive to leisure travellers”, but it’s not turning its back on the business traveller by any means.
“We have more Wifi networks than any other airline,” Cefolia told TW, an aspect that he says is a “big differentiator” for the airline.
“These are the things we don’t get the recognition we deserve.”
“One of the things that distinguish us is our extensive network that expands beyond our hubs. It’s a network others just can’t match,” Cefolia added.
In terms of the leisure market, Cefolia told TW there are “a number of enhancements” that have been established based on feedback.
“We really pushed to get the 777s in Australia to provide seat back video entertainment,” he explained.
“Inflight entertainment is much more important on these routes [from Australia].”
“We have also introduced what is literally a three class meal service, the first class of yesteryear, which has been very well received.”
The new changes come at an exciting time for United, which has recently announced the launch it would replace its B777s with the B787-9 Dreamliner on its Sydney services from next March, and would fly nonstop between Auckland and San Fran.
“I think the big question all the time is whether there is enough demand to justify supply,” Cefolia told TW.
“We have a strategy that responds to demand, which is the reason we start new routes. The Auckland to San Francisco service was a direct response to demand, and that’s why we look for a profitable demand we can satisfy.”
Cefolia added that it was obvious with the Gulf carriers that they were “putting on supply that isn’t profitable” in places where “demand is not growing fast enough.”
Probed further on the Open Skies agreement and clash between US and Gulf carriers, Cefolia said that United intended to compete in the same ways it always had in the past to its highest standards.
“We also want to help stimulate demand and growth,” he added, with particular regard to its new NZ route.
“We do a lot of work with trade in the US to promote inbound tourism in New Zealand. We want to help promote tourism and the economic benefits of tourism through our services.”
And naturally, technology is a big card on the table for United, with its strong Wifi network now a high priority, after Cefolia admitted United was “a little bit late to get in the game.”
“If I’m out of touch on a 15-hour flight that’s a pretty big deal for me,” he told TW.
Technological developments have got “potential to be a big differentiator,” Cefolia said, which is why it’s such a high priority for the airline.
“We’re not content just being the best and staying there, we have to keep growing,” Cefolia told TW.
“We’ve got the best mobile app in the business.”
“Customers on an international journey are able to check in and verify their passport via the app, and there is also a map feature within terminals.”
“We’re also equipping flight attendants with iPhones to allow them to enhance their customer service,” he added, with the app used to recognise flyers celebrating milestones such as a birthday or anniversary where flight attendants can help them celebrate.
“And that’s why we’re leading right now.”
“We’re excited about the path we’re on and are getting great feedback on our progress.”