WTM 2018: United Airlines shakes off PR crisis to enjoy ‘exceptional revenue environment’

United Airlines is enjoying “an exceptional revenue environment” more than a year on from a PR crises which saw a passenger being violently dragged off one of its planes.

UK managing director sales UK and Ireland Bob Schumacher said transatlantic routes were performing particularly well as UK customers become more used to a less favourable exchange rate post-Brexit referendum.

He said the airline had undergone a culture change since the incident in April last year in which a male passenger lost two front teeth as he was removed from a United Airlines flight in the US.

“Business is good,” Schumacher said. “The corporate market is exceptionally strong at the moment. It’s an exceptional revenue environment – as good as I have seen.

“Transatlantic routes are doing very well despite more supply in the market. People are getting used to the exchange rate and taking it in their stride.”

He said the UK had recorded single digit growth this year following the launch of new routes from Heathrow to Denver and Edinburgh to Washington in the summer.

Schumacher said the airline was now seeking a winter slot for its London to Denver route.

He described the passenger incident as a “seminal moment”.

“We didn’t feel any impact here,” Schumacher said. “I think there is an understanding that unfortunate events happen.

“But the health of a brand is central to the importance of the health of a business like ours.

“The way United does business – running from operations manuals and not always empowering staff to do the right thing in tough situations – it brought about a culture change.”

The airline has rolled out staff training programme ‘core4’ as a result, which focuses on four key pillars: safety, care, dependability and efficiency.

“We used this to bring about that culture change and the brand has recovered,” Schumacher added.

United has opened new Polaris lounges exclusively for international business class passengers at a number of US airports with plans to open one in Heathrow next year.

Meanwhile, new premium economy seats Premium Plus have been introduced this year and are being fitted across the fleet.

The Travel Weekly team is reporting extensively from this year’s World Travel Market, stay up to date on our live blog and event microsite

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