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Dear United Airlines,

dataThanks for yesterday. I really appreciate it. Sure, we had to move 188 passengers from a completely loaded plane in Chicago (Gate B18) to a fresh new (not broken) plane at Gate B8. But I still made my connection in Denver. Thank you for giving me my luggage back in Albuquerque. Sure, it was unzipped and my panty bag was sticking out – but I know that’s not YOUR fault. You were actually “early” to ABQ, sadly the gate crew wasn’t ready for us, so we DID have to sit on the tarmac until it was time, but darnit you tried.

We celebrated our 111,670th mile-in-the-sky for 2008 last night. That’s me boarding 113 United airplanes in just under 12 months. Or, on average, 9.41 times each month I stood in line, your “preferred” line, to check my luggage, go through security and board your planes.

I stayed with you after 9-11. I endured your pilot’s strike – twice. I try to be compassionate in the winter months and understand your decision to place your hubs in Chicago and Denver. I’m even okay with you not serving pretzels anymore.

Today I heard some disturbing news. A dear friend of mine told me that she can “buy” my status from you for a mere $25.00 per trip. This can’t be true I told her. That’s why I’m so loyal to United. Because they recognize my undying devotion by giving me that one extra little perk – not having to wait as long as casual travelers as I commute to work (yesterday my commute home was a total of 9 1/2 hours).

Nope, she said, now ANYONE can buy that convenience. Oh, but United wanted to make sure that 1K flyers know they can still get that for FREE! But, United….um, I HAVE paid for it. On average my business spends $30,000.00 in airline travel. To YOU!!! And now it’s going to cost ME more, by giving up a little chunk of my soul on each flight.

Rookie travelers will be vying for my overhead bin space, slowing me down in the TSA line with their bottled water and cans of hairspray, and refusing to queue up to a machine because they never travel and want to talk to a live person (of which there are only two working per major airport) thereby clogging the flow of frequent flyers.

I know you need the money. Times are tight and all that. But if we’re going to go there – and by “there” I mean straight to bad profit hell – then I might as well fly an airline that is cheaper, friendlier, has the best on-time record AND peanuts.

Good bye United.
Hello Southwest!

In Fred Reichheld’s groundbreaking book The Ultimate Question he talks about good profits and bad profits.

Good profits come from fees customers will gladly pay because they see value in the transaction. A great example is the annual COSTCO membership. I happily pay a $50.00 a year for the privilege of shopping there.

Bad profits are those that are collected at the expense of a customer relationship. They not only turn off customers, they erode employee morale.

I flew from Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina to Orlando, Florida today. Here are the bad profits that hit my radar……..just to mention a few.

$15.00 to check a bag.
$6.00 for a glass of wine on the plane.
$3.00 for a bag of pretzels on the plane.
$5.00 to rent a headset to watch the movie on the plane.
$15.00 to SELF park my car at the JW Marriott.
$4.50 for a bottle of water in my room
$15.95 per day for wireless internet, in my room.

But the winner of the bad-profit-fee-of-the-week comes from Wachovia (yes, the failed bank that is now owned by Wells Fargo) who has begun charging a $20.00 employee reference fee!!!

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