Brian Sumers writes that United Airlines – despite dropping service to New York JFK – is trying to compete in the Los Angeles market with a dedicated phone line for Hollywood.
… United’s customer service news, and we learned the airline is forming a “dedicated phone desk” for important East and West Coast customers.
“The desk offers high touch phone and email support for our entertainment and media customers – a growing market for United,” the airline told employees. “A progressive step forward for our high yielding customers, United can now compete even further with Delta and American who offer similar support products in a very competitive market.”
I don’t think the entertainment and media desk will do a ton here, although the forthcoming renovations to United’s terminal will help.
Los Angeles is probably the most competitive airline market in the U.S. at least for premium passengers. New York – LA is the most lucrative route, with United having a lock on Newark and Delta’s strength at LaGuardia and New York JFK. (American is a clear third, and doesn’t even fly to many key business destinations from its JFK hub.)
There’s no overwhelming leader in Los Angeles. American is probably a nose ahead of Delta, with United third and much of their capacity coming from international. Southwest and Alaska and even JetBlue are strong as well.
It’s not clear that anyone is going to make big money there, though, with all of the resources being thrown at the airport and the inflight product to woo customers.
Delta completed a $250 million renovation of their terminal space this summer. That includes a private check-in lounge and a renovated Sky Club.
American had been the only airline with ‘private check-in’, their Flagship Check-in at the far end of the terminal with a separate door and porters with hotel luggage trolleys standing outside.
We now know LAX is getting an American Express Centurion lounge as well.
The LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal used to be one of the worst places in the United States. Not just one of the worst airport terminals. One of the worst places. Now it’s been completely redone.
The Star Alliance business class lounge there has a wonderful outdoor space overlooking airport operations, with fire pits.
Meanwhile the oneworld first class lounge at LAX, operated by Qantas, is probably the best airport lounge in the United States.
That may not be enough for LAX’s top end celebrities and the city’s wealthiest individuals who will be able to pay to use a new private terminal at the airport.
All of these improvements make American’s LAX Flagship Lounge look like, well, a basic Admiral’s Club.
American — though it has no announced plans for a more than half billion dollar renovation like in United’s terminal, mostly funded by the city — has the best inflight offerings at the top end since their New York flight is the only one with three cabins of service.
Delta, in contrast, has been known to switch aircraft on the route which can be especially painful for premium passengers on a redeye.
LAX is still congested. They have plans to address this — building an ‘intermodal transportation center’ about a mile from the airport with an automated people mover to carry passengers to the terminal — at a cost of about $4 billion (on a per-mile basis by far the most expensive project of its kind ever, and it will still mean long walks for passengers). They probably would have been better off with low emission buses.
Not everything about the airport is sunshine and unicorns. But it’s far better than it used to be, and in many ways getting better.