Posted by: Matthew Molinari | February 9, 2011

UA Pilot & Rules of Engagement (Blog #3)

The case of Captain Flanagan brings to mind how important it is to have front line employees who create a powerfully positive image. His actions speak beyond the fact that United Airlines was really a middle of the pack airline. Leaving a flight that Cpt. Flanagan had flown would probably leave the passengers with a completely different feeling.

Myself, I am not too aware of where my airline sits in competition with the others. I pretty much base my choice on the cheapest ticket. However, with all things being equal, seeing your captain go out of his way for you, does make you think twice about who to fly with.

Although, in a way, it almost takes away from United as a whole though. As I think about everything Cpt. Flanagan did, none of it was really that over the top. It just seemed that way because no other UA employee was doing it. Having business standards low enough so that any extra effort on the employee’s part seems amazing, isn’t really a strong business strategy. What would be more interesting to me, as a customer, would be to see the company make these unique situations common place.

Captain Flanagan took the approach that flying had become difficult for most passengers but that didn’t mean that it had to be unpleasant. Clearly learning behavior orientated, Cpt Flanagan saw problems everyday and found simple ways to help the passenger cope. He couldn’t stop the plan from being delayed, but he could call the unaccompanied minor’s parents to make it easier for them to feel at ease.


Having only been in the full-time workforce for less than a decade, I find it very difficult to imagine a company that doesn’t focus on employee satisfaction. These days, it is the norm to question how satisfaction with work and how stresses outside of work are effecting performance.

I tend to put a lot of emphasis on scheduling in particular. I know that during my time as an hourly worker, finding a relationship between work and personal responsibilities could lead to a lot of stress. For some spots, you obviously can’t do that; if you open the store you need to be there on time but for many positions this just isn’t true anymore. I would prefer my employee come in late and feel relaxed and focused rather than be on time and be worried all morning about the appointment they couldn’t make for their kid.

It just makes sense that a focused and happy employee is a better worker and having a better worker means more productivity and profit for you in the long run. As technology advances, it also makes it easier for the employee to do this. An employee being out of the office no longer means they are out of touch. They can get to their appointment and you can get a response to that email so flex time has really become a no brainer.

There is also a certain level of expectation now so you just won’t get the best candidates applying for positions if you don’t foster an atmosphere that provides for their well being. In 20 years the environment completely flip-flopped. Companies have gone from not noticing happy employees had higher productivity to competing to have the best programs. “What are your benefits?” is probably only behind asking what the pay is for determining how desirable a job is.


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