The conversation in the back galley of the United Airlines flight took an unexpected turn. “What do the Asian airlines do or offer that we do not.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes. I have never flown on any of the Asian carriers. I would like to understand. What makes the difference?”
“Ok, let me start with the last question. I will try to explain.”
My mind was flooded with the different ways Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have reached out in service. While far from perfect, they are significantly different than United. My answers reflected the difference based on the assumption that “the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.” (1 Corinthians 10.24)
The difference starts with management. In this case, from the top, the hearts and minds of the company are on service. It is never about just doing the minimum. It is about acting in fully in the moment at hand.
Additionally, the approach transcends management. Individuals at all levels, junior staff, maintenance personnel, and pilots are committed to be there for customers. It is as if we are their extended family.
The equipment used is reliable. I can count the exceptions on one hand. An older 747 with equipment that should bee replaced was an exception I rarely encounter. Most Asian airlines are a story of employees with proactive pride in taking care of passengers and the plane can be seen and felt. Even the plane after a long flight is cleaner than United. It is as if people who have been served take care of everything around them when they know others care.
I do not have any answers for United. I do know it starts at the top. I also know that the process will not be easy. It will not happen quickly. It takes times, discipline, and most of all belief. It is possible. It can start with just one person believing. If it does, I will have met a change agent on this flight.