Is US Airways the 'ugly girl'?

flickr photo by Caleb's Photography
It's been posted elsewhere already, but in case you haven't heard, Continental CEO Jeff Smisek got in a little hot water after referring to US Airways, in decidedly un-diplomatic language, as an 'ugly girl.' “I recognized that United was the best partner for Continental, and I didn’t want to marry the ugly girl; I wanted to marry the pretty one,” he said.

A bad choice of words, no doubt. Smisek evidently apologized to US Airways CEO Doug Parker, who called the words "chauvinistic and offensive." "Jeff sent me an apology, stating that he “got carried away in the moment,” “really felt badly” and “had no good excuse.” I believe Jeff was sincere in his apology, have accepted it on behalf of all of us and am ready to move past it," Parker wrote in a letter to US Airways employees (you can read the whole thing at the end of the post).

Parker also defends US Airways' performance in the letter, pointing out that his airline's profit margins, on-time performance, and stock performance were all better than Continental's recently. But why did United, which had recently considered a merger with US Airways, ultimately choose Continental instead? Why did US Airways get dumped? Two things to keep in mind, according to Parker:
  1. United chose Continental because it has "dominant positions in major business markets like Newark and Houston that allow them to collect even higher revenues than we can with our network," which is presumably more leisure-based.
  2. Even if US Airways did get dumped, it doesn't mean that it isn't a "valuable standalone company" with "strong" prospects.
In closing, Parker notes that he's "looking forward to aggressively competing against the new United Airlines – and winning." He has effectively shrugged off the 'ugly girl' remark, and done so in a professional and detailed manner. But could US Airways be considered the 'ugly girl'? Here's the text:

May 4, 2010

Fellow Employees:

A number of you have contacted me asking about Continental CEO Jeff Smisek’s “ugly girl” comment yesterday. In case you haven’t seen it, when announcing their plans to merge with United Airlines yesterday, Mr. Smisek said, “I didn’t want him (United CEO Glenn Tilton) to marry the ugly girl. I wanted him to marry the pretty one.” The ugly girl was a clear reference to US Airways. Like me, many of you found his comment both chauvinistic and offensive to the hard-working people of US Airways.

First, you should know that Jeff sent me an apology, stating that he “got carried away in the moment,” “really felt badly” and “had no good excuse.” I believe Jeff was sincere in his apology, have accepted it on behalf of all of us and am ready to move past it.

Having said that, the emails I’ve received from many of you suggest this comment hit a nerve so I wanted to give you my views. As one of you simply put it, “Why are we the ugly girl?” The answer, of course, is we are not and there’s no better evidence of that than our recent performance.

In fact, we are performing better than Continental on almost all of the important metrics of our business. Financially, we each reported first quarter financial results in the past two weeks, and while we both lost money, we both lost much less than last year. However, US Airways’ rate of improvement was much better than Continental’s driven by both higher revenue growth and better cost control. On an absolute basis, our profit margins are now higher than Continental’s.

Operationally, we’re performing much better than Continental in the primary customer service metric of on-time performance. US Airways jets arrived on-time more often than Continental’s during the first quarter 2010, and we also outperformed them in on-time during all of 2009 and 2008. We are also now neck and neck with Continental in areas like baggage and complaints.
This is all being noticed by the outside world, as US Airways stock price is up 42 percent so far this year, while Continental’s is up 15 percent, even after announcing their merger.

Bottom line, I think both of our airlines are doing a great job in a challenging business – but if I were them I wouldn’t be pointing fingers.

So why did United choose to merge with Continental rather than US if we’re performing better financially and operationally than they are today? I think the answer is straightforward and one we’ve discussed many times – while we have a strong route network centered around PHL, CLT, PHX, DCA and the Shuttle, Continental has dominant positions in major business markets like Newark and Houston that allow them to collect even higher revenues than we can with our network. United preferred that network to ours and while we may disagree with that decision, it was United’s to make and we need to respect it and move on.

None of this means we don’t have a valuable standalone company. To the contrary, we’re producing better standalone results than our peers like Continental. We announced last week that we expect to report a profit in the current quarter of this year, which is further evidence of our standalone value. As consolidation makes our industry less fragmented and more efficient, our standalone prospects will only become stronger.

As we move forward, let’s not worry about the words of our competitors – no matter how inappropriate they may be – but rather let’s continue to show the world what we can accomplish by working together and performing our jobs in a professional and focused manner.

Thanks so much for your commitment to US Airways. I’m proud to be a part of your team and am looking forward to aggressively competing against the new United Airlines – and winning — for many years to come.


Doug

7 comments:

soaring said...

It is only a choice of word i don't think his intention was bad

Sromobazar said...

I don't think like that.

Anonymous said...

I just suffered through a horrific experience with U.S. Air, and its anti-customer service group that I would recount in full if it weren't for the fact that I would be putting undue stress on my heart.

Suffice it to say that if I ever book another reservation on this airline, it will be conclusive evidence that I have contracted Alheimers. I have never met so many "I don't give a rat's behind 'cause ... though you may have paid good dough to fly my sorry excuse for an airline... that's your problem not mine!!

If the directors on this airline's board want to save this company from certain failure, they should skip a few board meetings and pose as travelers themselves to experience first hand what U.S. travelers on this airline experience. So that they get the "Full" treatment, they should call the 800 number in an attempt to become enlightened about the status of their aircraft in the event of a delay due to "maintenance issues". Good luck with that.

Good luck also with getting the attention of an airline agent to book another flight in time.

Also good luck with any connecting flight that you might be running through the airport to board, because they will close the gate EARLY and there will be no one at the gate to "assist or give a hoot. Could it be this airline has no way of communicating with the connecting flight's gate that there is a passenger coming from a delayed flight that just landed or could it be that they just don't care? You pick.

And when you go to baggage claim because your checked luggage didn't arrive, don't be too frustrated when the agent tells you: "Gosh....we don't have any information on this bag at all in our system." Seriously, don't get mad at her because it's not her fault, it's the airline's fault.

Hey directors, if you want to do something positive for this airline get in the field and get the real scoop on what's going on out there. In the end, you'll be benefited because if this airline goes under those checks for attending those board meetings and all those free dinners will come to an end.

dave teague said...

I'll never fly US AIr again EVER...!
I gave them another chance after 2 or bad cancelations & delays I experienced in the last few months.

Flew from boston to Philly to Las vegas. get to Philly & wait & wait & wait..Finally they announce that due to weather (understandable) they have to re-chart the flight route more south toward Texas...(Fine, this takes 3 hours?), then an hour later they announce that the crew can't fly the plane because the new route will take more time than the allowable on-duty hours limit...

So the 8:39pm flight gets cancelled at midnight insuring that NO one will be getting to vegas that night....

The Gate agenet then announces that he's handig out slips of paper with a special phone # to call to arrages a new flight. naturally the stranded passengers storm the desk.... the moron should have asked people to line up or perhaps annouce thet he's handing these out by seat-groups to avoid the rediculous debacle
that ensued...

So got a room that US Air refused to pay for and call up the special assisten ce line. After a 15 minutes wait, Agent tells me the only flight available is the exact same flight at 8:59pm...So 'm supposed to blow off a full 24 hour day, check out of the hotel at 11am and hang out at the airport for 10 hours.....Unfreaking believable...!

Buoght a ticket on American got to vegas at 11am.

BUT we're not done...

Head to the US Air baggage desck to see when my bag will show up (yes I stupidly checked it)

After being yelled at for approaching the sancrosact desk without an invitation, The heavy set blonde women told be she couldn'tr track my bag or even scan my bag tag because US Air was no longer the carrier "of record"...I had to open up the case at American... She almost really enjoyed telling me ther ewas nothing she could do...Even though I said US Air has my bag. US Air took my $25 bucks. US Air checked the bag in. The bag is on a US Ait airplane. bla bla bla...

Head over to American. Also not able to offically help because (wait for it..) yes they DON'T HAVE THE BAG! duhh... but she will unofficially help me. She calls up US Air and they go back & forth---- long story short... Lori Thompson (Awesome LV American AA bagges desk lady) single-handedly pushes US Air to find my bag
and turn it over to her. they do and AMERICAN delivers my bag to my house...

US Air sucks on every level of customer service. I hope they go bankrupt so they do no more harm to unsuspecting passengers....

Ibrar Hussain said...

In his exuberance during plugging the merger using United Flight companies on Saturday, Continental Airlines‘ key accounting became a little bit way too amazing.

“I identified that will United was the most effective spouse for Continental, as well as I didn’t wish your pet to be able to marry the hideous girl; I desired your pet to be able to marry the rather one, ” the key accounting, Jeffery THE. Smisek, said in a press seminar.

It’s very difficult to be able to blunder the focus on with the “ugly girl” thoughts since everyone aside from United’s alternative possibilities merger spouse, YOU Air passage. As well as in a notice to be able to YOU Air passage workforce on Tuesday, the airline’s key accounting, W. Douglas Parker (above), confident his troops that will their particular company was not even close heinous.
Regards,
Airlines Information

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Private Jet Charter said...

First Off, GREAT TITLE!!! I love that the response was so defensive. Would it be nicer if US Airways was referred to as the slow girl. Its a metaphor, but everything has to be censored but it was still a wonderful read. Thanks