Responding to a changing external business environment
An United Airlines case study

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Page 3: Meeting the external challenges

The SLEPT analysis illustrates the complexity and uncertainty of the airline environment. To handle this, United Airlines must itself continually change and evolve to ensure that it remains the carrier of choice, based upon its leading position as a major innovator. Only then will sufficient customers continue to prefer United Airlines and remain loyal to it.

Whilst ticket prices certainly matter to airline passengers, customer service is also highly important, being a major feature of passengers' choices and a key factor through which many major airlines compete. Good customer service doesn't just happen: it has to be worked at. It involves pre-transaction considerations and the processes designed to satisfy customer needs as well as post-transaction considerations that are designed to ensure that as customers complete their journey they are happy to describe their positive experience to others.

In response to changes identified through the SLEPT analysis, United has acted. It has:

  • developed a route structure spanning five continents and offering the most non-stop flights from the Pacific Rim to the USA
  • set new standards for the comfort and safety of its aircraft fleet
  • developed the Star Alliance network, bringing together 15 carriers who offer services to over 700 airports in more than 120 countries
  • further developed and invested in its airport lounges
  • created the Red Carpet Club, providing members with access to over 40 facilities worldwide
  • offered First and Business customers access to an arrivals suite with the opportunity to shower, enjoy a continental breakfast and utilise business services.

In a technologically-based industry, using new technology creatively is a key way to counter adverse environmental forces. United's e-ticket service has simplified check-in procedures. Changes in computer hardware have enabled United to provide large-screen electronic display systems as well as gate readers and baggage scanners to improve the tracking of luggage. United recently received the highest ranking among airlines for its effective use of the Internet. Behind the scenes there are flight information systems and other software systems designed to provide up-to-date information for customers.

United Airlines | Responding to a changing external business environment