On the plus side, it seems that United Airlines is being true to their word that a replacement for the recently departed "Expert Mode" functionality will be forthcoming. The company indicated today that they expect to offer the now missing functionality back to customers within the next couple weeks via a user profile option. It will be an opt-in feature rather than enabled by default for everyone. This should help reduce some of the calls from confused customers and also reduce the screen scraping of the data, the two main reasons cited for pulling the function offline last week.
Also scheduled for release in the coming weeks is the previously trialed "upgrade pending" indicators on reservations for all customers. This feature made it into the beta stage a couple weeks back but apparently had a couple bugs which delayed deployment. Apparently those have been addressed.
These are both great moves for customers but the timing – especially with the expert mode functionality – raises an interesting question.
If the uproar was just confined to communities like FlyerTalk or MilePoint I could almost understand not caring too much. It is honestly hard to separate the legitimate complaints there from the noise many days. Besides, United was offering far more information than any other airline published and making it far easier to get to that data. So maybe it would be OK to cut it back a bit, right? But it turns out that the bad press wasn’t confined only to these communities. Cranky Flier and the WSJ both published pieces bemoaning the change. And both basically characterized the move as the company picking a fight with their customers. That’s really not good.
I understand that the issues surrounding the "expert mode" situation have been pending for a while now – months, not weeks or days. And in the initial announcement that the functionality was being pulled the company representatives acknowledged that their actions were going to piss some customers off. Plus, they have the fix ready just a few weeks later. So why kill the access before the fix was ready? Does the brief reprieve for the call centers really offset the uproar in the customer community? In the broader traveling public? Could the systems really not handle the load from screen scraping for the few extra weeks? Besides, there are still going to be plenty of folks who don’t understand what the information means and who will be harassing the call center anyways; claiming to be an expert and actually proving oneself as such are two very different things.
Lots of questions out there and likely few answers in our future. I suppose the good news is that the answers don’t matter too much since the main functionality will be back soon.