United is overhauling its international business class to win over high-spending travelers and chip away at its reputation as industry-lagging. Bobbi Rebell reports.
New lounges, a full meal before the flight, and seats with privacy walls in business class are coming to United Continental starting December. That's how the airline is trying to win over high-spending travelers, and chip away at its reputation as being less than top-notch. United Continental chief executive Oscar Munoz: (SOUNDBITE) OSCAR MUNOZ, UNITED CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICE, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "What is the most valuable thing to you as an international business class flyer? What are the things that you want, desire, need or lack the most? We went across the entire gamut. And as you might expect, the VIP treatment, the food, all of those things came into play. But interesting, our research showed that a good night's sleep was by far the most important." But many wonder whether it's going to work. Travel analyst, Henry Harteveldt: (SOUNDBITE) HENRY H. HARTEVELDT, FOUNDER/TRAVEL INDUSTRY ANALYST, ATMOSPHERE RESEARCH GROUP, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It should help United regain lost customers, and, perhaps, attract some new ones. But the reality is, as good as what United has announced, it's not that innovative. It's really nothing that leapfrogs any of its competition, and United still struggles sometime with its own time performance and with customer service issues." United is facing heavy competition not only from U.S. airlines, like Delta and American, but also from international giants, like British Airways and Cathay Pacific.