InFocus Q&A: Innovating in the Air

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InFocus United Airlines

We spoke with Barbara Laken, director of specialty sales – meetings and incentives,  for  United Airlines, about United’s innovations for meeting planners.

How does United collaborate with meeting planners to enhance a partnership?

Laken: Historically, United provided earned productivity rewards by offering meeting organizers travel certificates. We have since upgraded our reward menu to a credit-based program, which makes a choice of traveler options available, such as United Club (SM) annual memberships, upgrade certificates, beverage coupons and a host of travel certificates, including business- or first-class certificates globally. This allows the organizer to determine what suits their needs.

How does United define innovation in airline travel?

Our goal is to offer comfortable and convenient air travel. The best innovations are the ones travelers don’t notice because they are so easy and effortless that they create a positive, seamless experience.

We recently became the first airline to offer customers Uber transportation services via our mobile app. Customers with iOS and Android mobile devices can access Uber ground transportation in the app’s menu or in the “My Reservations” card. The app displays info such as available vehicles, estimated wait times and prices.

How have planners been responding to the United Meetings online tool?

Meeting planners have told us they like the immediacy of our online meeting contracting tool.  We know how busy meeting planners are today, and the ability to obtain a meeting contract quickly and to activate it immediately is key. We also developed a step-by-step, web-based tutorial to assist with first-time users. Planners can even manage multiple meetings within one simple profile at

Can you share one of United’s key innovations in business travel?

We are the first U.S. airline to offer Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks that allow customers to check-in at international gateways and complete customs declaration by scanning passports via their iOS and Android mobile devices. The app uses the mobile device’s camera feature to capture passports. The passport is then verified by Jumio Inc., a credentials management company, for additional security. The new passport scanning feature saves valuable time and gives customers more options to control their travel experience.


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