Roughly 30,000 customer-facing employees such as flight attendants will be required to take the course. Core4 draws its name from the four characteristics: caring, safe, dependable and efficient.
Should a United employee hold up a plane so an elderly passenger can make a tight connection? How many miles should an inconvenienced passenger receive?
There are no easy answers to questions like these, but employees often have to decide on the spot when situations arise.
United and other airlines such as Delta Air Lines have expanded programs that give their employees more power, such as directly compensating a passenger when things out of the company's control go awry. Delta, for example, gives employees handheld devices to rebook passengers, change seats and make other changes on the spot.
Unlike safety standards, which are more rigid, customer service is a gray area, because it often entails making good judgment calls on the fly, decisions that depend on the passenger in question and myriad other factors.
In the wake of the Dao incident, United employees took computer-based training that quizzed staff on how they would handle certain customer-service problems such as spilling a drink on a passenger, according to an employee.
Core4 goes further. United employees will participate in role-playing exercises in groups to try to solve customer service issues, afterward discussing the rationale for why they handled a scenario in a certain way.
The caring unit includes good listening skills and even body language, according to a company document on the program. Employees should show that they are approachable with "open body language," "smiling," "making eye contact," "speaking with a positive tone" and "being mindful and compassionate."
"Core4 puts a value on emotional intelligence," said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents United's flight attendants.