April 4, 2012

Recently my wife and I used frequent flyer miles to fly First Class on a trip that included several flights including a long-haul (five hours) on American Airlines. It was pretty shocking for someone who use to be in the airline industry. Oh, seat comfort was OK. Food was pretty typical (nonexistent on short flights, forgettable on long flights). But what really stood out was the total lack of a service attitude by the flight crew.

On our long-haul flight we were handed an impressive looking menu that promised an interesting four course meal. Now, how difficult would it be on a five hour flight to present this menu in four courses, serving each dish individually over time? That use to be the norm. Now, it’s the same food, but passed out in one rushed, uninspired cafeteria-style moment. When the movie was presented, no announcement was made to make it seem like it was something we should look forward to, it just started. When I asked for headsets, the flight attendant’s attitude was one of “I can’t be bothered you stupid passenger, you should have brought your own headsets like everyone else?”

I guess this whole experience wouldn’t be worth a blog, except that during a five-hour flight not a single flight attendant smiled or even welcomed us. It’s pretty hard for anyone to go for five hours without smiling. But our experienced flight attendant team had mastered this skill. If American wants to see a welcoming spirit in action, step aboard an Alaskan Airlines flight. From the moment we stepped on our flight, to the moment we stepped off, all the flight attendants made us feel welcomed and appreciated. Perhaps that’s the core difference between one airline that is bankrupt and a small regional airline that is making money.

Yes, I’m totally aware that America Airlines is in bankruptcy and that the people serving us could loss all or most of their retirement and, perhaps, their job. As a former airline employee that lost most of my pension I can related. But the bottom-line is that airlines are still a service business. And people deliver service.

Now take a look at your company. Are your people delivering service? It’s a question you need to be asking every day or you might be the next American Airlines.

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