Monday, November 05, 2007

A Tale of Two Airlines

I'm doing a ton of flying these days, but most of it is back in carriage rather than the front left seat - so I may as well blog about some of those experiences. Author's note: One of my major hot buttons is customer service.

Last weeks' business trip involved 8 legs to visit three customers in three cities.

Story 1:

I'm in IAD (Dulles airport, Washington DC) in the United departure lounge, waiting for a 777 flight to Denver. Across the aisle is the departure lounge for an overdue United 747 departure for Frankfurt. These are smallish departure lounges, and it is hot and crowded.

The pilot for the 747 Frankfurt flight, in jacket and with four stripes, came into the departure lounge and made an announcement regarding the delay. The gist of his announcement was "Hi, my name is {insert name here}, I am your pilot for your flight to Frankfurt. We had a mechanical problem, some of you probably saw the guys with the wrenches under the engine, then wondered why we left without you -- after they had the problem fixed I took the aircraft up and did a loop around the airport to check everything out, all is fine, and we'll start boarding for our trip to Frankfurt in the next five minutes."

The passengers applauded.

Story 2:

In my hotel room in Reno, American calls me on my cell phone and lets me know that my 1:00pm flight to Chicago will depart at 1:45. Thanks, no problem.

I get to RNO and the flight is now scheduled for a 2:40 departure. We leave after 3pm. An obtuse comment about the delayed departure from the captain on one of the announcements, and I've got it figured out - the previous day's flight crew snagged something, and nobody from maintenance did anything about it overnight. They weren't waiting for a part - they didn't even order the part. Maintenance activity started when today's flight crew arrived at the 757, read the snag in the log, inquired about the resolution, and then maintenance got started.

My 2:45 layover in Chicago was reduced to 35 minutes, 25 of which were spent going from gate to gate.

Story 3

I arrive at my Chicago departure gate 13 minutes before departure, and I'm not checked in (since I had such a long layover scheduled at ORD, the checkin would happen there not in RNO). The United/Ted flight ORD-YOW was actually operated by Skywest. They had closed the flight, since all passengers had been boarded. They looked at the paper trail, listened to me curse American, determined that the door was still open, gave me a boarding pass and walked me down to the aircraft.

Astoundingly, my checked baggage made it onto the aircraft, despite the quick change involving a late-arriving aircraft, two different airlines, and two different terminals.


I've flown American Airlines very few times. It's never been a clean, happy experience. How do these guys stay in business??