Stuck in the Airport
I have traveled 1,481,924 miles with American Airlines. I’m a loyal customer. It means something to me. It should mean something to them. Apparently it does 50% of the time.
Saturday I flew out of Philadelphia. It’s not American hub, but I flew American anyway. My flight was delayed, an unfortunate circumstance that occurs too often in Philadelphia. The delay was 4 hours. I did what I do — got a drink and something to eat. Then I looked for a story. I think of the story I found as When 2+2= -8 Just to Get Back to 0
A four hour delay is a pain or an adventure. It’s an experience as a customer. Every interaction is one that is positive, negative, or neutral. I won’t bother with the neutrals. Here are the two positive and two negatives that happened.
- Flight delays mean I check my carrryon. In Philly that requires taking it to a bag checking agent. With a big smile, she said, “Let me take that, go have a wonderful flight. The escalator is right behind you.”
- I passed through security — we know what fun that is — then I realized the Admiral’s Club is before the check point. I wound my way back to the club. My membership card ready, I pressed the doorbell. Nothing happened. The club was CLOSED. Apparently club members travel on Saturday mornings only. I didn’t get the memo.
- Later — much later — I took a walk outside to entertain myself. On my way back through security, I stopped to consider walking another concourse.
An American pilot stopped to ask, “Can I help you find your way?”
I said, “No, I’m 2 hours into a 4-hour delay. I’m just touring the airport.”
“Ah,” he said. “I understand. I often feel the same way.”
- At 9:29, I went to the gate. The information posted on the screen said the 4:30 flight would leave at 5:15.
I waited until the line was gone.
When the two gate agents were free, I said, “Excuse me.”
A gate agent answered, “I’ll be with you in a minute.” She walked away and NEVER CAME BACK.
“Excuse me,” I said to the second.
She huffed over.
“Could you update the information on the monitor behind you?”
“I have no control over that TV,” she said sharply, and walked away.
There were four customer interactions — two positive and two negative. Only two of the four were customer centered — the pilot and the baggage lady. The club and the gate agents weren’t there for this customer.
Getting Back to Even
Positives count as worth passing on, until a negative happens.
I’ve read that it takes five positive experiences to overcome one negative interaction. If that’s the case, then American Airlines owes me 8 positives to get back to even.
In the end, they’ve left me wondering why I’m always delayed in Philadelphia. The problem is more than just the weather. My customer intuition tells me that they’re used to things they way they are.
What do you suppose would jog them out of thinking that this customer will keep waiting for them forever?
–ME “Liz Strauss