Monday, April 24, 2017

Take your seats!

Mrs Juvat were having our little "reconnect" time Thursday night as I was cooking dinner.  We were sipping a nice little Montepulciano to grease the skids into the weekend.  With State required testing going on, and the summer approaching (our busiest time of the year, what with the teachers and students gone, we've got all the big projects to get done), "us" sometimes requires a little work.

So, we did a little "how'd your day go?" and during the "what's on tap for tomorrow?" portion, she brings up our guests for the weekend asked for an early check in. I asked her what she said.  She replied they could check in after 1PM.

I asked why she picked that time.  She looked puzzled.  I explained, why not just say "You're welcome to check in whenever you get here."  We don't have an elaborate check in procedure.  Open the unlocked door, step inside, hopefully "ooh" and "ahh" a bit, put your bags in the rooms, pick up the key from the table and begin your stay.

Since we didn't have guests the evening before and the place was cleaned and ready for guests, we incurred no cost whatsoever in telling them that.  More importantly, we extended a courtesy to them that would enhance their enjoyment of their stay and might just lead to a return reservation or, even better, good word of mouth.

Every once in a blue moon, I get something right.

Good shootin' juvat! Don't get cocky

Thinking about that episode about customer satisfaction lead me to the thinking (ok, visceral reaction) behind this post.

"What the firetruck is going on with the airline industry specifically and customer service in general?

United Airlines?  Talk about taking a pistol, pointing it at your foot and squeezing the trigger. (No, that analogy isn't correct, "talk about taking a Vulcan 20mm cannon, pointing it at your foot and squeezing off all 940 rounds" That's better.)  Good Lord!

Source

They have a full flight (not overbooked and that's while they'll lose the case, guaranteed) and decide they need to kick 4 already seated customers  off the plane to make room for some employees that need to be at a different airport.

Evidently, company procedures give priority to the employees over the customers.

You all know the rest of the story.  One of the "chosen" gets his face bashed in and dragged off the flight.  Video is available to the one person on the planet that still hasn't seen it.

I've read all the quibbling in the commentary about "you can't refuse the orders of the flight crew", "It's in the legal wording of the travel document"  blah, blah, frickin' blah.

You can't beat up (or have someone beat up) one of your customers for a mistake you made.  Not unless you want that customer to own your airline and not if you expect other people making travel decisions to choose other means of transportation other than your airline.
Source

But, hey, they doubled down on their error by pointing out that the guy traded drugs to get his jollies.

Completely irrelevant (and also not known by United or its employees at the time).

So, that's strikes one and two against United.

Strike three occurs a few days later.  A couple gets on the flight from Houston to Costa Rica for their honeymoon.  They go to their seat and since this is the continuation of an existing flight, there are already passengers on board.

As they get to their seat, the see someone sleeping stretched out over the entire row.  They elect to choose another empty couple of seats on the half filled flight.  The flight attendant asks them if they are in their assigned seats.  They say no and explain the circumstances, she tells them they must take their assigned seats.  They ask for an upgrade and are denied.  No place I've read indicate they were argumentative, however a US Marshal gets on board and escorts them off the jet.

Strike three, United.
Source

But, then, their biggest competitor, evidently decides that bad publicity is better than no publicity and gets in the act.

A lady gets on the plane with 2 babies and a stroller.  There doesn't appear to be video of the initial portion of the spectacle, but the lady gets hit in the head with the stroller.

Yeah, I got it.  The stroller has to be in checked, or gate checked, baggage.  The audio of the lady indicates she probably wasn't a native English speaker, so she may not have understood the problem.

Instapundit summed it up perfectly today "I’m not sure what additional facts might come out that would make hitting a woman with a stroller okay."
Source

Other people were criticizing the guy that got up and stood up to the steaming pile of fecal matter dressed in an airline uniform.

Meekly sitting there and not "interfering with the flight crew" is exactly how these wannabe dictators get to act like that.  I would hope I stood up also, and, Please Lord, put me on that jury.  "Not Guilty!"

Does anyone understand customer service anymore?

Richard Branson said "“I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.”. I agree.

If true, United, and now evidently American, must really treat their employees unbelievably well /sarc.  The Doctor didn't want to get off the airplane, but apparently the other 3 actually deplaned.  There's not a spare jumpseat for the employee to ride?  I don't think they even tried.  They just KNEW they were in the right and this impudent pipsqueak must be taught to obey their "Authority"

The Honeymooners, did they not know that by purchasing the cheap seats, they had given up all rights to be treated as a human being?

"Of course, you may not move to an open seat.  That seat must remain empty as it was not ticketed.  We will incur extra costs if you move, and ...and....and... you must respect our authority!"


Good Lord, people!  "The guy's sleeping in your whole row?  It's your honeymoon?  Yeah, just take any seat, they're all going to arrive at the same time."  

How much would that have cost United? It's not like they tried to move up to First Class.

That little act of human kindness might have bought United a bit of loyalty in the purchasing of their next ticket.  As it is, I'm sure the Doctor and the Honeymooners will use the ABFU** method of travel planning in the future.

American's situation, while every bit as heinous and a direct result of existing policies that don't reflect customer satisfaction as a priority, was at least handled better.  The employee was suspended (hopefully upside down by his toes) and the family's trip was upgraded to first class.  That's all well and good, but after the fact.  Again, IMHO it's doubtful that family will be booking American for future trips. A policy review, followed by training and a restructuring that pushes decision making and authority as far down the chain as possible are all called for (at both companies).

The really sad part about this is it's no different in many other areas.  Employees treat customers as a distraction at best and an imposition otherwise.  Folks, if your business doesn't have customers, you don't have a business.  Just because the IRS can get away with that business model, doesn't mean you have the law enforcement assets to make your business work like they do.

We had already booked a flight on United for the end of June before these debacles happened.  It may be our last flight on that airline.  We'll see.








*Adaptation of a quote from a movie.
**Anyone but (fill in the F) United.

38 comments:

  1. I've seen airline employees go out of their way to help customers and I've seen the ones who act like your impinging on their precious time. When they're getting paid for that time.

    They all get it right at times and they all screw the pooch at times. But yeah, someone needs to pull their head out and fix these things. All it takes is one bad incident to lose customers.

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    1. There are good people and bad people all over the world. My gripe is with the culture. Specifically, the apparent reluctance to be horrified by the incident with the Doctor by the United Management (as exhibited by the CEO). Whatever the legalese says, whatever he did in the past, causing a concussion is NOT the right way to have handled that situation. Anything by management other than strong, immediate condemnation reflects a culture that implicitly endorses this behavior.

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  2. Huh. Just got back from a two week (repositioning) cruise to Europe. Flew back Delta--admittedly First Class, since at my size I do not fly long distances cattle class. Great experience, flight crew very courteous and efficient. Bonus was that the Captain was a former USN F/A-18 jock, so I got to deliver the "Not bad for a Bug Driver" remark.

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    1. I've been lucky one time (vis a vis First Class, get your mind out of the gutter!). We were deploying from Hawaii to Thailand and Mrs. J decided to cash in a bunch (a whole bunch) of miles to upgrade me to First Class. Arrived in Bangkok some 20+ hours later very refreshed and quite content. Spoiled me a bit, it did.

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  3. I've never had or seen airline employees act anyway but courteous. I suspect there is another side to all these stories where the airlines were not as awful as they seem. That said, there is no excuse. Good customer service requires handling difficult customers not just the easy ones. The airlines are guilty of either very bad customer service at best, or criminal behavior at worst. I never went to law school and I think I could win one of these cases.

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    1. Absolutely correct, Joe. As with most things, it's the actions of a few that screw it up for the majority, and drive the policies that restrict freedom of action by the employees which causes more actions of the few to screw it up which drives more policies. Fighter pilots call that a death spiral and the only way out is when you reach the bottom AKA the dirt. That usually results in an explosion. I think United has reached that point, methaphorically.

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  4. Yep, we're scheduled on a United Flight later this year. Certainly will be boarding with a bit more trepidation than typical.

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    1. Good Luck. I tend to get onboard and say something nice to the flight attendant. Can't hurt. Still will, but if I get a snarl in return, I might just turn around and deplane. If they've got a stroller in the hands and it looks bloody or bent, I'm definitely getting off!

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  5. It's a complex issue but at the bottom line a sterling example of the reality that most people are perfectly willing to be amoral so long as they believe they can a) get away with it, and b) profit by it.

    The airlines are like any other government agency, becoming over time a self licking ice cream cone. In dealing with "customers" they've delegated the captain's absolute authority (a necessity when the wheels are in the well) to every employee, and those employees behave just like the students in the Stanford prison experiment. Those who have developed a firm set of civilized behavior will behave in a civilized fashion. Those who have not, will not, whenever they see personal advantage/gain in cracking heads or sending luggage to Piscataway or whatever. They will be civilized only when and to the extent they see an immediate personal advantage.

    But as you point out, it's not just the airlines. Most people are owned by the government too and don't possess a working set of civilized principles. They want cheap, rapid travel and as long as they think that's what they're getting they're willing to allow pretty much anything.

    If anything happens to the airline employees it will only happen for propaganda purposes, not as punishment for uncivilized behavior. Most people will instantly forget these episodes, and if they come up in future will believe ehatever katie couric or koobecaf tell them to believe.

    Thought exercise. What does it cost the airlines to upgrade seats and provide accommodation when they intentionally overbook? What does it cost the airlines when they settle lawsuits? I hope everyone understands that the airlines don't pay for those things.

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    1. ...firm set of civilized PRINCIPLES.

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    2. All good points, As to your last sentence about airlines don't pay for those things, that's true until the "All seats available" meme comes true.

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    3. I'm not sure that "working set" wasn't more technically correct.

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  6. The TSA works very hard to put passengers and crew in a fowl mood before anyone evengets near the gate.
    It's a small wonder there isn't more of this pre-flight entertainment.

    One time I got upgraded to first-class.
    I'm certain it was because they had open seats and I passed some attitude test.

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    1. Yeah, I got the TSA proctological exam on the way home from London. Best to just grin and bear it. I think the Brit version of TSA was at least a bit more civil about it though.

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    2. Wait--wait: TSA makes people chickens??

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    3. I worked as a security checkpoint screener (pre-TSA) at KSAT.

      And We had our fair share of airline employees, even aircrew, do their damndest to put us in a foul mood as well. One Captain of a United flight refused to cooperate with screening proceedures and stormed off before he could be fully screened. My supervisor had me follow him to the gate and then I got his information as to his identity and the flight number from the gate attendant. The airport banned him from flying in or out of KSAT and United had to change his route. Permanently.

      Another idiot passenger on a Mexicana flight had a case with a paintball gin in it, including the CO² cartridge. We were refusing him to pass with it but a Mexicana airline representative overrode us and allowed him to board with it.

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    4. You and I may have met. San Antonio is my preferred airport, or it was until they started this latest round of construction.

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    5. Hey (nny) Uncle Skip:

      You need to add an anonimouse (anonymous) to your "reply as" list so that I can blather on your site as I do on this one.
      Unless, of course, you don't want me polluting your site.
      I do like your cats. What did the dog do after s/he (?) got free from the cat attack?

      Paul L. Quandt

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  7. Respect their customers? The flight crews put their carry on bags in the overhead bins before the passengers get on. Like twelve feet of overhead bins. Seen it many times. One reason I only fly when I don't have the time to drive.

    Strange how there is room in the caro pits for all those bags checked at the end of the jetway but no room for the flight crew bags. Nah, I don't mind standing in the jetway while the ground crews deal with the traffic jam. So what if the jetways have no HVAC? Makes you appreciate the interior of the plane when you finally get inside.

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    1. Yeah the bag thing is a PMO. Air Canada boards by groups (but are a United partner).coming back from London we boarded the cheap section first. Frustrating to see people stuff their bags in the overheads and then proceed to the back of the bus. So when the folks at the front boarded they went to the back to store their bags. Big CF on arrival. Hate airline travel,with a passion.

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  8. Other than overseas travel, I'm traveling by road or rail or Alaska Airlines. And I'm not planning any overseas travel.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  9. And Delta is STILL trying to un...F their latest scheduling debacle... Had to refund something approaching 2200 tickets, or so I've heard.

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    1. I don't think I've heard about that one. Managerial Stupidity as the cause?

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  10. Leaving o darkthirty tomorrow morning via AMTRAK for the coast. I really prefer traveling on AMTRAK to flying these days. How's that for a rude jostle to antiquated notions of customer service and good value for the money? I pretty much hate flying these days and got much too used to commuting across the Pacific in my last job where it was still OK to fly KAL, JAL, Asiana or way way better, more reliable, friendlier airlines than the crap we have here, if the price was within the limits set by the JTR.

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    1. As alluded to above, we've already booked a flight on United. We're taking a cruise in Alaska. Getting off at Vancouver and Amtraking down to Seattle for the flight home (saving $, it think). Haven't ridden on a US train since I was probably 10, but rode one on our Scotland trip and enjoyed it. So...depending how this one goes, this may be our future preferred mode.
      I also spent a bit of time on KAL and JAL, they made it as enjoyable as possible for a very long flight.

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    2. juvat:

      Vancouver to Seattle, you could have flown on Alaska Airlines. In my experience, they have been a very good airline with great staff.

      Paul L. Quandt

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    3. juvat:

      Please disregard the above. I misread what you wrote and did my usual fool play. I liked Amtrak the times I have ridden with them. Which cruise line are you on, if I may be nosey. My wife and I did Holland America for our Alaska cruise. Please do a post on your cruise after you have recovered from your vacation.

      Paul

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    4. Me? Do a post about my vacation, when have I EVER done that (not this month anyhow). :-)

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  11. I'm going to play devil's advocate here, and not just because I have been a former Premier 1K guy on United, but first- a few caveats. 1. It's horrible that a guy got bloodied. 2. United is responsible 3. I have no evidence that United researched and released the guy's criminal background. However, everybody is making this out to be as if the United CEO got on the plane and starting pummeling the guys face. I expect they tried, calmly, vainly, desperately, to get the guy to leave. While I expect the crew was under pressure to seat the crew, they were surely behind schedule and that can be not only costly, but causal factor for further delays across the network. Even so, they don't say "get off" and then immediately bring in the goon squad. At some point, if a guy is absolutely refusing to leave, repeating requests and pleadings not withstanding, he must be physically removed. We can armchair quarterback this until the next scandal, but from what I read, 3 others took the $800, one of which was the guys wife. The tragedy is that in the act of pulling him out of his seat, he was pulling away from the rent-a-cops (Cops, guards, private security, no matter- all legal authority) the dude fell and bashed his head. United's fault? Sure, but the dude is also culpable. We have no proof, but common sense says that United's customer service was exemplary in being polite and kind to everyone to the point of having to force the due to leave, which he refused to do. I get tired of so many people these days, backed by edited video, thinking that being offended, confronting authority, playing the victim, being aggrieved and outraged by Cops, Corporations, TSA, restaurant hostesses, teachers, etc., help reinforce a sense of entitlement that we don't actually have. Sure, United is going to pay, but screw that guy- no sympathy for him whatsoever.

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    1. ""common sense says that United's customer service was exemplary in being polite and kind to everyone to the point of having to force the due to leave,"
      Let's agree to disagree with that statement as my experience is different that your's. Some truly are, as you say, exemplary. Others are not.
      And that was the point. Customer service should always be a top priority in a service industry as the airlines are.
      I don't blame the CEO for the concussion. I do blame the cops. I blame the CEO for the culture in the company that led to the situation.

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    2. Sure, CS should be #1, for any industry. I guess I'm fortunate that I haven't seen otherwise. I've never been bumped, always sit where I'm supposed to, I turn off my phone, etc., so I've never experienced anything but goodness, nor have I seen others treated differently. I can blame the cops too, but how about the Doc? A video today showed him calm right up to the point of the cops coming into his row, where he played like a stubborn toddler- clenching his arms to his chest, then flapping them up and down to keep them from grabbing him. He's culpable.

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    3. I disagree. Once he was seated and harming no one United had zero legal authority to remove him. You kind of h
      Know this already since they resorted to bribes and only used force when bribery failed. Think. Why would they try bribery if they had the legal authority to break their contract and simply order people off the plane? This was a case of overwhelming arrogance and vincible stupidly on the part of United's employees. They thought they could get away with it. They were wrong.

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    4. "Once he was seated and harming no one United had zero legal authority to remove him."
      Agreed.
      Sometimes resistance to tyranny (for that is what this was) is required. I did read that United has changed their procedures vis a vis Employee travel priorities and handling overbooking and even full booking. Which is a step in the right direction.

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    5. I have little respect for any adult that acts like a petulant child though, no matter the circumstances. Plenty of my airline buddies will disagree with the "once seated" aspect. A contract (your ticket) is only to be transported- not when or how. Just because you got seated doesn't mean squat. Sure, it's bad PR to remove someone, which is why they use bribes, but there's nothing in the contract of carriage about before or after boarding changing the terms. If he didn't get bloodied, we wouldn't be talking about this.

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    6. "If he didn't get bloodied, we wouldn't be talking about this."
      Exactly.
      "there's nothing in the contract of carriage about before or after boarding changing the terms. " Well...there wasn't then, but is now (in United Procedures and I would be very surprised if something along those lined doesn't get written into law). It shouldn't have required changing as it was "not right" as written, and that was the point of my post. There are a lot of things that are perfectly legal that are still not right.

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    7. Legality and morality are not synonymous.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)