AA Pilots Slam Management On Behalf Of Customers

My previous post discussed American Airline’s Web response to the grounding of its planes. But the airline’s problems go beyond maintenance issues with the FAA. While I was sitting on an AA flight today, I read something amazing in USA Today. The Allied Pilots Association (representing American Airline’s 12,000 pilots) had a large ad that was titled “Why is American Airlines Failing Its Customers?” Here’s an excerpt from the ad:

We’re embarrassed that so many passengers are inconvenienced and dissatisfied and hope you’ll accept our apologies for our airline’s unreliability. Why is American Airlines failing its customers?

Due to mismanagement, our airline doesn’t have enough workers to run dependably. It also doesn’t keep enough spare parts to ensure prompt repairs — and with the industry’s second-oldest fleet, the need for repairs is more and more frequent. American Airlines needs to reinvest in our airline, and do so quickly.

My take: This is even worse news than the groundings. When a major part of your workforce resorts to advertisements to tell management about the root of customer dissatisfaction, you’ve got a very serious problem. And, it’s not just the pilots that feel this way. I asked several AA employees that I ran into about the ad. While most did not want to speak badly about their company, it was clear from their responses (and sometimes, non-responses) that many AA employees agree with the pilots.

If the AA leadership team (execs and board of directors) have not yet gotten the message, then hopefully this is their wakeup call. As a frequent flier on AA, I hope that the company treats this as its “low moment” and commits itself to rebuilding trust with employees and customers.

The bottom line: It’s hard to excite investors when you irritate customers and employees.

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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