Yesterday was a real “fun” day. When I arrived at the San Francisco airport at noon for my 1:40 flight, I was informed that the flight was delayed until 7:30 PM. After a few seconds it sunk in — I wasn’t going to make it home last night.
The agent didn’t really answer my questions about what had happened and told me that there weren’t any options on any airline that could get me home any sooner (although she didn’t seem to look very hard). She didn’t apologize and didn’t even seem to notice the enormous inconvenience to me.
After I told her how horrible the situation was, she gave me some vouchers for free food. As a business traveler with an expense account, this gesture did nothing to dampen the prospects of my 6 hour delay. So I asked if she could at least give me a pass into the Admiral’s Club. She said that she couldn’t do that; all she could do is give me the food vouchers (compare this with my post about Ritz-Carlton).
It turned out that the delay was caused by mechanical problems; so it was totally American Airline’s fault. And the plane ended up leaving even later and I got home at 5:30 AM in the morning — about 7.5 hours later than scheduled.
Here’s how I’d rate American’s customer service with my C.A.R.E.S. model:
- Communication: D
The airline didn’t provide much information at all about the situation
- Accountability: E
The airline didn’t try and do anything proactively to remedy the situation (like getting a plane quicker) or offer any options that lessened the inconvenience
- Responsiveness: D-
The airline didn’t notify me in advance of the delay and didn’t try to rebook me on another flight.
- Empathy: D
The pilot was the only American Airline employee that apologized for the inconvenience.
- Solution: D
A seven hour delay with no real attempt at remedying the situation for travelers is not an acceptable solution.
To put this in perspective, I’m a Platinum member of American’s loyalty program and am very close to reaching the Executive Platinum level (the airline’s highest level). So this is an indication of how American treats its best customers.
While American Airlines can’t avoid all situations where it inconveniences travelers, it certainly can (and must) do much better job with its service recovery process (responding to problem situations) and improve its corporate culture which is not very customer-centric.
The bottom line: American Airlines does not seem to care about customer experience.