Tag Archives: airlines

Safe landing with good customer service

by Sarah Shea

For many, travel is a necessary evil. Business people travel several times a week, normally going through the motions like zombies. While I love to travel, I find myself loathing the “getting there” part.

I’d rather not spend $10 on a sub-par sandwich or banter with grumpy airline attendees. However, the destination is usually worth it.

As my obsession with ABC’s new show, “Pan Am,” grows, so does my envy of its display of travel. I crave the glamour of 1960s travel each and every time I watch it.

In a Los Angeles Times review, Robert Lloyd said, “The show says, yes this is as good as it looks, and it looks very good — though anyone who has flown anywhere in the last, oh, 30 years, may find it difficult to believe, or to remember, that air travel ever was this gracious, customer-friendly, or fun.”

Now, with the pain of airport security and countless cancelations, I can hardly believe that flying was ever as enjoyable as the show makes it seem.

But what if it was?

If airlines placed a little more emphasis on building these types of relationships, the pay-off would be worth it.

Having flown continentally and abroad, I’ve had a wide variety of travel experiences. I’ve flown on airlines like RyanAir, paying less than $10 for a ticket and more than $200 in overweight baggage fees. Conversely, I have traveled with airlines that have been more than willing to find extra space for my behemoth of a backpack.

Regardless, I have never gotten off a plane wishing I could spend a little more time with the crew. Sure, I’ve had good experiences, but never anything to write home about.

If airlines go back to the premise of customer service in their business, maybe I would. If nothing else, the air around airports would be lifted.

Maybe airlines have something to learn from TV.

 

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A Hole In Southwest’s Image?

By Marissa Stabler

I boarded the plane for my last trip to Dallas before my big post-graduation move (road-trip style) next month. Two energetic flight attendants made colorful remarks over the PA system. I took to my iPhone and tweeted how I would miss Southwest’s friendly customer service.

As the airplane ascended, I calmly read April’s issue of Spirit Magazine  (by the way, I never realized what an impact eggs have had on cultures), blissfully unaware that a Southwest jet had made an emergency landing less than an hour earlier  in Yuma, Ariz.

On April 1, a gaping 5-foot hole ruptured in the roof of Southwest Airlines Flight 812 sucking out breathable oxygen, when the plane suffered an explosive decompression at 34,000 feet. The pilots made a rapid descent to a lower altitude with breathable air, and eventually made a safe landing. There were no reported customer injuries. A flight attendant, however, suffered a minor injury.

Southwest responded by grounding 79 Boeing 737-300 airplanes (like Flight 812) for inspection within seven hours of the incident.

“I was not going to fly those airplanes until we understood better why that happened or did an inspection to assure ourselves we didn’t have other airplanes with that [problem],” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said. “My main concern was safety and customer service.”

Southwest issued a public statement within an hour after the plane landed in Yuma, and communicated with passengers via email and text messages, informing them whether their flights had been canceled over the weekend due to the groundings. The airline also kept customers informed through its Facebook page, Twitter and corporate blog several times a day as new information became available.

So, the question is, will the “hole incident” cause lasting harm to Southwest Airlines’ image?

Probably not.

Just like the hole in the roof of its aircraft, any damage to Southwest’s image will likely be repaired quickly on account of the airline’s swift handling of the situation and its favorable reputation.

“There was nothing Southwest failed to do or did improperly,” said Robert Mann Jr., an aviation consultant in Port Washington, N.Y. “This was something no one had seen before.”

Industry analysts say the airline has a solid overall maintenance program, and Southwest has maintained an outstanding safety record with no in-flight fatalities.

Above all, Southwest’s image will survive the incident because it has built a reputation as an airline that cares. The carrier is well-known for its low fares and warm customer service. Where else are you going to get endless Diet Cokes and salted peanuts, and have information serenaded to you in-flight — all for one of the cheapest air fares available?

Customer care is absolute in Southwest’s mission: dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.

This customer service has even flown into the realm of social media. Last month, TIME picked the 140 Best Twitter Feeds. Southwest (@southwestair) was deemed as “one of the few airlines getting it right on Twitter” (JetBlue also made the cut) for its interactive tweets that do an “admirable job helping road warriors do everything from rebook a flight to locate their frequent-flyer rewards.”

“Unless something else happens, [the incident] will be forgotten pretty quickly,” aviation consultant Michael Boyd said. “Southwest has too much of a reputation as an airline that takes care of people.”

Boyd appears to be right. Less than a month after Flight 812 made its emergency landing, Southwest customers took to the carrier’s Facebook page and expressed their gratitude for being an airline that goes the extra mile.

Without a word of complaint — Southwest, you go and top yourself — sending out a LUV voucher just cause we were stuck on the tarmac for a bit of time … and not because of anything you really did — just the silly storm. That’s what I call customer service. Thanks!!!

I ♥ you guys. I had my first Southwest experience this week and it was fantastic. Never did I think I could come to love an airline. Keep it up!

Southwest has the best customer service ever. We were three hours delayed out of LAX yesterday and wouldn’t make it back home because we’d miss our connecting flight. We’d have to spend the time at the Houston Airport (me and my two youngest daughters). William O. at the desk at LAX worked with me and routed me through St. Louis, where… we could stay with family overnight. He worked magic to get us on a full direct flight leaving in 30 minutes and then got us out of a direct flight out of St. Louis. We even got to have dinner with my parents last night. Yeah SW. It could have been a disaster, but it was a nice “extra” vacation day instead.

When I boarded my Southwest flight four days after the hole, I was just as calm as I was when I read “Which Came First?” (the chicken or the egg), partially because of the completed safety inspections, and partially because of the stand-up comedian/peanut provider/flight attendant manning the PA system.

Also published on PROpenMic.

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Communication During a Crisis

I was instantly terrified on Friday, February 13, to turn on the Internet and find the headline of “Deadly plane crash in Buffalo.” Having lived in Buffalo, New York, for my entire life, I immediately opened the story to find that a plane had crashed into a residential neighborhood about 10 minutes away from the place I call home.

This was the exact flight my father used to take on business when he worked for a company based in New Jersey. I read that a young pilot died, along with 49 others, including a woman who lost her husband in the September 11 attacks. Families were waiting in the airport to pick up their loved ones who would never make it home.

When a tragedy of this size happens, it is hard to stop the communication. Although it is tragic, people talk . . . a lot, because you can’t help but be interested. My parents said that this plane crash was one of the only topics covered in the news for days. Every new lead on the investigation of what may have caused the crash was discussed in great detail. Every story about the innocent people who had lost their lives was told, and memorials were held across the city.

After this event occurred, I thought back to the recent plane crash in the Hudson River where all passengers survived. I have never been fearful of flying on an airplane, and since I go to school about 1,000 miles away from home, I am lucky I feel this way. After all of the tragedies and frightening moments experienced in the air, I realized that the public relations practitioners for these airlines must be doing something right.

The communication experts have done a wonderful job ensuring safety. The public was notified that these occurrences are very rare, and it was communicated that the Q400 model of aircraft has had no previous crashes. In a recent Buffalo News article, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, of US Airways Flight 1549, discussed his consulting firm, which applies airline safety regulations to other businesses. The airline industry is so well known for safety that it is looked to as an example.

But what wasn’t communicated clearly was the fact that flight 3407 was not technically a Continental Airlines flight, leading to assumptions that Continental Airlines was responsible. When checking the Web site for Continental Airlines there was one news release expressing sympathy about the plane crash, and discussing the ways in which Continental Airlines will support Colgan Air during such a difficult time. In order to learn that the flight was a Continental Connection flight operated by Colgan Air, I needed to visit the Colgan Air Web site. Pinnacle Airlines Corp. owns Colgan Air, and their flights consist of the Continental Connection, US Airways Express and United Express.

Colgan Air released about 10 statements during the week of the plane crash, providing information about the passengers, pilot and crew, safety policies and actions to support the victim’s families. A question and answer document was released, explaining the investigation to cause of the plane crash, stating that the cause is unknown, but there are suspicions that it was related to excess ice on the wing.

When a tragedy occurs, it is important for the public to know exact details. The worst thing that could happen is for rumors to spread, resulting in miscommunication that needs to be corrected. In this recent tragedy, I feel as if Colgan Air did a fantastic job releasing information to media outlets, and keeping its company’s name away from negative attention. There is no easy way to communicate during a crisis, but giving as much information as soon as possible has proven successful through this recent incident.

My prayers and support go to all of the families who have lost a loved one on flight 3407.

-Sarah Minkel

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