September 24, 2013 | Kendall Creighton Breaking BAAd No Miles for You! Tuesday, September 24, 2013 Airlines often forget that the way people are communicated with can make all the difference toward customer perception. Few industries test their customers’ patience like the airlines. Travelers tweet daily about delays, cancellations, lost bags and testy gate agents. By Evan Eile, USA TODAY It is understandable that flights may be late, and it happens to the best of airlines. An airline can serve up a mediocre meal, use second rate aircraft, run three hours late and still people will forgive them if they’ve been told what is going on. The difference between keeping the passenger in the dark or in the loop is so short, and a little smile goes a long way, plus it costs nothing. This is illustrated by Jackie T.’s story to FlyersRights about her treatment by American Airlines on a flight from Denver to Aruba. We first flew to Miami to catch our flight to Aruba. About an hour before our flight was to board, there was an announcement that it had been cancelled. No explanation. We had to wait in line for about an hour so they could re-book on a completely different airline the next day. Most of the employees seemed to have a “What are you going to do, fire me?” kind of attitude. All the luggage was removed from the first flight, except for about 10 of us. We had to wait FOUR hours until AA found our ‘lost’ luggage along with the other 10 angry passengers. The staff was so rude and ambiguous about where it might be, sending us to four different baggage carousels. The next day when we checked into our re-booked flight on US Airways we discovered one person in our party wasn’t booked on the flight, a second was listed as an infant and we had to pay new baggage fees! The real difference between airlines depends on the employees you interact with; the gate agents, ticket counter and flight attendants. It’s what makes the difference between good or bad service with any airline. Good customer service has a lot to do with passenger communication, in what can often be a disorientating and confusing travel process, especially during connections that don’t go to plan. Keeping passengers informed ensures that they feel comfortable and confident in what’s going on and that they feel they are being cared for on an individual basis. As to the Miami AA staff just shrugging; it’s understandable that sometimes people at the front counter are just as uninformed as the passenger, or they may be exhausted from answering the same question 250 times. But being unhelpful or rude won’t make the job any easier. All that does is make the passengers furious and make a bad situation worse. If this is a common occurrence, the airline definitely needs to sort out its training to its customer service staff, at the very least educating them on the product they are actually selling. This is very basic stuff for a major carrier and there is no excuse for it not being executed properly. Airline staff politely explaining that, they too are not aware yet, or don’t have information about the problem takes 30 seconds. And while it’s not a satisfactory answer to passengers’ questions, at least they’d go away feeling as if it was because staff didn’t know the answer, as opposed to just being rude or objectionable. Is My Seat Included? Ryanair’s New Customer Service Strategy: Be Nice! Expect pigs to fly. Last week Ryanair’s CEO, Michael “vertical straphanger seats and pay-toilets” O’Leary came out with an unprecedented statement, that they now care about you! The airline will transform its “abrupt culture” to win customers over to its budget ways, reports Reuters. “We should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily piss people off,” O’Leary told the company’s annual general meeting, after several shareholders complained about the impact of customer service on sales. This comes on the heels of Ryanair winning the top spot of worst 100 big brands serving the British market. The company said today it would take it easy on fining customers over bags and just be nicer when it talks to them. “A lot of those customer services elements don’t cost a lot of money … It’s something we are committed to addressing over the coming year,” O’Leary said. “I am very happy to take the blame or responsibility if we have a macho or abrupt culture. Some of that may well be my own personal character deformities,” O’Leary said. Hello, Spirit and Allegiant? Flying These Days is a Frisky Business TSA’s New Tiered Screening Process In a move away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach, the Transportation Security Administration is planning to adopt a three-tiered system for passenger and baggage screening at U.S. airports. TSA will pre-select passengers for “expedited, standard or enhanced” screening at the time of booking. The information will be embedded in the barcode of the boarding pass. According to TravelWeekly, the new procedure will rely on existing data in the Secure Flight system that is used to match passenger reservations records with the FBI’s watch list. Low-risk passengers selected for expedited screening would be assigned at the airport to the lanes now used for TSA’s PreCheck program, where pre-approved frequent flyers are permitted to keep their shoes and belts on, and to keep laptops in their cases. Applications will be accepted online, but applicants will have to visit an enrollment center to provide a fingerprint. The first two enrollment centers are expected to open this fall at Washington Dulles International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport. Winging It Allegiant Flight Attendants Handing Out Notices If you’re brave enough to book with Allegiant Air, listen up. Some flight attendants are fed up with how things are run. Their union says they have to deal with too many angry customers who are upset with delayed flights and extra charges. Some Allegiant flights now have the flight attendants handing out information flyers to deplaning passengers explaining that attendants will continue to provide quality customer service, despite the lengthy flight delays that have so angered their customers recently. The Transportation Workers Union represents the flight attendants and says attendants wrongly become the target of these frustrations. “Obviously we’re put in a position with customers who are unhappy because of these delays or cancellations, and we don’t have any way to answer them because these are decisions made by the company,” says Thom McDaniel, International Vice President of the Transportation Workers Union. McDaniel says that extra fees for on-board drinks, snacks, and carry-on luggage are pushing customers away. The union started a website, willallegiantbethere.org, to voice their concerns with the company. They have been in an ongoing battle to reach an agreement on a contract with Allegiant for nearly three years. Read More: Fox Las Vegas news United’s “Fly the Friendly Skies” Slogan Returns After almost a 20-year hiatus, United Airlines is once again urging travelers to “fly the friendly skies.” When several FlyersRights members emailed us this story last week, we thought: wouldn’t it be nice if United rolled out this campaign as part of a package of service improvements? We just can’t see the slogan working with today’s race to the bottom. Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Hudson Crossing, called the campaign “a very bold move for United,” but said the advertising carried “the risk of failure: If passengers don’t see United fulfilling its promise of being a ‘user-friendly’ airline, the advertising will be seen as hollow and will backfire. … Tim Winship, publisher of FrequentFlier.com, a Web site on travel loyalty programs, was dismissive of the campaign, calling “friendly skies” “so last century. In 2013, the skies are anything but friendly, and to suggest otherwise is to insult the intelligence of consumers and invite their scorn. United has a huge credibility gap problem. A bit courageous to proclaim the friendly skies when you can’t get above 80% on time and every message from United proclaims enhancement while delivering degradation. (United Airlines Named The Worst Domestic Carrier). By the way, how does calling your sky friendly differentiate you from all the other airlines sharing that airspace with you? Is that AA flight 10 miles ahead of us in the unfriendly skies? Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights Founded by Kate Hanni in 2007, FlyersRights is funded completely through donations and our Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity, to which contributions are tax deductible. Thank you for your continued support!