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Getting Away, Southwest Style

July 16, 2013

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 2:45 pm

By now most of us are pretty bored with stories pointing out bad customer service on airlines. But sometimes they can lead to a valuable management lesson. At least I hope so, and if not I’m sure I’ll feel better anyway.

Recently, I was traveling from Boise, Idaho to Oakland, California on Southwest. Plane was scheduled to leave at 6:50 p.m. and was, of course, the last flight out to the Bay Area that day.

Unexpectedly I arrived early, only to find that the flight was ‘delayed slightly’ according to the agent at the ticket counter. So, 6:50 departure, became 7:05, then 7:30 and then 7:55 and then 8:30. By now it was 6:00 and the gate area was filled with folks waiting for a gate agent to see if their connections would be O.K. One traveler even unsuccessfully called the airport paging service to ask that an agent come down to the gate area.

Around the time we should have been boarding, an agent finally shows up and promptly walks away to use the rest room. O.k, so nature calls, it happens. Of course, when she returns she is inundated with passengers wanting to know what to do about their connections.

Her first act is to get on the PA system and say, “Look, I really don’t know what’s going on, and until I do, I don’t have any answers. These things happen all the time, but the more you people stand up here asking me questions the longer it will take me to sort this out, so please do not come to the desk area.”

Two hundred shocked passengers retreated in fear.

But, here’s my point. Southwest knew the flight was delayed when they sent her to the gate, don’t you think she should have known what was coming and possibly checked out the situation before she got to the desk?

Flight delays may happen to her all the time, but to most of the ticket holders in the waiting area, it was just a bit more stress they didn’t need.

Eventually, it all got sorted out and people were rerouted and booked on flights the next day…and we made it back to the Bay Area 2.5 hours late. But it sure seems like a manager might have suggested she show up prepared, so that she wouldn’t be treating her paying customers like third graders waiting for recess.

Certainly made me an ex-Southwest customer.





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