Partners - Stock market, economic and political commentary by Patricia Chadwick

Posts Tagged ‘airlines’

Caveat Emptor! (If You Buy an Airline Ticket and the Flight is Cancelled)

Monday, October 12th, 2015

There’s a moral to this story, so read to the end. It’s short and sweet.It was raining in New York. That meant that LaGuardia Airport was in jeopardy of cancelling innumerable flights. I hoped mine wouldn’t be one of them.

After sitting on the tarmac for three hours in sunny Greensboro, North Carolina, and receiving encouraging words over the intercom regarding the state of our flight, we finally started taxiing down the runway. The stars were aligned; the flight would take off.

And then as the plane was slowly making its way to the front of the line, the speaker phone went into action, and we heard the dreaded announcement. The flight was cancelled because we’d need more fuel if we were to face the long in-air delay on account of flight traffic.

There were no options for getting to New York in time for my event, so I cancelled my plans. Disappointing, annoying, yes exasperating, but not that much out of the ordinary when trying to get to LaGuardia.

But it’s because of what happened afterward that I’m sending this missive.

A few days passed, and I looked online at my credit card statement, anticipating a full refund. None was there. I dreaded calling the Delta customer service number and speaking to a computerized voice, but what choice did I have?

After pressing an endless series of response buttons, a real (and very friendly) human being did come on the line. Getting the refund was complicated by the fact that I had bought a $25 upgrade to a “comfort” seat, with a bit of extra leg room. However, after about ten minutes, I had my credit.

Then I asked the question that was burning inside me.

“Why wasn’t the airfare automatically credited to my account?” I asked.

The verbatim answer was, “They (i.e. Delta) just don’t automatically refund.”

I was floored and, upon further questioning, was told it was because the customer might prefer to get a credit or an exchange. There is some logic to that line of thinking, but it doesn’t absolve the company for putting the onus on its customers to get a refund.

I have no idea whether this is a Delta-only policy or a universal airline policy.

What I find appalling is how any airline, whose only product is one very specified service, namely getting you safely from point A to point B, doesn’t feel an obligation to reach out to its customers when that service is lacking, even if it is not their own fault.

In this era of instant everything, why couldn’t an airline (Delta in this case) have sent an automatic instant message to each and every customer whose flight was cancelled, advising them of the ways in which they might convert their cancelled flight to their advantage.

A simple apology followed by a question: “Would you like to have the entire airfare credited to your charge card?”

With an option for the answer: “Yes,” which would do the trick perfectly.

It would also signal that the company cared about its customers. I’m sure that level of service would build some customer loyalty, as well.

A sinister suggestion as to why such a system doesn’t currently exist might be that the airline is hoping some customers will simply overlook what they assumed would be an automatic refund. It’s no wonder so many of the flying public hate the airlines.

So the moral of this tale is: Don’t count on getting an automatic airfare refund if your flight is cancelled.

Let’s hope that an enlightened public relations department of an enlightened airline with an enlightened CEO will take the lead in getting into the twenty-first century technologically when it comes to communications and customer service.






© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick


Milwaukee is a Special Place

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

“They’re calling it ‘the storm of the century’”, said the Clarion Hotel van driver as I boarded the vehicle at 5:15 this morning heading back to Milwaukee’s General Mitchell airport, “but funny thing is, it’s the third one in twelve years.” He chuckled.
Being stranded in ‘the storm of the century’ in Milwaukee was a novel experience for me, but not because I had never experienced such a storm or been stranded before. It was that I had just never been in Milwaukee for such an experience. And what a far cry from all my other ‘strandings’. So as not to disparage any person, airline or city, let me simply say that if you ever have to go through the hassle and frustration of a combination tornado watch/thunderstorm/flood which culminates in shutting down the airport twice in the course of two hours, make sure you are in Milwaukee.
Over my decades of travel, I have had some wild and woolly ‘airport’ experiences, but never have they been as “pleasant” as the one I am maneuvering at the moment.
From the attendant who came aboard the airplane last night to tell us in her charmingly mellifluous voice (I paraphrase) “Ladies and gentlemen, we need to evacuate the plane because there is a tornado watch. Please don’t panic and don’t run. I don’t want anyone to get hurt”, to the flight attendants on AirTran 514 who offered a continuous update on the status of the flight, the runway and the airport, they were the most pleasant, empathetic and stress-relieving travel professionals I have ever dealt with. When I was tempted to ‘abandon ship’, the flight attendant told me to hold off, because there was “one small window to get out”, and when that window was closed by a deluge of rain and a non-stop barrage of lightning, he told me we had lost “our window” and he helped me to get off the plane because I had rebooked for the morning.
As I write, the airport floor is lined with sleeping bodies, each with a pillow and a blanket in various shades of grey, blue or burgundy. The atmosphere is calm; those not sleeping are smiling, some standing in line to get breakfast, others sitting on the floor with their laptops. Wall plugs are few and far between, but there is no one complaining.
A loudspeaker has just announced, “All flights are cancelled until noon, because the airport is still officially closed. The runways are flooded no planes can land or take off.” The response from the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people here has been silence. I am imagining what the response would be were this announcement to have been made in a New York airport. I am so pleased to be getting this dreadful news sitting in the Milwaukee Airport.
“Midwestern friendliness” has often seemed to me to be a platitude that was meant to contrast Midwesterners from New Yorkers and other East Coast “type A” personalities. But to witness the ease with which both professionals and passengers dealt with the stresses of the last 16 hours is to gain a new appreciation for what it means to be “Midwestern”. It is the opposite of the “ugly American”.

Patricia W Chadwick, President
Ravengate Partners LLC
July 23, 2010

Jet Blue – the New Corporate Paradigm

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

It seems that almost everyone likes JetBlue and some people even claim to love the company. As well they should. JetBlue has taken the bad name out of flying and is proof positive that no condition in business is too dire to turn around.

The first sentence of JetBlue’s Customer Bill of Rights (How many companies even have a Customer Bill of Rights?) says it all. “Above all else, JetBlue Airways is dedicated to bringing humanity back to air travel.” What a bold and daring statement for an airline to make.

And to its credit, JetBlue has indeed brought the humanity back to what has become an almost excruciatingly unpleasant experience – the attempt to get from one place to another by air.

Several days ago, as I planned to fly on JetBlue on a short round trip to Florida, I took note of an alert on the company’s website. It was a recommendation that because JetBlue “had just completed transitioning to a new reservation system, wait times and line at the airport might be longer than usual.” They suggested I get to the airport two hours before the flight.

That meant getting to JFK at 6:15am rather than 7:15am. I followed their advice. But I need not have. The system for checking in was efficient and pleasant. It has been designed so that the traveler, increasingly a media/technology savvy individual, can handle everything – from checking in, to putting one’s own luggage on the conveyer, to changing a seat, to deciding if one would like to spend $25 extra to get a bit more leg room. The people who are there to help are friendly and jovial.

Within ten minutes of arriving at the terminal, my luggage was checked and I had completed security clearance. I had plenty of time to get a cup of tea and enjoy the laid-back, almost college campus atmosphere of JetBlue’s giant terminal. Efficient cafeterias offered healthful selections that included organic quinoa and Mediterranean pickles. The choices seemed endless.

Everything about JetBlue is different from all the other airlines, and that’s what makes it so wonderful. The very egalitarianism of its seat configuration makes for an ambience of camaraderie. No cordoned off section called First Class where drinks are free and food is served. On JetBlue’s airplanes, entertainment is the substitute for differentiated classes and differentiated treatment. And everyone loves entertainment.

Yesterday, on my return flight to JFK, I watched curling at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Stephen Colbert doing his Vancouverage, Wolf Blitzer on CNN and Bill O’Reilly on Fox. All in the space of two hours and it was live. By the time I landed, I was relaxed and entertained. Admittedly, my book, Game Change, lay unread on my lap.

The flight attendants on JetBlue flights are not only friendly, they are comedians in training or better. Each one of them brings his or her own sense of humor to their communication, from telling jokes to suggesting that someone come and take over their position because they would prefer to stay in Florida and not head into what will be another giant snowstorm in New York.

Okay, there are a few inconveniences. The seats don’t go back very far which makes the normally compulsory nap a bit less enjoyable, but watching Stephen Colbert kept me from getting remotely sleepy.

I am sure that there are plenty of people who have a complaint or two or even more about JetBlue, and yes, I can admit to some long delays when I wanted to speak to an agent because of weather problems. And there are probably many who will never forget the harrowing experience of 2007 when over 1000 JetBlue flights had to be cancelled because of a snowstorm. That event itself would have killed a lesser company. But it didn’t kill JetBlue. The company learned from its mistake and has grown and today a still growing transcontinental success story.

Good companies are not created out of thin air. They are built by individuals – people with a vision and with leadership. The top management at JetBlue has changed since its inception in 2000, but what each new CEO has done is continue to foster through the company’s employees the culture of ‘bringing humanity back to air travel.”

Thank you, JetBlue.

p.s. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never met any one of the management of JetBlue nor have I every owned the stock of the company.

p.p.s. Isn’t this the kind of company that Warren Buffet should love?