Customer service ratings for airlines during Hurricane Irene

N354AAIf you had to cancel your flight because of Hurricane Irene, you may have been waiting on a “a virtual holding pattern” for a customer service representative. Depending upon the airline a passenger chose, a lot of customer service left  much to be desired considering hundreds of thousands of airline, rail and bus passengers were slated to be grounded as Hurricane Irene swept up the East Coast.

National airlines and their regional affiliates from Washington to Boston scrubbed almost all of their flights because of the ominous forecast. United Continental Holdings cancelled 2,300 flights on Saturday and Sunday, Delta cancelled 1,300 flights, US Airways cancelled 1,100, Jet Blue cancelled 880, Air Tran Airways cancelled 265, and American Airways cancelled 265 flights.

Stella Service, an independent company who rates customer service and mainly focuses on online retailers decided to see which airlines were most attentive to their customers. On Friday, August 26, an average of eight calls were made to each of the top airlines starting at 9:00 AM and ending at 6:30 PM. Twelve tweets were sent out to each airline between the hours of 12:00 AM and 12:00 PM on Friday, August 26. Curious as to how the airlines responded? If most airlines are created equal except for price differences, will customer service differences at times of emergencies influence you the next time you make reservations?

American Airlines kept their customers waiting the longest; scoring in at one-and-one-half-hours before a customer service representative answered the call. Delta did better with only a 30 minute wait time as did Spirit, Jet Blue, Air Tran, and Frontier. US Airways did the best with only two minutes of waiting time until an agent responded to a call.

And for all of you Twitter users – Air Tran, American Airlines, and United Airways never responded. Delta responded within 14 minutes, Jet Blue, and Frontier responded eventually, and Delta went one step further by responding to tweets and including the customer service representative’s initials on each response so follow-up could be more efficient.

If you’re a frequent flyer, will better response time and more efficient customer service influence your choice in the future? Continued questionnaires about the value of customer service and if consumers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service have overwhelmingly come back with high reviews. I can’t even imagine how customers who had to wait hours to speak with an airline representative to change a flight must have felt. It’s probably a good bet they have taken the “blood oath” never to use that airline again. In the end, it is all about customer service, isn’t it?

photo credit: ahisgett

3 Responses to “Customer service ratings for airlines during Hurricane Irene”

  1. Ryan Mikolasik said:

    Aug 31, 11 at 11:38 am

    “We disagree with the findings of the study. We believe it is highly inaccurate and based on an insufficient sample size – eight calls and 12 tweets on average – that skewed results and does not represent reality. We handled more than 100,000 calls on Friday, and during the period in question our customers waited an average of 21 minutes – far less than alleged and in line with most of our peers. Our response time for AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum and Gold customers averaged from 30 seconds to less than three minutes per call. Of the 78 tweets directed to us from Thursday through Sunday, a significant number of which did not request action, we responded to 46 tweets either publicly or privately to assist customers, and we also sent four proactive tweets with travel information related to the storm. Each day, and especially in times of service disruption, we make responding to and informing our customers – whether through social or other traditional direct channels – our highest priority.”
    -American Airlines Corporate Communications

  2. Eptica said:

    Sep 02, 11 at 9:51 am

    We had some very similar experiences in Europe both in 2010 and earlier this year when volcanic ash clouds disrupted flights. While some airlines coped well, others seemed to provide little information – and it seems that some US airlines haven’t learnt the lessons from the European experience. More in our blog at http://eptica.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/ash-cloud-customer-service-%E2%80%93-mark-2/

  3. American Airlines said:

    Sep 02, 11 at 2:45 pm

    We thought you might find this updated blog post from STELLAService (http://blog.stellaservice.com/2011/08/29/help-me-customer-service-hurricane-irene-damaged-my-travel-plans/) interesting, acknowledging that its research was based on an inactive American Airlines Twitter account.