Ranking customer service for airlines

US Airways Express CRJ-900 - N933LAUS Airways ranked first on reliability after three consecutive months during April, May, and June; showing statistics of 83 percent of flights arriving within 14 minutes of their scheduled time in June. They also ranked first in customer service for May and June with complaints listed at 1.87 per 100,000 passengers. All 31,000 employees will be rewarded with a $100 bonus each, which represents a $3.1 million payout.

Most airlines operate on the same air routes, and every day packed planes travel the same routes, so is rating arrival times and customer service just splitting hairs? Statistically the airlines with the best on time records operate out of less congested airports and have less planes. For those of us who have to travel to the busiest destinations, on-time records seem nothing more than myths. After all the country’s arrival times are only as good as current air-traffic technology.

On-time percentages may say something, but not everything. For instance, for some carriers to improve their on-time percentages, why not board passengers earlier? How many times have we all been seated on airlines close to the moment of scheduled take-off when passengers are still finding their seats, still finding space for their baggage, and still having to check baggage because there is no more room on the over-heads or under the seats? Wouldn’t airlines benefit a percentage point or two if passengers boarded five minutes earlier, or if there were no extra fees to check bags? Delta, which Douglas flies on a regular basis, starts boarding 40 minutes prior to departure instead of the standard 30.

Airlines could also save a percentage point or two if employees were scheduled to arrive earlier.  How many passengers have waited around airport lounges extra time only to see pilots and support staff arriving late? Airlines could employ more fleet service workers to load baggage at peak travel times to help maintain schedules.

And finally, one of the basic customer service policies is to accept blame, apologize to the consumer, and correct the mistake immediately. When a flight leaves late, the airline personnel should discuss the problem, figure out a solution, and avoid the problem from happening again. After all it is the expectation of the customer to arrive at their intended destination safely, in comfort, on-time, and with minimal inconvenience.

I do congratulate US Airways for their achievement this quarter, and assume they have succeeded because of their customer service policies, but how many passengers take on-time percentages into account when buying airline tickets?

photo credit: asrusch

3 Responses to “Ranking customer service for airlines”

  1. Steven Di Pietro said:

    Aug 19, 10 at 2:50 am

    My question is why Customer service is measured in terms on Complaints.

    Explosive service failures create complaints but are less frequent.
    Small unnoticeable service failures are more frequent but don’t attract complaints.

    One gets measured (using complaints metrics) and the other doesn’t. But which is better? (worse)

  2. Lori Saitz said:

    Aug 20, 10 at 4:45 pm

    First in customer service when you’re talking about airlines is like picking the best of the worst. One of the ways they improve their on time arrivals is to make the scheduled flight time longer. So arrival time is set for 2 hours after departure, but they know it’s really only 1:45. That way if they leave late, they’re still on time. And if they leave on time, they get brownie points for early arrival.
    So much work to be done in this industry! Why haven’t they called us to help them yet?

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