Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Thing or Two About Service

I have made it to Delhi after 24 hours of leaving my home and family in Austin. Overall the trip went well, but I must share my frustration with the service provided by U.S. airlines.

I arrived early at the Austin airport. I was in one of the last groups to board. I was bringing on board a carry-on luggage containing my SLR camera, medicine, and some clothing, and my laptop. As I was boarding the plane an agent stopped me and let me know they had just run out of overhead space. The reason given by the agent: they had let too many people ahead of me board with 2 to 3 packages. I did not take this well since two weeks earlier, during another trip, an agent asked me to consolidate 3 packages (of which one was a very small bag) into 2 to allow all passengers to fit their carry-ons on board.

Another agent transferring the carry-ons to cargo did not ask if I had anything important that I would need. I did not worry because I thought my carry on would be brought back to me upon landing at the connection destination. To prevent any damage to my camera though, I decided to take it out. When I landed at the connection destination, I was surprised to learn that my carry on had been checked in all the way to Delhi. I was happy that I took my camera out but upset that I would not get to my medication for at least 13 hours. Had the medication been critical, I would have had to de-board the plane and lose my flight.

Finally, a flight to Delhi is filled with vegetarians, but given the choice I would rather treat myself with a non-veggie meal. When it was my turn to get food, the agent told me he had just run out of non-veggie meals. Now my frustration started to become evident. The airline could just not get it right for me. After noticing my frustration, the agent did manage to find me a non-veggie meal.

So why have service levels with U.S. airlines deteriorated this much? Why couldn't they apply rules consistently with all passengers to prevent surprises? Why didn't they ask if I had something important in my carry on? Why couldn't they ask for my meal preference during ticketing and give me a voucher to claim my preferred meal when on board? Now that I have arrived in Delhi, quality of service is everywhere, and I am willing to pay for it. Perhaps U.S. airlines need to re-think a thing or two about how to improve their service to build customer loyalty.


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