A few weeks ago there was an unfortunate incident with a United Airlines flight. The plane left Chicago bound for London and because there was an engine malfunction, had to be diverted to Goose Bay, Canada, for repairs. Yes, unfortunate, but add insult to injury because the passengers were treated with disrespect and disregard.
When the passengers were interviewed about their experience, of course they were upset about the delays and poor accommodations, but everyone was particularly dismayed because they were kept in the dark without any information from United Airlines personnel. Customers really wanted to know what was happening. Did they plan to be in Goose Bay? No, but they were, and would have been more satisfied just to be given updates. The bad situation could have been better if the passengers had been engaged in a conversation and understood what to expect.
It is difficult to understand what United was thinking. The passengers are their customers and they were completely ignored. I would think that United doesn’t have too many flights that are diverted on a daily basis that are not related to weather delays. You would imagine there are procedures in place to inform the C-level executives when there is an issue with a flight. I’m confident if the passengers were sent a video message from the COO of United that the military facility where they were staying was the only place that could accommodate that many people, the passengers would have just thought it was bad luck and not bad service.
The crew was housed in a hotel; after all, they needed to rest in order to pilot and service the plane. That also makes sense and should not have gotten the passengers aggravated, but being ignored and left in a cold and barren barracks didn’t seem fair. United offered its passengers a refund. That totally misses the point. It’s the same as with cruise lines. An entire voyage could be spoiled because of a virus and reimbursement is not sufficient. However, if passengers are treated well and communicated with, compensation becomes less of an issue.
I wrote a blog about United Airlines (May 27, 2014) praising their customer service. The United representative put all the passengers at ease when our plane was delayed. He meticulously and patiently explained every detail about what was happening and what we should expect. We were delayed but definitely felt better.
I was contacted by United Airlines after the blog was published thanking me for my comments. The employee was commended and the blog printed and posted for all to read. So my question is: where is the consistency? It is important for any company, airlines included, to have procedures and policies in place ensuring that customers feel important and appreciated. If United Airlines recognizes that passengers were grateful for the information provided by the representative when there was a flight delay and those passengers were still on the ground, how could they not do the same when a plane had to be diverted to an out of the way place and passengers had no idea what was happening next?
Customer service is the keystone to repeat business. In this situation, good customer service would have been to keep passengers in a precarious predicament informed. It’s the very least United Airlines could have done. Will those passengers ever fly the “friendly skies” again? Maybe, but damage has been done.