US Airways Hints at Changes to Come

Customer Service, US Airways

You may have seen this press release a couple of weeks ago from US Airways. After announcing some pretty impressive first quarter earnings, they decided to talk about some of their “customer service initiatives” going forward. The only problem is that a lot of these points didn’t actually say very much. I decided to wait to write this post until I got more info from them, but it doesn’t look like there’s much more to get.

See, it appears to me that the airline was feeling the heat from the bad press they’ve received recently about poor performance and decided to rush out a list of all the initiatives they’re working on. Now, I don’t doubt they understand there are problems, but I’d rather they tell me when the problems are fixed instead of telling me what they’re going to do in the future.  No sense in raising my hopes when there’s nothing actually happening yet.

But, they did announce something, and while it was a long press release, there really wasn’t that much meat. Here is what I’ve been able to glean from the release:

  • They’ve realized that they’re understaffed and they’re hiring people to work the gates, the ticket counter, and on the ramp throughout the system to get up to acceptable levels (obviously more will be focused on the hubs). This should mean shorter lines and airport staff who aren’t overworked (which hopefully means they’ll be in a better mood).
  • They’re creating Passenger Operation Control centers in Charlotte, Philly, Boston, and Washington/National. I was at America West when we first created these in Phoenix, and they really are great. Basically, there is a group of people that are focused on searching for late flights coming into the hub. When they find one, they take all the people who are going to miss their connections and rebook them. If they’re stuck overnight, they give them hotel and meal vouchers as well. When you get off the plane, someone is waiting with everything you need so you don’t have to wait in line.
  • They’re replacing 600 of the old US Airways kiosks with the same type used by the old America West. Find anyone who tried to fly out of Charlotte the first Sunday in March and you’ll know what this is about. The old US Airways kiosks just aren’t working right with the new system, so this will be welcome.
  • Remember that $25 fee for standby on an earlier flight that I was told applied back in Charlotte? Yeah, well I thought it wasn’t true, but apparently it is. Now it’s waived for elite members. I consider this a very small step toward adding value to the elite program. I’d really like to see a waived or at least discounted change fee, but I’ll hold my breath on that one.

As you can see, these are just steps they’re taking to fix their problems, but it doesn’t mean the problems are fixed.

When we start getting to specific improvements on the planes themselves, the PR-speak gets pretty thick and the promises are more vague. Yes, there are some concrete moves here. For example, in First Class they’re bringing back glass and silverware for the meal service. That’s long overdue. But other than that, it’s full of promises for improved service, better food, and better drinks without getting into detail.

My favorite change was this: “Modify in-flight service procedures to enhance our customer’s overall experience.” What does that mean?!? Nothing to talk about yet. It could very well be important, but who really knows?

Come talk to me when the changes have been made and then maybe I’ll get excited.

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7 comments on “US Airways Hints at Changes to Come

  1. US Airways has NOT removed the $25 standby fee. They said they WOULD, eventually, maybe, remove the fee. More PR speak.

  2. They say they’re removing it for elite members of the frequent flier program only. I haven’t had the chance to try that out though.

  3. It would also be nice if the Star Alliance would allow you to use miles for seat upgrades across airlines (for instance, you can’t use United miles to upgrade on US Airways, but you can redeem United Mileage Plus award travel on US Airways).

  4. Sorry, didn’t finish my comment. What I mean to say is that you *can* get a US Airways ticket using United miles, but you *can’t* redeem United miles for seat upgrades on US.

  5. Maybe you can’t use UA miles for upgrades on US but Star Alliance -does- have an “alliance wide” upgrade program though it’s still pretty half-baked at this point since not all miles can be used for upgrades on all the member airlines yet. At the same time though, they do have something to show for their efforts–even if the prices are ridiculous.

  6. Interesting. I’m sure there’s a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense that I don’t understand, which probably governs the award system. Good to hear that there’s at least something, even if it’s not that robust yet.

    I’m still bitter about having to take a 757 across the Atlantic, so I guess I would expect at least the offer of an upgrade for my troubles, but that’s probably a lost principle in the airline biz ;-).

    As an aside, did you see the CNBC documentary “A Week in the Life: American Airlines” about the day-to day operations and cost-saving maneuvers of AA? REALLY intersting stuff and worth a look if you haven’t seen it already (it amazed me how downright ruthless they are when it comes to shaving dollars and cents off the cost of operations–doing little things like firing the night guard at the hangar in Aruba, only filling the potable water tanks halfway, getting rid of onboard magazines and newspapers to cut weight and save fuel. Riviting TV for us airline nerds!

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