This is an interesting article that was in the MIA
herald. Though I am not a huge fan of AA
, when I have flown them, they have been OK
Apr. 14 - Poor service from flight attendants may cost American Airlines Inc. crucial business customers in the Northeast, according to focus groups with some of the carrier's top customers.
Fort Worth-based American detailed the bad news in a recent letter sent to thousands of flight attendants – and asked them to improve their performance.
If it weren't for American's schedule and frequent-flier program, top corporate fliers said, they'd switch carriers, according to the letter from American regional manager John Tiliacos. Travel managers at major companies "are being pressured by their employees to seek an alternate carrier to do business with instead of American," the letter said.
Several thousand flight attendants based in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., received the letter, which was dated March 30.
A senior American official said the direct tone of the letter reflects the kind of cultural changes being made under chief executive Gerard Arpey, who took the top job at the airline nearly a year ago.
"What we're trying to do in the future is be a little more open and direct and honest with our employees," said Roger Frizzell, vice president of corporate communications and advertising. "We're not going to sugarcoat the news to them."
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing American flight crews, acknowledged the letter but declined to comment on it. The carrier has 25,000 flight attendants, with about 6,000 of them on furlough.
The group collectively agreed to give back $340 million in annual wages and benefits and agreed to work more hours to earn those reduced wages, part of the company's painful restructuring that cut $4 billion from its costs and kept it solvent.
Among the complaints from corporate customers, some of whom recently switched to American from bankrupt United Airlines Inc.:
-- Flight attendants weren't enthusiastic, friendly or helpful.
-- Flight attendants complain to customers about pay cuts and work conditions and blame poor service on cost cutting.
-- "We are afraid of your flight attendants and afraid to ask for anything, as they seem annoyed when we do ask for something," one client said.
The letter quotes an unnamed managing director of global operations for one customer telling American: "You are making it very difficult for us to make our people fly AA
because of your poor service."
American is engaged in a brutal fight for travelers in the Northeast, especially the Boston and New York markets. Along with United and other large network rivals, American is dueling with upstart JetBlue Airways Corp. and Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co., which consistently wins high marks for its no-frills but high-energy customer service.
The letter from Mr. Tiliacos offered some encouraging words, praising American's flight attendants as "without question the very best in our industry."
One consultant agreed that American has service problems.
American's service quality isn't as good as United's right now, said industry consultant Michael Boyd of the Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colo.
American should count itself lucky that United, the nation's No. 2 carrier, is busy reorganizing itself in bankruptcy protection and doesn't have the resources to try to swipe American's customers, he said.
"I fly a lot, and I'm telling you, if United ever gets its act together, American's in trouble," said Mr. Boyd. "United's customer service is keeping them in the game. American has great management talent, but the passenger in Chicago doesn't care who's in the front office; they care about who's in the cabin."
Under Mr. Arpey, American wants to build a better relationship with employees. He's established a series of new working groups that make decisions at all levels of the airline, and those groups are made up of managers and front-line employees.
Mr. Arpey has recognized that morale remains a serious problem at the carrier. He introduced a bonus system that pays cash if the airline's on-time rating is high enough or if its customer service ranking in a monthly survey reaches at least No. 6 of airlines surveyed.
In the two months it's been in place, the program hasn't paid any bonus money, said spokesman Tim Wagner. But American has made progress in the customer service survey, rising to 8th place from 12th in the first two months, he said.
The New American is arriving.