USAirways: Can I Get You Some Epic With That #Fail?

USAirways: Can I Get You Some Epic With That #Fail?

I am usually pretty patient with airlines. I’m patient with delays and waiting for crews to come in from a different flight, etc. Heck, I’d even be patient if they waited a few minutes to let connecting passengers get on my flight (because in many other instances, I’m one of those passengers).

But USAirways sent me over the edge last week. I won’t go into all the details, but here’s my inescapable conclusion:

USAirways seems perfectly happy to suck.

They have poorly designed systems, long lines, unhappy and confused customers, and they just keep chugging along. On two (attempted) flights, I saw multiple examples of blatant problems, and never did anyone who worked for USAirways have the authority or in some cases the inclination to solve them. They followed their processes and simply facilitated the overall state of “suck” for everyone. Examples?

First, the self-check-in kiosks.

A. If you are NOT checking bags, you have to wait in the same line as all the people who are checking bags. Fail. Take one of the four kiosks and set it aside for those without checked luggage. Given that you charge $25 per bag, I think you’ll have a steady stream at that kiosk, and they will obviously move through more quickly since they don’t have to wait for the bags to be tagged. Literally everyone gets through the line quicker, and other airlines have already figured this out. Yet there I was, waiting.

B. When I got to the kiosk, I had to do it several times, because I didn’t understand what was happening (and I’m an experienced traveler!). I swipe my credit card for it to identify me, and then it asks me for the airport code of either my layover or my final destination. I’m a travel geek, so I remember that CLT is Charlotte (but most will struggle at this point), but seriously–you just scanned my card–don’t you know who I am? United does! WTF? So I enter CLT, but then it doesn’t confirm who I am, instead it asks me how many infants will be making this trip sitting on someone’s lap, and then how many children traveling who will be sitting on a seat. Here is the best Hotel blog for hotel related all information.

At this point, I just start over because obviously it didn’t find my record. But when I try again, I discover that, in fact, it asks EVERYONE the infant question (what percentage of travelers do they think have infants with them?!). This was much worse in Myrtle Beach because of the inexperienced travelers. They basically had four employees at these four kiosks helping people to use them. Um, why have the kiosks?

Second, the airport staff. I have nothing against the individual people. I love them because they are humans and should be loved, and I love them because they have the tough job of dealing with customers who are flying, and I know that is no easy task. But why on earth does USAirways reward these hard working people by making it IMPOSSIBLE for them to solve even the easiest problem!? In my case, due to some imperfect communication when I was in Dulles, I was standing in Myrtle Beach being asked to pay $500 for a NEW ticket on the flight to Charlotte, even though I had already bought a ticket for $500 for that exact flight, and they still had seats left on the plane. The ticket agent’s only response? “You can call the 800 number and see if they can help you.” The flight boards in 30 minutes and she suggests I enter into the phone menu from hell?!

As you can tell, I am writing this post partly because I need to let off steam, but I’ll try to bring it back to a lesson you can apply in your organization. So here goes.

What USAirways can teach organizations: Don’t Suck

Wake up and acknowledge where you suck. I know it’s hard, but it’s time. Face it and deal with it. Your customers, members, clients, etc. will thank you. Here are two recommendations.

First, focus on solving customer problems, not on obsessing about hard it is to be you. Don’t make it harder for me simply because you want it easier for you. I know not everything’s going to be easy for me, the customer. I get it. I will have to wait in lines, and sometimes the machine won’t work like it’s supposed to, and sometimes there won’t be an extra person to help. That’s fine. But don’t build automated systems that ask EVERYONE to confirm they are not an exception. That wastes all of our time, just because you are too lazy or cheap to have a contingency plan ready for the exceptions.

Second, if you want to solve problems, then do it AT the point of the problem. That means giving people who are at the point of the problem the authority and resources to solve the problem. Or, if that sounds like too much work, you can always just create a policy that makes sense in the abstract and then make your people blindly follow a set of decision trees that require no thought or care or attention to what’s happening. Yeah. That’ll probably work.