American Airlines management has a policy to make flights depart on-time, but it doesn’t make much sense during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“D0” Was Initiated With Best Intentions
Passengers, especially business passengers, value on-time arrivals. Leisure travelers will never stop telling the story of how their entire trip was ruined because (blank) airline caused them to miss a connection. In the policy called “D0” American Airlines management was trying to make timeliness a part of its culture. “D0” as in “Departure Zero” was striving to eliminate late flights by pushing every flight to depart exactly on time. Not early, not barely late – exactly when it was supposed to.
Late flights are expensive for the airline and anger customers who may take their future business elsewhere. When D0 was introduced, there were some entry-level complications, but for the most part, everyone wants a flight to leave on time.
Rollout Has Been Poor
There have been many examples prior to COVID-19 of gate agents taking D0 too far. It’s become clear that American Airlines management has made it too important for local gate agents and local management. American’s President, Robert Isom, acknowledged that team members didn’t/don’t have the tools to truly depart as expected on time, every time.
The airline wanted to compete with other carriers who had made on-time performance a priority. At the time of implementation, American Airlines was consistently in the bottom third for US carriers in timely arrivals. What should have been a customer service triumph was instead a customer service problem with some gate agents taking matters too rigidly.
Agents that enforced airline-focused departure rules were simultaneously relied upon for individual circumstances that warranted American expressing more compassion toward its customers.
United took the opposite approach, often holding a door for an inbound passenger that might be less than 15 minutes behind the last flight of the night.
Utterly Moronic During the Pandemic
Getting planes out on time is always important, but with less traffic in the sky and on taxiways, a few minutes here and there are easily made up with the excessive buffer most airlines build into their schedule. When the policy was created, times were good, flights were full, and most importantly, frequent.
Those days are gone. With limited flights, closing the door arbitrarily early can cause the passenger an excessive delay and it may not be free for the airline.
During an excessive delay, if a competing airline has seats available for sale to American, they would likely accommodate their passenger on the competitor. They may also have to absorb the cost of a refund if the trip is “in vain” and the passenger returned to their point of origin. Leaving the door open inside of their ten-minute door closure policy but prior to the flight actually departing costs them “$0.”
Conversely, there’s nearly no penalty for late arriving flights at this point in time, especially minute delays at the destination.
Some would argue that Doug Parker, Robert Isom, and the rest of American Airlines management didn’t really think D0 out when they began the policy. They certainly didn’t evaluate it in practice once it had been implemented by Isom’s own admittance. I respect Mr. Isom for being truthful when questions are answered about the shortcomings of the policy. Simply by admitting it has faults doesn’t mean the company reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed the policy’s removal from implementation. But now more than ever, when alternative options are rare and schedules are less exacting, it’s time to retire D0 once and for all.
What do you think? Does D0 have a place in a reduced schedule during the pandemic? Was it so ill-conceived in the first place that it should have never been installed at all?