American Airlines is in a never-ending war with their employees, so much so that they instructed how to apologize better while Delta gives their employees raises. A tale of two airlines.
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American Airlines Distributes Apology Instructions
This week, American Airlines leadership gave out instructions on how to better apologize to customers for their poor performance. Yes, really. A reader sent me the exact verbiage last week and I wanted to let it marinate before I put it out (then others subsequently did so.) Why? Because I couldn’t decide if it was the airline showing effort for once, or rather, an example of the carrier further entrenching themselves against their employees.
The instructions were long so I want to boil it down to the basics:
“An apology should always include:
• A detailed account of the situation
• Acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done as it shows you validate their feelings and the customer begins to sense you understand the situation
• Taking responsibility without making excuses for the situation is important as the apology is about them and how they feel
• Offer a form of restitution whenever possible”
While I don’t disagree with the method, I do disagree with the message. “We know we are delivering an inferior product to our customers, so it’s your duty to apologize better.”
Pretending for a quick moment that the mechanics were wrong in their demands, the flight attendants too – basically, American management is solely in the right at the airline – does the approach make sense to still task those frontline employees with delivering a better apology? Would it not be easier, at this point, to just relent on employee demands?
Delta Gives Raises
Delta announced that they will be giving 4% raises to employees this year and that profit sharing will be better than ever. Personally, I am not surprised that Delta has less strife with their employee bases. They run a better airline which makes their employees more prideful in the company, they have fewer complaints and no tense labor negotiations that drag on (literally) for years past their deadline.
I have previously stated that American’s labor unions may be doing them an injustice and the case for working without one at Delta gets clearer by the day.
Monkey See, Monkey Do… Sometimes
American Airlines is happy to follow Delta’s lead in nearly every other aspect. For their sins, United is no better. Delta switches to qualifying dollars for employees, American follows suit. Delta sets the activity levels, and American nearly follows suit. Delta starts investing in strategic partners with ownership equity, American follows suit. Basic economy, premium economy, the list goes on and on but isn’t a perfect carbon copy.
Why is it so hard for American Airlines to connect the dots that customers prefer a better run operation, that keeping employees happy then results in keeping customers happy too?
I don’t think I could buy Doug Parker and company a clue at this point. The evidence is clear that happier employees (which are a result of myriad factors including pay) are better employees and customers appreciate it. Money is not the only way to thank employees, but regardless of one’s love for their job, they ultimately go to work for money – it seems an appropriate incentive. American should immediately settle the disputes and move toward incentivizing their employees. Then, at least, if they lost money on flying operations it would be from a morally defensible position.
What do you think? Are the two airlines so different than no comparisons can be made? Is American’s approach toward labor correctable?
I’m a 1.5 million mile flyer and multi year executive platinum customer. Parker should be running Spirit. Instead of innovating he reduced premium passenger benefits while increasing fares. There’s now so little value left in being executive platinum that next year my business will go elsewhere if the board fails to remove him. He’s a cancer on AA and their employees.
I appreciate your assessment that Delta is a better airline. We are a great airline, and I am proud to have been a part of it for 48 years. While things can get tough at times I truly believe the focus on employers and customers is appropriate and apparent.
Your assessment is spot on. I fly both airlines but much prefer Delta. Their employees are more happy and willing to help when things go haywire. The Delta operation is heads and tales above American any day of the week. Kudos to Delta and their management team!
It been said many times before Parker is in over this head. The board of directors need to wake up and fire Parker.
The problems at American Airlines started when ex-Northwest Airlines/ex-US Airways senior leadership were hired post-merger to systematically dismantle the Aircraft Maintenance (aka Tech Ops) department. While these narcissistic union-busting leaders have made some improvements in some areas, they have permanently destroyed the morale of the men and women who were once proud to be Aviation Maintenance Technicians for the world’s largest airline. The same divide-and-conquer tactics they used to destroy Northwest Airline’s mechanics’ union are now being employed to inflict great harm on American’s unions. This is the beginning of the end for the world’s largest airline.
The mentality of this ceo is of bankrupt! At this point with a mega company in his hands he looks like he don’t care! What happens with the board is who can run this company successful
I stopped flying on American Airlines years ago. Even at that time it was clear how miserable the employees (flight attendants) were with their snarky remarks (not warranted) to customers. Whether they were underpaid or just basically abused as employees at that time I have no idea but I vowed to never fly AA again. I have a Delta credit card that earns mileage for me and they have always stepped up to the plate if there has been an error – whether a cancelled flight or whatever. In other words, they value their customers and employees and I don’t see myself changing things any time in the future.
Sorry to say that this is not news regarding Parker! He is not a good person and only cares about money! He has consistently pulled mean tricks on all levels of employees! He and NW Isom have really managed to do a lot of damage to employees! I would never trust either of them! The leadership they got rid of supported employees thus the reason they got rid of them! Sad
Parker and Isom and therest all need to be relieved of their positions
Amen my friend. Parker has alienated executive platinum members just as much as employees
American Airlines no longer exists. It’s just usual USAir wrapped in AA logo.
As a former AA employee, I can assure you that the employees are as unhappy as you say and then some. This is not coming from a disgruntled ex-employee, but someone who moved on for the sake of their mental health. Teaching their employees to apologize better is nothing new. They think this will assuage the rage felt by those who have been most loyal into sticking with them. The vast unhappiness begins in their entry level CSS department where rules and regulations are so extreme, people are having mental breakdowns. This whole systematic scheme of punishment based employment instead of an incentive based programs has made for an extremely unhappy American staff from the inside out. Parker isn’t the only one that needs put out to the curb. The entire place stinks of nepotism, narcissism and fear based policies.
Comparing the 2 is apples and oranges. One point you try to make is that giving employees raises improves CS. When Delta gave a raise in the past, did CS improve. As measures by customer complaints, on time performance etc. And if AA does not give raises when others do, do we see a measurable change in CS?
I’m okay with the suggestion that you disagree with causality between pay, happiness of employees and the customer service delivered. But what would you suggest is then the difference between Delta which has better scores overall by both customers and employees?
Couldn’t agree more. The proof is in the performance metrics. It’s not a subjective perspective
I feel the senior management is repeating the behavior at previous airlines. Those carriers sunk.The pathetic thing is, the board of directors and major stockholders are not getting the picture.
Keep flying Delta! Thank You
Yes and yes. Delta continues to increase in customer satisfaction as the employee satisfaction improves. Bastian continuously makes “thank you” gestures and lets the ground employees know he recognizes and appreciates them.
AA is always playing catch up with Delta. This is not a secret. Having a union, you would think it would be the opposite. As American employees feel undervalued, the customer experience and satisfaction decreases.
Four years ago, I had a horrible experience with American Airlines, via a connecting flight in Chicago, that soured me to using them ever since.
My arriving flight was coming in extremely late because New York ground crew decisions to delay due to changing weather conditions– hours, in fact. What was originally supposed to be a 3-hour layover, ended up with a few minutes window to get to my connecting gate– which by luck was directly across from the arrival. I rushed out of the plane, getting to the departing gate immediately.
Yet, although gate attendees had the passenger manifest, and thus knew I was coming in on a flight which had just arrived, they didn’t hold the departure: they closed the gate as I got there, literally shut the door in my face– while the plane was still on the ground, and connected to the jetway.
As the last flight of the day, it would have made no difference if it had been held 5 minutes longer; none of its passengers were going anywhere else.
Instead, I was forced to stay overnight in Chicago, as were many others.
In their financial-minded wisdom, with a lot of angry customers to deal with, AA officials in Chicago decided that the best approach was to offer no compensation, provide no hotel accommodations, nor even food vouchers (at least not for those flying coach.)
Waylaid travelers were herding into an open section of the American terminal, where hundreds of cots were set up, and given airplane blankets and pillows.
This was tortuous: the area had workers coming through constantly, and noisy buzzers going off every 20-30 minutes. There was no way to actually get any rest. And then at 5 (!) in the morning, airport workers forced everyone up and removed the cots.
It’s a level of terrible customer management as I’d ever had to go through with an airline. And I’ve flown every major airline, including Frontier and Spirit. It clued me in to how little American cares about the human approach– but instead looks at people (whether customers or employees) as merely financial instruments to be moved about, with the emphasis on using them for profit/losses in the immediate, instead of building long-term relationships.
No wonder that AA ranks at second to the bottom of the Airline Quality Rating, and likewise at Consumer Reports (being beaten only by Frontier.)
The [below] link is a lost of the people that are responsible for ruining this airline. Doug Parker is the most senior person responsible. He is an irresponsible drunkard that couldn’t manage a grocery trip let alone running this airline.
The customer service is abysmal. As a multi-year EP I am done. Delta will get my $30,000 next year. Good riddance AA. Worst run company going.
Thank you in advance for your offer to award your business to Delta! We (everyone at Delta) aporeciates it, and you!
Jesus kyle another bashing of AA what is it with you and AA? You seem to be more and more uninformed on anything to do with them.
When you said
“no tense labor negotiations” well obviously DL doesn’t have many unions, I think only pilots and FA?
No unions = less employees which = higher pay and higher profit share.
Come on Kyle if youre going to blog on it at least be knowledgeable.
@Kyle doesnt know – AA went from my airline of choice, ride or die to absolute garbage. What’s beautiful about the internet with respect to this blog is that you can go back some 7-8 years and see my absolute love for American, the award trips we booked; even downright glee at the merger with US Airways as I (wrongly) thought the size of the airline and additional hubs would make the carrier better not worse. I stuck with them through 2-3 years before I finally left after nearly two decades of loyalty. Now I have a considerable amount toward million miler that I may never utilize and a million redeemable miles that I can rarely find reasonable space to redeem.
I want American to be better. I want the legacy US Airways aircraft to have power outlets, main cabin extra and IFE like the legacy American aircraft – just compare the A321s American bought vs. the A321s that US Airways equipped. I would love to see more of the bold route choices American was making before the merger like adding lots of routes to New Zealand, China and specifically to Hong Kong. But instead of getting more ambitious, they are just (once again) playing Delta dartboard and trying random routes in Europe with older equipment. United is experimenting with Singapore (seems to be working despite their partner SQ), Chengdu, and Capetown – American experiments with Casablance (which I am looking forward to I might add.) You’re an “informed employee” have you seen the performance and satisfaction ratings for Delta? Have you seen the Polaris lounges for United – they absolutely embarrass American Admirals Club Flagships – it’s not close.
One way to end tense labor negotiations is not to have unions that don’t deliver for you. But you clearly read my work, so I am sure you didn’t miss that piece (http://bit.ly/2JBvqes) And even while I think that some of AA’s unions have failed them, I am still writing about the struggles of the members of those unions, specifically flight attendants (http://bit.ly/2Jf1TI2) and mechanics (http://bit.ly/2xyZEYn)
And to a certain extent I agree with you. I stated in this post (http://bit.ly/2ZDF8kV) that I don’t want to write about American’s struggles any more. But every single week they outdo themselves. When they aren’t correcting me for my portrayal that they are suing mechanics, two weeks later they decide that they actually are suing their own employees (http://bit.ly/2HaAhkI). When they have run out of employees to take to court and still can’t fix performance managers show how to apologize better while Delta just keeps their employees happier.
I beg of you American, fix it. Please, for my sake, for @kyledoesntknow’s sake. Shareholders, Doug Parker, frontline employees – I the words of Smokey the Bear, “Only you have the power to stop [dumpster] fires.”
Thank you for the informed reply I genuinely appreciate that. I hope as a traveler but also an employee that AA does get better. I am frustrated with the certain few that try to taint this airline by slowing it down, this is happening. I agree the US air fleet is lagging behind in every aspect but that should be fixed hopefully by next year. American will be announcing new routes given the quantas JB which I am looking forward too and hopefully you will as well. I wouldn’t say the Polaris lounges embarrass the flagship lounge one bit. The flagship dining if you haven’t tried is amazing. I hope American fixes some things because they have an opportunity to become a great company and airline. It starts with the operation which is starting to get better. Once the airline sued the mechanics for mula the AOS went way down.
I hope you one day come fly again.
-Kyle Doesn’t Know
I was a Manager in different cities for Delta in Customer Service. I always lived by the rule “If you take care of those behind the counter, you do not have to worry about those in front of the counter”
The line, “I have previously stated that American’s labor unions may be doing them an injustice and the case for working without one at Delta gets clearer by the day.” is misleading to the general public. Labor Unions are what drive the wages and other benefits that companies pay for. Delta airlines simply tops what the carriers pay in order to remain non-union. They do not do it out of the goodness of their heart. Even with a union USAirways managed to take forty percent of their ramp and mechanic’s pay (yes 40%), stop their pensions, cut weeks of vacation, make the employees only receive half a days pay for the first five days that they call out sick for each occurance, and on and on. The contract that the employees are currently working under was made during one of the many bankruptcies that USAirways faced for poor management and the employees are still working under many of these conditions while the company stalls negotiations but earn record profits. How about, if just for once, somebody does some investigative reporting instead of taking the one sided information put out by american airlines management.
We disagree. Your assumption is that all mechanics, ramp managers, or other union labor employees are duty-bound to work for the airlines. They aren’t. They also aren’t required to work for US carriers, they aren’t even required to stay in the industry if they don’t like it. I currently work with a former Continental flight attendant. He didn’t like it anymore (and he certainly didn’t want to pay the unions, though he had no choice) so he left. He has a successful career in another industry.
What is hilarious to me is that in a post about how American Airlines management is mismanaging the mechanics and other labor groups, I am supposedly representing one-sided information put out by American Airlines management. I find that, frankly, shocking. I have written about a dozen other posts just this summer discussing how the mechanics deserve a new contract (they’ve been “negotiating” for years) and called for Doug Parker to leave.
One would have a more founded argument to state that if you felt I was defending management in this piece about how American Airlines management is more concerned about proper apologies than fixing what is wrong, then I was successful in writing a balanced argument.
Also: I am not a journalist and do not claim to be.