Two Wrongs Don’t Make it Right


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Several people have asked me for my thoughts on the big airline news last week, the merger of American Airlines and USAirways. You know that I’m more than happy to weigh in, especially on the heels of the controversial American Airlines rebrand.

In a nutshell, my assessment is this:

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Here’s the problem – and I’m going to repeat myself a bit, given what I wrote about with regards to the American rebrand: There’s really no good news for consumers. And while there are many reasons these mergers need to happen, I would hope that, through it all, there would be some acknowledgement from the airlines regarding the real impact on their employees and their customers, good or bad. I’m talking about the experience.

My fear is that, with this merger, it’s all bad. Why?

  • Fewer airlines = fewer choices/options. Gone are the days of the pilot saying, “We know you have many choices when you fly. Thank you for choosing us.”
  • Airfares will likely go up (but potentially for a variety of reasons).
  • And most importantly, there’s still no mention of a greater focus on the people and the people experience.

On the website that American created to tell us about the merger, they have a section called Customer Benefits. Yes, they talk about the travel experience. But they don’t mention the people experience. What are they doing to ensure their employees are engaged? What are they doing to train their employees on how to deliver the best experience for their customers? What hiring practices have they implemented to ensure that there’s a solid cultural fit? Better yet, how would they define their culture? What are the core values of the new American?

Speaking of culture, it sounds like USAirways, while accustomed to acquisitions, has a mess of a culture. That toxic environment will combine with the American culture, and then you’ll have an even bigger mess. 1.2 million people (combined number of employees) worth of bigger mess. And you think you’ve seen some cranky agents and flight attendants before?!

Since American didn’t tell us what we can expect with regards to the customer experience, let’s see what the experts have to say.

The Wall Street Journal told us that, in 2012, American ranked dead last in performance, with metrics such as these considered: on-time results, number of cancellations, excessive delays, mishandled baggage, bumped passengers, and complaints filed. Let’s fix the policies and procedures that result in these failures, and let’s train employees to handle them in a way that doesn’t result in a miserable experience. I’m thinking about something as “simple” as communication, proactive, clear, and ongoing!

The Temkin Group tells us that US Airways and American were at the very bottom of the list in 2012 when it comes to customer experience rankings. These ratings are based on consumer feedback.

Trip Advisor airline ratings show only 50% would recommend American, while only 41% would recommend US Airways. Compare that to JetBlue (91%) and Southwest (93%).

Airfarewatchdog ranks American at #9 and US Airways at #8 out of 10 airlines.

J.D. Power and Associates gives us ratings for “traditional airlines,” as opposed to low-cost airlines in their 2012 airline study. US Airways experience ratings are especially dismal, and American lands in the middle of the 7-airline pack.

Nothing to write home about.

Ironically, one AP writer stated that the merger “will elevate both airlines to the same level as Delta and United.” Lord help us. While Delta’s service levels seem to have improved (confirmed by The Wall Street Journal results noted above), United continues to fail miserably. And what part of that United-Continental merger left customers happy? I shared some of their lip service in a post I wrote last March, titled The Experience Speaks Louder Than Words.

OK, that’s the end of my musings on the American Airlines rebranding and merger debacles. I honestly hope they figure it out and start putting people first. As for me, on to more-exciting and more-important things in the coming weeks! Time to move on…

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. -Victor Frank

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).


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