Flying the Not-So-Friendly Skies Can Teach Us All a Lesson

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Flying the Not-So-Friendly Skies Can Teach Us All a Lesson

If I never fly United Airlines again, it will be too soon. They have violated my trust over and over again. And I can’t be the only one.  It’s a miracle they stay in business. And as I went into hour #7 of my frustration with them yesterday, I realized that private patient advocates can actually learn from my latest United Odyssey. Here’s the story: I can be found on anywhere from 30 to 50 flights in any given year, depending my speaking engagements and other consulting work.  In general, airline customer service really tanked around 2008, except for Jet Blue which did a good job maintaining good customer service even when the recession hit. By 2012, most of the airlines I fly, like US Airways and Delta, started to get their improved customer service groove back on again. Except United Airlines.  Today they are still clueless.  Every time I take a United flight, I swear it will be the last time. Unfortunately for some flights, I can’t avoid them. It’s not that their customer service people aren’t polite – they are. They are quite FRIENDLY (fly the FRIENDLY skies!) and quite sincere.  They do try to be helpful with the things they know to do. But whoever is training United’s customer service people has missed the biggest boat that exists in customer service.  I’ll tell you what that is in a moment. Yesterday’s adventure was a perfect example of what I’m talking about.  I had a reservation for a 4:12 PM flight home to Syracuse, NY from Chicago (where we held our APHA workshops).  I purchased my ticket a month ago, I went online to check in and print my boarding pass the night before, and I was at the airport two full hours before the flight was scheduled to depart. But I couldn’t get a seat assignment – not when I checked in online, not when I checked in with my baggage, and not at the gate where everyone SWORE to me I would be assigned a seat. You can probably guess what happened.  Yes – the flight…


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