American Airlines Empowers Flight Attendants To Offer Compensation On Board When You Have A Problem

The next time you have a problem onboard an American Airlines flight, you might be pleasantly surprised with how the airline solves it.  American Airlines will start using technology that will allow flight attendants to offer compensation to customers in the air.

Flight attendants will have the ability to offer you compensation for problems such as broken seats or a problem with in-flight entertainment.  Flight attendants will only be able to offer you AAdvantage miles as opposed to cash vouchers you might receive from customer service.

A Good Idea?

Not everyone agrees this is a good idea.  According to the article, flight attendants are afraid that this effort will lead to more customers complaining.  I’m writing this post mid-morning on the West coast.  It’s entirely possible I hear a more ignorant point of view today, but I doubt it.

It comes as no shock to me that some flight attendants fear customers complaining.  On one hand, the in-flight product is worse.  Seats are closer together, and we have Basic Economy.  On the other hand, some airlines are recognized for their customer service (cough, Southwest, cough).  Flight attendants should want the power to resolve a customer’s issues at the time they happen, not shrug the issue off until later.

Customer Service Really Does Matter

I’ve been in the service industry for roughly 3 decades.  It’s never been more important to treat customers correctly.  In the age of social media, problems spread quickly.  A single Tweet can start a cascade of very visible complaints.  People are more likely to post the negative incidents than about great customer service.  So, why not empower your front line employees to fix the mole hill instead of mobilizing an army to tackle a mountain?

The timing of service recovery matters.  My “day job” involves running various companies, including overseeing a dry cleaner that our company owns.  We employ a number of customer service strategies in that business to deal with issues quickly.  We frequently get comments from customers who are surprised we dealt with an issue quickly and proactively.  Those folks turn into happy customers.  Nobody really expects their dry cleaner to deliver great customer service. Similarly, we’re programmed to think most airlines will treat us poorly.

The Final Two Pennies

This is a good move by American.  It’s not unique, Delta has been doing something similar for a while now.  But, it’s right.  Customers are happier when they’re heard.  Give me a solution when the problem happens and I’m less likely to escalate the situation.  For customers, knowing that someone cared enough to compensation is never a bad thing.

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  1. I think it is forward thinking to allow the front line contact to address problems with meaningful solutions. I like that it shows trust in the employees’ ability to use their discretion on the spot. There will always be small people who will “work the system,” but to give the person on scene the power to address problems is a good step IMO.

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