Some American Airlines employees are starting to rebel against a policy they say values on-time departure over customer service – even in circumstances when taking care of passengers couldn’t possibly cause a delay, but CEO Doug Parker countered that departing on time (and ideally arriving on time) is the definition of customer service for a commercial airline.
Gate agents and crews are beginning to question directions from American Airlines (AA) leadership that they say demand on-time departure at nearly any cost. Although at least one pilot has complained to management that the single-minded focus around on-time or early departures is unnecessarily giving passengers the short shrift, CEO Doug Parker says, far from punishing flyers, the strict policies are actually improving the air travel experience.
American Airlines President Robert Isom has earned the nickname “Captain D0” among American Airlines workers for his near-obsession with on-time departures. Now, however, it’s beginning to look as if the moniker is not necessarily a term of endearment. The building friction between the workforce and management reportedly came to a boil during a recent question and answer session between employees and executives.
When an AA captain questioned why it was important to rush to close the cabin door on-time or early in situations where the plane had very little chance of departing on schedule, it was implied that basic customer service considerations such as offering upgrades, retrieving lost items and even loading last-minute bags often take a backseat to the stopwatch – even in situations in which there is nothing to be gained from the exercise. The pilot is said to have marveled that the very employees responsible for customer service are told to instead focus on making sure planes pushback from the gate on time no matter the circumstances.
“The most important thing to customers is that we deliver on our commitment to leave on time and get them to the destination as they have scheduled,” Parker responded to the pilot’s concerns in comments first reported by the Boarding Area’s Gary Leff.
Parker explained that the strict policies are in place because customers have made clear they value on-time departures over niceties such as inflight catering, preflight upgrades or the ability to bring a carry-on bag onto the plane – all amenities that are sometimes curtailed in the name of leaving on schedule.
“If you depart on time, guess what?” Ison pointed out earlier this year. “You have a really good chance of arriving on time. It’s a surprising correlation between the two, right?”