I was delighted to catch a much-earlier flight from LaGuardia into Philadelphia this morning, which gave me the opportunity to try for an earlier flight from Philadelphia into Baltimore. Well, I made it, but the path it took to get there was a great lesson in customer service, both good and bad.
When I got off the 7:30 flight into Philadelphia, I hurried over to a different terminal to check that I was on the standby list for the 9:45 flight. A rep at the gate checked my ticket and looked at the computer, and confirmed that I was one of two people on the list. She left to assist a blind traveler with getting to his next gate, and a different rep took over from there.
I told the replacement gate agent that I had a question about my standby status. She said that she’d run the standby list after everyone with a confirmed ticket had boarded. Fine — this is standard, but I’d hoped that with five open seats and two standby passengers, she could just take care of it then and there. Still, procedure and all.
When everyone had boarded, she went to look for a seat for me, and then announced that I wasn’t on the standby list. The same list that the previous gate agent had confirmed I was on. And then, she closed the door and let the plane leave.
With me standing there, ready to board, staring incredulously at her as my plane departed with open seats that I could’ve taken.
Her answer was that she didn’t have time to put me on the standby list, and had to close the door so that the plane could leave. I explained repeatedly that the previous gate agent checked the list and confirmed that I was on it, and she went so far as to tell me that while she didn’t have time to argue with me, I could come look at the list with my own eyes and see that I wasn’t on it.
Unbelievable. The plane left without me, with open seats. I don’t know who to be upset with — the original gate agent for allegedly telling me wrong, or the second gate agent for refusing to talk to me about the standby list until it was supposedly too late to do anything about it.
And when I pointed out that I’d told her several minutes prior to the start of boarding, she assured me that even if she had talked to me when I first approached her, she wouldn’t have had time to put me on the list because she had to start boarding anyway. (So how are people supposed to get on the standby list?!)
I marched off to talk to a manager about my experience. Not to try to correct the mistake, because the plane had already left by that point, but to ensure that if nothing else I got a confirmed seat on the next one. And yes, to vent a little and hopefully have my ruffled feathers smoothed a bit.
I achieved some of those objectives, but not all. The manager got me a confirmed seat on the 11:20 flight, and even went the extra step of having them track down my checked luggage and ensure that it was on the correct flight. So, immediate issue was addressed, and travel needs were met.
However… At no point in this scenario did the manager express any concern that I was clearly, audibly, visibly upset. And before you picture me throwing a fit and taking my frustration out on someone who didn’t contribute to the problem, I opened the conversation with, “I’m very upset right now, but I know it’s not your fault, and I’m not taking this out on you” before calmly explaining what went wrong and why I was upset by it. (No, really.)
Look, I’m glad that he got me on a plane and double-checked that my luggage was accounted for. But it would have made a world of difference if he had started off with a simple, “I’m so sorry that happened to you! Let’s see how we can fix this and get you to your destination.”
I’m not expecting him to fall on his sword for something he didn’t so, but a simple acknowledgment that an upset customer didn’t receive the experience that he should have would’ve been appropriate. It would’ve helped me to feel valued and validated. Instead, I’m boarding the plane feeling relieved but grumpy about it.
US Airways failed to take care of me the first round, and failed to make me feel better about it when I brought it to management’s attention. The end result was a successful second attempt at a transaction, but a less satisfied customer.
Now tell me truthfully: is an immediate apology too much to ask? Am I being a diva, or is that a reasonable expectation?