US Airways hears feedback, fixes website

US Airways has set a good example of listening to customer feedback and fixing a problem. In my case, there was added criticism in a newspaper column, but instead of complaining, the airline rolled up sleeves and started working.

In March, I wrote in my Washington Times column about its website’s inability to display many itineraries, even when booked directly with US Airways. At the time, spokeswoman Valerie Wunder at the company’s headquarters in Phoenix arranged a conference call with two in-house experts, who told me that the reason for the glitch was the site’s failure to recognize some foreign airport codes.

I’m happy to report that now I can view reservations containing some of the same airport codes I wasn’t able to see before. I hope the problem has been fixed across the system. That said, there are other issues with the US Airways site, but most other airlines have them, too.

Another company that has taken my criticism constructively is RCN, the cable operator. In a May column, I wrote about a massive April 26 outage that reportedly affected not only D.C. but several states. Because most customers have “bundled” services, they lost all of them for about five hours beginning in early afternoon on a Monday — those included businesses and many people working from home, who could do little with no phone and Internet in the middle of a weekday.

I concluded that RCN hadn’t improved its customer-service policies since a previous incident, which I reported a year earlier. In that case, my entire building lost phone, TV and Internet service around 7 p.m. on a Saturday. Service was not restored for more than 18 hours. Customer-service agents in the Philippines gave me and my neighbors conflicting information about the problem and how long it would take to fix it.

After my latest column, I received a call from Richard Beville, vice president and general manager for the D.C. area, who invited me to lunch to discuss how RCN can improve its customer service.

I try to hold companies in different sectors to the same standards everyone expects from airlines, which probably get more criticism than any other industry. While some of that criticism is deserved, the high visibility of thousands of front-line employees with customers around the world every day magnifies even a mundane incident, especially if splashed on Facebook or Twitter.

One thought on “US Airways hears feedback, fixes website

  • Let me tell you about an unpleasant experience I endured during most of US Airways Flight 1729 (from Charlotte to Orlando) on this past Friday. It started when I walked to my seat and met your flight attendant Jerry. He said “Good morning!” in a loud voice as I passed him and stopping at 9D. I set my computer bag in my seat, my suitcase on the floor, and started to look for a spot in the overhead near my seat. Directly above was taken and in front was some aircraft equipment, so I turned to the forward overhead area. Jerry said, “Put you bag in the overhead above your seat” (which was not available), so I responded “There is no room.” He insisted I put my bag over my seat, which was really over 10D, but I complied. Immediately I was told, “You have to put that bag under the seat in the row in front of you.” So I quickly placed my bag as directed and sat down and buckled my lap belt, arms crossed and stared straight ahead.

    I watched Jerry bark “Good morning!” to every person that passed him. Then a few of about 30 Brazilian teenagers began to enter the cabin. Jerry barked “Buenos días” to each of the four girls, as they moved to the rear with a questioning glance. Then back to “Good morning” as white and black passengers passed. After a few more negative responses from other Brazilian teens, he asked, “what kind of language do you speak?” They responded Portuguese. He asked, “How do you say ‘good morning’ in Portuguese?” They responded “Bom dia!” So, for every brown and tan person he barked “Bom dia!” covering the Brazilians, but also hitting a few Hispanics, again getting the questioning glance.

    The real dilemma began when the passenger assigned to seat 9C arrived. He sat his suitcase and computer bag in his seat to get his bearings and Jerry shouted “You have to put your bags in the overhead.” So this man grabbed his suitcase and placed it in the overhead to the rear of my bag and returned to his seat and started going through his computer bag, rearranging, taking things out as if he was searching for something. Jerry again shouted “You have to put that bag as well in the overhead.” The passenger stated that he was getting some things out and Jerry took a step toward him and said” you cannot have anything out for takeoff.” The man questioned “I cannot have anything out for takeoff?” The answer was, “There is no where to put it!” So he put his tablet in the magazine rack on the bulkhead in front of his seat. Jerry, now getting louder, said, “You can’t have that water out for takeoff.” “I can’t have my water?” Still loudly Jerry responded, “Sir, don’t argue with me!” So the man responded, “I am not arguing with you” and quietly stuffed everything in his bag, placed it in the overhead, sat down crossing his arms and stared straight ahead.

    Next, the passenger for seat 9A walks over to his seat and kneels to place a small bag under his seat. Jerry barks, “You can’t put that there. That space belongs to the person behind you; you have to put that in the overhead!” This man gets up, places his bag in a space above row 10 on his side of the aircraft, sat down crossing his arms, and stared straight ahead. By now there are five people in row 9 sitting in the same posture.

    Everyone is very compliant during the Emergency Row presentation and pre-flight demonstrations. Jerry sits in his jump seat facing the rear of the cabin and works a puzzle of some sort until we are airborne. Once the bell signaling passing 10,000 feet sounds he disappears heading the rear of the cabin. He did ask each of us in Row 9 “Something to drink?” and served our choices accordingly.

    Later in the flight, the lady sitting in 9E asked, “Could you please get me some more water?” Jerry’s response was, “Well, yeah, but I will have to go all the way to the back and get some.” He did bring the water a few minutes later.

    I asked another Flight attendant named Bradley, “Excuse me, what is that taller flight attendant’s name?” His answer was “I am not sure, but it is not Brad!” as he pointed to the name embroidered into his shirt.

    As we waited for the jet way to be moved into position in Orlando, the passenger in 9C asked Jerry what his name was, he said “Jerry.” And then he asked “What is your employee ID number?” Jerry barked “I am not telling you my employee ID number!” The passenger asked, “Are you going to raise you voice again now?” Jerry said, “I never raised my voice earlier.” At that point there were several audible snickers from Rows 9 and 10 and Jerry had a very solemn look on his face until we deplaned.

    So my appalling experience began with words and actions showing a lack of respect for me, not only a customer, but a person that this man does not even know; watching an attempt to be “cute” with a salutation coming across as patronizing, cultural insensitivity, and rude; and finally taking the respected authority of managing passengers preparing for a flight and distorting that into a hostile and bullying environment that was unpleasant to say the least. I would hope that Jerry is counseled on how one can easily be nice and treat people with respect and courtesy.

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