Response to US Airways/American Airlines for a Friend’s Complaint

| January 14, 2015

It is not uncommon for me to hear airline complaints (or have them!), but not often do I have something concrete from the airlines to work with. Yesterday, a friend on facebook posted his experience with the customer service of US Airways and American Airlines:

Here is part of the response I got from ‪#‎usairways ‪#‎americanairlines for not having a gate for our plane and making us wait over 1 hour 45 minutes! What a joke!

“…Probably few things are more annoying than having to wait for an available gate after your aircraft has landed. While normally every incoming flight has a gate designated, there are times when a gate might not be ready at the time of arrival. When possible, we will find a new gate for the incoming flight. Unfortunately, however, this is not always feasible, and we prefer to keep gate changes to a minimum since it has a ripple effect on gate assignments for other inbound and outbound flights.

Also, during your wait on the aircraft, you may look out the window and observe other empty gates. Please allow me to explain why this happens and why we can’t just simply switch your airplane to another gate.

There is more likely to be a wait for a gate at one of our hub cities than at an outlying city. At our hubs, our gate schedules provide for only a short interval between the departure of one airplane and an arrival of another. Also, because airport real estate is expensive, we have only a few “spare” gates. So, if a departing flight is delayed for more than just a few minutes backing away from the gate, the arriving airplane scheduled for that gate will probably have to wait.

Why not just pull the arriving airplane into one of those empty gates? Regretfully, not all gates can accommodate all airplanes. But more often, it is because the assigned gate numbers for arriving and departing flights have been widely circulated (on boarding passes and monitors), and using a different gate could potentially inconvenience numerous customers — those waiting to board flights and waiting to meet someone on a particular flight. Also, cargo (baggage, mail and freight) for each flight is processed at assigned gates. Changing gates would require moving equipment and accumulated cargo to another location, possibly causing confusion and lost or misplaced bags.

For all these reasons, we think a delay waiting for a gate adds up to better overall customer service than changing gates more often than absolutely necessary. We are sorry, however, that you were inconvenienced when your flight had to wait for an available gate.

This is probably more than you really wanted to know about this particular issue but we wanted you to have a complete understanding of the rationale behind our actions. Please be assured that we are all working hard to get it right just as often as we can.

We know and understand that there are many components to air travel; still, our basic product is transportation. While some elements of a particular flight may be unsatisfactory, we do not routinely provide compensation when transportation is provided. It would be an exceptional situation in any business to give a refund when the product is used.”


Here’s what I have to say about that:

Your response is very revealing of your attitude toward both timeliness and customer satisfaction, and your lack of any gesture of good will is telling of a company that does not strive for satisfaction or loyalty. One hour and 45 minutes is beyond “inconvenience” in my book.

Your comment that “it would be an exceptional situation in any business to give a refund when the product is used” is questionable. Satisfaction guarantees, even if a product has been used, are offered across industries, and entitle the purchaser to compensation for a multitude of products and services. They have been around since the 18th century—much longer than both American Airlines and US Airways.   Your system does not function. Your product was defective. Even within your own industry, there are gestures of good will when yes, “transportation has been provided,” but tarmac delays upon touchdown cause passengers to deplane far beyond the scheduled time.

Both US Airways and American Airlines are, however, an exception—an exception to customer satisfaction within your industry. Where overall airline satisfaction is on the rise, Business Insider has ranked US Airways 11th and American Airlines as 7th in the most frustrating companies in America (2013). I can’t wait to see if you make the list again!


Category: In Germany A Broad blog, Travel, US Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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