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Anyone traveling this holiday season could feel the cuts. There was less staff and less flexibility and just plain less of everything it seemed....


We picked December 30 to fly because this middle time between the holidays is usually a safe bet for smooth sailing.
Not so much this year. We got caught up in the debacle of bad weather in Dallas, which delayed our flight in Seattle. Having gotten up at 2:30 am to make a 6 am flight - our departure was put back again and again - with the explanation of "the crew got in late, they needed to sleep in." Not exactly the best thing to tell a bunch of bleary-eyed customers.
The fact that they didn't tell us was that there was a mess in Dallas and Austin where those folks had it even worse -- they were sitting ON THE AIRPLANES waiting. Flight 1348, a San Francisco-Dallas run was diverted to Austin, and sat on the runway with people on the plane for 12 hours.
Think planes jammed with kids, backed-up toilets and holiday revelers who had the wind blown out of them. American's Flight 1682 from Oklahoma City to Dallas waited 8 hours in the plane before the flight was cancelled. Flight 37 from Zurich, Switzerland, to Dallas was diverted to Tulsa, Okla., where it sat for 10 hours. Passengers were on board for over 22 hours by the time it landed.
How could this happen? I naively thought to myself sitting and waiting and waiting in the airport? What about back-up crews? Shouldn't there be contingency plans for weather? And when we were we going to hear some sort of apology about this situation?
After years of cutting staff, carriers are less capable of handling crises -- from not having enough telephone reservationists to handle calls, or extra bodies to empty toilet tanks or spare pilots and flight attendants to help out when delays stack up. Congestion in the air and at airports exacerbates the messes caused when storms hit.
American says it is re-evaluating its flight-diversion strategy -- and is studying whether it should adopt a harder time limit on how long planes can sit and wait.
Ya think?
As for that apology -- we never got one. Just an explanation that it was weather. Seems the airline doesn't accept responsibility for weather -- or the mess that gets created for the lack of plannning in how to deal with it. As for those much more distressed folks sitting on planes for 10-22 hours, they got little respect or help either.
Friendly skies? I'm not so sure.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Jeanne Bliss
Jeanne Bliss began her career at Lands’ End where she reported to founder Gary Comer and the company’s executive committee, ensuring that in the formative years of the organization, the company stayed focused on its core principles of customer and employee focus. She was the first leader of the Lands’ End Customer Experience. In addition to Lands’ End, she has served Allstate, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker Corporation and Mazda Corporations as its executive leading customer focus and customer experience. Jeanne has helped achieve 95% retention rates across 50,000 person organizations, harnessing businesses to work across their silos to deliver a united and deliberate experience customers (and employees) want to repeat. Jeanne now runs CustomerBliss (http://www.customerbliss.com), an international consulting business where she coaches executive leadership teams and customer leadership executives on how to put customer profitability at the center of their business, by getting past lip service; to operationally relevant, operationally executable plans and processes. Her clients include Johnson & Johnson, TD Ameritrade, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals, Bombardier Aircraft and many others. Her two best-selling books are Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad. Her blog is http://www.ccocoach.com She is Co-founder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. www.cxpa.org