I fly US Airways only when I have to. That’s a lot, unfortunately, because my family lives in North Carolina where US Airways practically owns the airports in Charlotte, Greensboro, Asheville and Wilmington.
So I grin and bear it, but they really are a broken airline. My recent trip from Washington’s Dulles airport gave me some good insight into what’s exactly wrong.
Here’s what happened to me.
Ordinarily, I avoid checking bags, but for this trip, I had to check a bag. The line snaked at least 60 people deep when I arrived at their check-in counter at Dulles. There were self check-in machines, but they appeared to be broken as no one was using them. Plus they weren’t located off to the side — they were right up at the counter. (You couldn’t access them unless you were going to cut in line in front of other passengers.)
Eventually, after waiting in line for 15 minutes, the lady ahead of my decided to see if the self check in machines were broken.
Guess what? They weren’t.
I followed her example, swiped my credit card at the self check-in and the agent quickly issued me a boarding pass and took my bag. I should have left it at that. But I couldn’t resist.
“May I make a suggestion that would improve your customer experience and not cost you an extra penny?”
“Sure,” she replied.
“Well, I’ve been waiting in line over here for the last 15 minutes assuming that your self check in machines were broken. It turns out they weren’t. It would make a lot of sense to have a separate line roped off for the self check-in machines or at the very least have someone make an announcement that they were available.”
“Well sir, ordinarily someone does set up a second line, but that hasn’t been done yet this morning. I’m sorry.”
The next words out of her mouth might as well have been, “Setting up the second line isn’t my job, sir. That’s someone else’s. Rather than improve your experience as our customer by doing what my colleague forgot to do, I will simply sit here and smile.”
Whatever happened to Piedmont Airlines, the airline founded in my hometown? Oh yeah, they got bought by US Airways.
This never would have happened at Piedmont.
Even though US Airways is showing signs of improvement lately — they led U.S. airlines in on-time performance for the first half of the year — until they train employees to work and win together as a team, they will never successfully compete with Jet Blue or Southwest, nor will they inspire the customer loyalty that Piedmont once had.