PeoplExpress apologizes online for weekend delays

There’s something disturbing about this piece from the Virginian-Pilot (August 12, 2014). The article superficially discusses an apology circulated via Facebook by a senior PeoplExpress executive. The incident involves an air service disruption and the events surrounding it.

Read the piece carefully and then see my thoughts below. I don’t believe the image the company tries to create is successful.

Here is my short list of concerns and observations:

  1. It is hard to imagine that a company selling air transportation with three planes that it doesn’t own or operate will have anything other than operational problems.
  2. Consumers have not made that operational connection, which might be a better area for media to consider.
  3. As the PR person quoted in the piece observes, it’s “refreshing” that an airline is apparently  forthright with its customers–so rare of late in an industry that collectively seems determined to abuse its customers in the name of economy and low fares as to rate space in a large newspaper.
  4. It’s strange that, whatever the circumstances, a flight delay/cancellation resulted in screaming at an employee somewhere in the airport (not clear where). Inadequate training and preparation are probably contributors, but most frequent travelers have been exposed to equally inept staff, Neanderthal passengers, and gate-level service collapse that didn’t result provoke similar reactions from the crowd, motivate a Facebook post from a senior executive, or result in a $20k out-of-pocket for the company. One wonders what was really going on.
  5. The cumulative effect is to make the operation look inept, apology or not, especially when the explaining starts. Too much information is usually not helpful or particularly enlightening. It often has the opposite effect.
  6. Reading comments from a senior executive attributing delays to “staff limitations” and federal work rules is very strange. The complexity of the subject raised would cause informed consumers and media (regretfully few) to ask what specifically he had in mind and how that relates to safety. Rather than honesty it suggests that you don’t know what you are doing and that your customers won’t notice when you shift some of the blame to government.

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