Space aliens stole my luggage!

Roswell, NM, is synonymous with a 1947 incident in which the government allegedly recovered a crashed UFO. It’s also the site where a series of feel-good TV ads were filmed in 2005 to commemorate the merger between America West and US Airways. According to one insider who witnessed the $1.2 million spots being produced, it was clear from the start that this was a troubled union and a preview of today’s problems.

The ads feature the chief executive officers of several well-known companies praising US Airways. Some of these managers were flown to New Mexico on US Airways. Others had tickets on Southwest.

“We flew Southwest,” says my insider. “We knew better.”

Maybe US Airways should have stuck with Southwest, too, because what happened next had all the makings of a PR disaster. “The three CEO’s who were flown in on US Airways all had their bags ‘mishandled,” remembers my insider. “Here we are shooting a TV spot worth $1.2 million on how great the airline is, and they lose their bags.”

Much to the airline’s credit, and the quick thinking of a marketing manager, the luggage was retrieved about a day later. “One of the PA’s had to truck ass up to Albuquerque to get them,” says my source.

If word of the missing luggage had leaked to the press, I suppose US Airways could have blamed space aliens. They were, after all, filming right at Roswell AFB, the site where the extraterrestrial craft was allegedly recovered.

Anyway, that wasn’t the real disaster, according to my source.

“We shot the new livery being painted in one of the hangars in stop-motion,” he remembers. “It was a huge cost and we never used any of the footage.”

Related story:   Northwest's stealth customer service initiative?

I’m not going to say the airline doesn’t have to right to shoot an expensive ad that talks about the greatness of the new US Airways. But as a consumer advocate, I wonder what would have happened if US Airways had spent that $1.2 million on improving its customer service processes.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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