Mention hotel alarm clocks to a frequent guest and you’ll probably get an earful. Those ever-present digital clock radios frequently evoke feelings of confusion, frustration and even rage. “If hotel alarm clocks set you off, you’re not alone”
US Airways ranked number one in on-time performance, baggage handling and customer satisfaction among the major network carriers for May, according to the latest Transportation Department report — a rare trifecta. It’s even more impressive, considering that just a few years ago, the airline consistently ranked near the bottom of the list. I asked Kerry Hester, the airline’s vice president for reservations and customer service planning, to shed some light on the numbers, and what they mean to passengers. You can read a related interview about US Airways fixation on numbers with Robert Isom here.
How did you do it?
Our employees did it. I am very proud of my 31,000 colleagues who have worked hard to run a safe and reliable airline, while focusing on taking great care of our customers. They deserve the credit for achieving this important milestone.
OK. How did they do it?
This was a significant achievement for us that only a handful of other airlines have shared in the past decade. It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, but we’ve done it by institutionalizing a culture where our employees understand that every on-time departure, every bag and every customer interaction really counts.
We beat United in on-time performance by just a half percentage point, and bettered Continental by just 10 bags and eight complaints. Simply put, every contact that we have with our customers really makes a difference.
Leading the industry in on-time departures is the key to our success, and we do it without padding our schedule like some other airlines do. Our Express partners also contributed to these results, with record-setting performances in April in on-time departures, on-time arrivals, and completion factor (the percent of scheduled departures that actually departed during the daily schedule) followed by strong results in each of these measures again in May.
““Every on-time departure, every bag and every customer interaction really counts””
That’s according to FlightStats, which just released its on-time numbers for August. The average for the top 40 North American airports was a 77 percent on-time arrival performance for the month, which is so-so.
Let’s get right to it. Here are the most delayed airports. Thunderstorms, low ceilings and winds plagued the East Coast in August, which was to blame for the underperformance, according to FlightStats.
“Oakland gets top marks for on-time flights; New York loses again”
This holiday weekend, you might want to consider checking in extra early at the airport. There’s evidence some airlines, in an effort to boost their on-time ratings, are instructing their flight crews to push back a minute or two early — and leaving some passengers stranded at the gate.
So-called “leave-early” policies have been around for as long as the Transportation Department has published on-time statistics, as I pointed out about a decade ago.
What’s different now? I’ll have the answer in a moment. But first, let’s hear from Aletheia Lawry, who was on the wrong side of an early departure on a recent Delta Air Lines flight from Houston to Hartford.
We were late pulling into Atlanta — we were forced to circle the airport for about 15 minutes and then were on the tarmac another 10 minutes or so while they tried to find an open gate.
We exited the plane and ran to make our connection to Hartford. We arrived at the Hartford gate about eight minutes before scheduled departure. The plane had already left. We banged on the Jetway door, to no avail.
Indeed, Delta tells passengers that they must be at the gate 15 minutes before departure or they risk missing their flight. Some cities have longer lead times (45 minutes for St. Croix and St. Thomas) while others are shorter (shuttle flights in Boston, New York and Washington have just a five-minute requirement.)
Not that the rules are doing Delta any good. Roughly 84 percent of its flights were considered “on-time” in September, according to the Department of Transportation (PDF). That’s about average.
Lawry is amused by that.
It amazes me that even with dispatching flights early, Delta can have such a dismal on-time record.
I’m not asking for a return to the times when they would hold a plane for connecting passengers, but to leave us sitting in the Atlanta airport because they left prior to departure time seems unconscionable. Can they actually do this to passengers?
In fact, with more Web sites displaying on-time statistics by flight, and with executive bonuses being tied to on-time records (US Airways, for example) the pressure is on to push back as early as possible.
Meaning that when it comes to air travel, early is the new late.