Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Many American Airlines customers are a touch on the grumbly side.

This might also apply to quite a few American Airlines employees.

Everyone has their own reasons for American's customer service imperfections.

It's not as if its Flight Attendants are grossly underpaid.

There just seems to be a lot of internal, emotional work to be done.

How long, though, before the airline's customer service becomes the envy of all?

The thirteenth of never, I hear you mutter.

But wait, I think I can offer you a more concrete number of years.

Recently you see, the airline's EVP of People and Communications, Elise Eberwein, offered her own insights into American's soon-to-be soaring path toward customer service excellence.

On an internal forum, a Flight Attendant idly opined that Delta's customer service is better than American's.

Eberwein's response, captured by View From The Wing's Gary Leff, offered a fascinating -- and, some might say, amusing -- perspective: 

DL [Delta] is five years ahead of us in terms of integration. That means they have been merged for 10 years, while we have been merged for just 5. UA [United Airlines] is 3 years ahead of us. Not an excuse just similar to a house remodel. DL is five years ahead and renovating their existing structure (and doing it VERY well so not taking anything away from them), as is UA. Both started their remodel projects before us. Then we did a complete tear down and started building a new house (ie placed a huge new aircraft replacement order before the merger closed), albeit five and three years later... it is going to take time to catch up or even surpass.

Essentially, then, everything is great and everyone is great. And will be greater. 

It's just that, after the merger with US Airways, there's been insufficient time to remodel the house and for all its new occupants to get to know each other.

It's true that mergers breed two things: Vast enrichment for managements and sometimes considerable resentment from employees of the "losing" partner in the merger toward the "winning" partner.

At United, for example, there's still palpable tension between those who came from Continental Airlines and those who are United originals.

There is, however, a strong preparedness to fight management when it does something patently ignorant and marginally insane.

Moreover, merely to suggest, as Eberwein appears to, that the sole reason for inferior customer service is the relatively short amount of time since the merger might strike one or two customers as a touch risible.

It makes it sound as if neither American nor US Airways had any conception of good customer service at all. 

What some might say is more significant in American's case is a lack of direction and spirit.

In talking to American Airlines employees, the greatest source of disgruntlement is the strong suspicion that the airline's management is interested in lovely ladles of lucre and nothing else.

Indeed, management doesn't help its cause when CEO Doug Parker blithely offers that by far the most important thing is simply to get customers to their destinations on time.

Parker seems entirely comfortable with sacrificing many elements of customer service to achieve that.

The airline's president, Robert Isom, also happily declared that the airline wouldn't make things better for passengers unless it can make a profit from any sort of customer service improvement.

When you choose to stuff more people into more planes with less legroom -- even in First Class -- how can you possibly build a reputation for customer service?

When your own pilots say your bathrooms are "the most miserable experience in the world," how can you hope that passengers will be satisfied?

You're giving passengers less space. You're giving your own staff less space. How can this create a happy atmosphere?

Indeed, American admitted recently that its customer satisfaction scores have gone down.

Let's meet again, then, in five years' time.

Perhaps we'll all be clamoring to fly American because merely getting on one of its planes feels like going to the spa.

Or perhaps we'll just chat about why this idyll hasn't happened. Yet.

Published on: Feb 10, 2019