Raising the level of your leadership




It's Not My Job


Subtitle: Maybe This Is Why AA Is Bankrupt?

We arrived at the Jacksonville, Florida airport (JAX) about 1:30pm to pick up our friends, John and Kathy Murphey, on our way to spend a few days in historic St. Augustine. The airport status board showed their flight—American (AA) 310 from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)—to be “On Time” for a 1:50pm arrival. Great, in about 30 minutes they would be walking up the exit ramp. At 1:50pm, the status changed to “Arrived” and at 1:55pm it said “At Gate.”

We watched dozens of people walk out. Fifteen minutes…twenty…thirty go by…still no Murpheys. The board still said “At Gate.”

Concerned, I checked the baggage area. No Murpheys and no baggage from AA 310. So I went to the baggage claim office to inquire about the flight.

AA        “Electrical problem; it will be here at 4:00pm.”

Dick      “The status board says it is here now, at the gate.”

AA        “The status board is wrong.”

Dick      “Who is responsible for the information on the status board?”

AA        “The airport is.”

Dick      “Who is supposed to tell them the flight is late?”

AA        “They are supposed to call us.”

This is actually the simple version of the whole episode. At one point, the JAX status board showed that AA 310 had arrived on time and left on time when actually it was still at DFW the whole time.

Three different AA people told me it was the airport’s job. The airport told me it was AA’s job to let them know when a flight was going to be late. This is a classic case of The Left Hand Doesn’t Know What The Right Hand Is Doing while each hand is blaming the other, saying, “It’s not my job.”

To my way of thinking, because it was an AA flight and AA customers, they have more at stake than the airport. No one will blame JAX because an AA flight is on the ground at DFW with a problem. Evidently, not one single person from AA felt like it was their responsibility to let JAX know that the flight was going to be more than two hours late. (It is still a mystery how JAX posted At Gate when the flight was still in Dallas.)

I am a long-time AA customer: lifetime Platinum, more than two million miles. I don’t fly much any more, but when I do, it is usually AA (three trips last year). Last Monday (5/7/12), I was embarrassed for them—and more than a bit frustrated. They should be embarrassed too. Maybe it is customer service like this that explains at least in part why they are bankrupt.

How about your customer service? Does your left hand know what the right hand is doing? Are your customers wandering around trying to find out what is going on and hearing, “It’s not my job?”

If you are the leader, it’s up to you to fix it.

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© Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

4 responses to “It's Not My Job”

  1. Mitch Anderson says:

    I had the exact same experience with AA at Reagan National in Washington about 2 years ago. The flight never showed, the board was wrong, and no one seemed to care. Agree this goes back to developing a culture at all levels of responsibility. Will keep that in mind as I start from the bottom!

  2. John Murphey says:

    As the guy on the other end of this travel connection, I am certainly glad you didn’t abandon us while we waited in DFW for the flight to JAX.

    Another hard lesson from this experience is to make sure your “customer contacts list” is up to date. Mine wasn’t and all phone calls and e-mails to Dick to advise him we were still on the airplane in DFW were undeliverable.

    With everyone now having a cell phone and easy contact accessability (if they have the right number), perhaps AA has decided to Out Source flight delay notifications to its customers.

    • Dick Wells says:

      Well…I’ll have to take responsibility for cell #. In any case, once we cleared the airport, it was a great time with you and Kathy and worth the AA experience.

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