American Airlines + US Airways = Worst Customer Experience

As an update to my previous post, American Airlines and US Airways formally announced their merger. According to our 2012 Temkin Ratings, they are the two worst U.S. airlines in customer experience. US Airways actually holds the bottom spot in our experience, loyalty, forgiveness, and trust ratings. By contrast, the recent merger between Southwest Airlines and AirTran represents a combination of the two top airlines in customer experience.

Temkin RatingsDoes this mean that the merger will create a mega-monster in terms of customer experience? Hopefully not. But I recommend that every member of the newly combined management team focus on all four customer experience core competencies:

  • Purposeful Leadership
  • Compelling Brand Values
  • Employee Engagement
  • Customer Connectedness

The bottom line: There’s a lot of work ahead for American Airlines and US Airways

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

6 Responses to American Airlines + US Airways = Worst Customer Experience

  1. “A lot of work”… You may win “understatement of the year” Bruce! I have fewer experiences with US Airways (will take your word for it) but American Airlines left me with a bad enough taste a few years ago that I have paid more in fees just to avoid them. Here’s a link to that post for your readers… “American Airlines’ Poor Policy Costs $75,000″ http://bit.ly/hMyG3n

  2. Diane Magers says:

    And now they are going to merge, which creates challenge for any organization. It will be interesting to see how they leverage the change to involve their customers.

  3. I am a fellow customer experience advocate. AND, because of where I live in Arizona, for a period of five and a half years, I flew US Airways Express and US Airways twice every week. I got on a plane on Sunday afternoons in Flagstaff, flew to Phoenix and connected with the US Airways flight destined to my current project site. Then Friday I would reverse the process.

    Being ‘in the know’ about what a great customer experience could (or must) be my patience and blood pressure were constantly tested. And at one point I was in the top ranks of their frequent flyer program; I was informed I was one of the top US Airways patrons by legs flown out of Phoenix. I’ve flown both of these major airlines but most heavily on US Airways. American has not demonstrated any better performance in the customer experience arena when I’ve flown them.

    I appreciate and value the fact Bruce that you’ve called ‘foul’ so to speak.There is a lot of expertise in the mergers and acquisitions department of US Airways but expertise, investment and attention are lacking in the understanding our customers department.

    What a ripe opportunity this would be for us (experts) to dive into the merging company – ideally with budgetary and political clout – and refocus so much operational activity for the better. Does anybody have a door that would allow access to the powers that be inside these two (perhaps in the future, one) companies?

  4. Kevin Brown says:

    I live in the Phoenix area, so have been stuck with the US Airways mess. We loved America West for years, then it went sour for about four years and then came back. But acquiring US killed it again. I hardly fly them, but sometimes it’s the only direct flight offered, so I take them. I was Platinum with HP/America West for years

    I had 1M+ miles with AA, mainly through Qantas as I hated AA. I permanently turned my back on them when they killed 178,000 miles without telling me. I relayed that to US CEO Doug Parker (he’s from my hometown and I remember his Dad when I was a kid); I plan to remind him again when I inform him that US lost all of my business for good. It’s not much these days, so he probably doesn’t give a rip.

    We mainly fly WN/Southwest these days. In 1999 and 2000 I was their top flyer in segments, (one of those years I had 687 segments) and they gave me a nice little recognition at their Phoenix call center with Herb Kelleher thanking me and making a few jokes about me. I had met him back in the mid-80′s while flying non-rev as a Southwest partner. I reminded him of that, and he actually remember me and my wife! Now that’s a CEO who pays attention to even his non-paying customers. I think that tells a story about why Southwest is doing so well and AA isn’t.

  5. josh says:

    When you merge two crappy companies, you get one bigger, crappier company. AA was already too large to avoid being almost taken completely out of commission by an ice storm in Dallas. Meanwhile, the smaller, more nimble Southwest kept operating with minimal disruption out of the same city.

    As a customer who was trapped in Dallas by American (and flown home by Southwest), I can tell you American’s response has been mind-numbingly bad. It should be the subject of a case study on how not to handle a problem.

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