Dear American Airlines: CPaaS Enable Customer Communications
This is a little rant about an airline that really needs to step into 2018 by using CPaaS to vastly improve customer satisfaction. And by the way, American Airlines, it is not hard.
Recently, I traveled to Austin for a board meeting and an offsite planning session with my Telestax executive team. Having all of my miles on American Airlines, I tend to use this airline as my first choice for air travel. A downside to American Airlines is you can’t get there from here. I almost never find a nonstop flight. Here’s a good example: I flew to Japan last August. My route included flying to Los Angeles to catch my International flight; only to fly back over San Francisco on my way to Japan. This little detour added 3 hours to my trip.
The itinerary for my Austin trip had me flying out of San Francisco, changing planes in Dallas – and then on to Austin. Not too bad. As a rule, I try to never take the last flight out or the last connection to my destination. And I try to select 40 – 60 minute windows for connection times to give me room for airline or weather mishaps. All of these precautions assume something is going to happen because often times something does happen. With this planning, I have been very blessed with good travel karma – for the most part. But you know what they say about best laid plans.
Living north of San Francisco I leave plenty of time to get to the airport. I am in the habit of texting my husband at key points in my trip (at the airport, through security, plane on time, etc.). His response to my “at the airport” text was “we just had an intense rain deluge”. I did not think anything of this text until I boarded my flight, found my seat and buckled up. Then it hit and boy was my husband right. We sat our gate for over 45 minutes due to wind direction changes. Planes are fine with heavy rain but not so much with changes in wind direction.
Oh and then there were the 18 planes that were stacked ahead of us waiting for take-off. I knew my hour plus connection window was closing and fast. Add the enormous taxi time in Dallas and waiting for the plane to push away from our gate and I pretty much gave up on my connection.
But What Happened Next Did Not Have To Happen
The airlines decided that unless you were continuing in the same plane onto its next destination, pretty much everyone on board missed their connections. The flight attendant announced there would be a customer service agent outside the jet way to provide further instructions. Here are the events that happened – What a mess:
- I asked the customer service agent about my connecting flight. Her response was it departed and pointed me to a re-ticketing desk. What was amazing to me is that she was referencing flight information from an IBM green bar paper print out.
YIKES – this should have been my first clue that she did not have any current information.
- As I walked to the re-ticketing desk I thought I heard my name being paged.
It was so noisy, I could not tell for certain.
- I looked at my phone to find I had been receiving a series of flight update texts – even before landing.
- My original connecting flight was scheduled to leave at 8:30 from gate A24. I arrived into Dallas at 8:35 at gate D25.
Too far away and too late.
- One text I received shows my connection leaving at 10:30 not 8:30 as I had originally booked. I did not realize that AA had re-booked me on a different flight leaving at 10:30. I received no notification ahead of this text so I did not pay close attention to the flight number difference.
Admittedly, I am not telepathic.
- I continued to receive texts about my original connection – while receiving texts about the new connection.
- It turns out my original connection was not only delayed for departure, it was moved 5 gates down from where I was.
I could have made this flight with time to spare if I had received proper information and notifications.
- When I realized this, I got out of line and ran down to the new gate. Too late, the gate had closed. I wound up on the last flight at 10:30 (at least there was one more flight).
What a mess!!!
What Should Have Happened
Business travelers are pretty savvy when it comes to self-service. I would have liked to power up my mobile phone upon landing in Dallas and begin a conversation through a 2-way texting app that incorporates chatbot technology. This would allow me to carry on a conversation with the airline to know up to the second status of my connecting flight. And even let me book an alternative flight if necessary.
This truly is not difficult but it does require a CPaaS platform to move the flight information instantaneously via SMS. Telestax offers this platform – RestcommONE. Developers do not focus on the complexities involved in sending and receiving SMS – we play that role. They simply code the business logic of the application and pass it to the RestcommONE platform using our Visual Designer or our programmable messaging APIs.
In the end, nobody can really blame the airline for weather delays but we can blame them for the chaos that happens because of them.
And by the way, any airline can offer this service to their travelers. Those that do will go a long way towards traveler/customer satisfaction.
Contact us to find out how we can help you move your customer satisfaction dial in a positive direction. We are expecting you.