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US Airways: Our Philadelphia International Flights Were “Very Bad”

It’s rare to hear airline execs (or executives anywhere, really) talk openly about problems they’re experiencing, which is why this is rather refreshing:  A US Airways president said that the operation of their international flights from Philadelphia have been "very bad" because of congestion at the airport’s gates.  Sure, he was saying it because the airline is annoyed at airport officials for not helping them expand their (profitable) international operations there, but still – rare to hear someone say that they provided terrible service.  On the plus side, US Airways had a great quarter.

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  1. Not aviation related but: there seems to be a strong correlation between “truth/openness/communication” and “success”. When you share the true situation with people, the word spreads and people learn about it and try to help fix the REAL issue (not some made up half-truth from corporate lawyers). In this case, people will know about it and suggestions will abound. Think wikipedia, tivo user-extended features, facebook, etc. Being open works out great (sometimes counter-intuitively)! I hate when airlines blatantly lie. I know just how often they do because I have many friends at one particular airline and when a flight is delayed, my friends at AOG, technical services, etc. often tell me a totally different story. Sometime it’s just that the gate agent just doesn’t have any information and tells us that’s it’s because of the weather. I often learn that a flight is canceled before the pilots [who are sitting with us in the waiting area]. Because my friends call me and the pilots don’t have properly placed friends I guess, ehehehe. Anyway, COMMUNICATION, trust, telling the truth and saying sorry plus a sense of community goes a long way!!!

  2. The USAirways management culture is interesting because it’s a little younger, entreprenurial, laid back and “Western” than most airlines. It’s the culture of America West Airlines, which is where the managers come from. Needless to say, they’re having a hard time grafting that culture on to the larger USAirways system, which was none of those things.

    That said, there are limits to airline honesty, even with this team. In Airline PR 101, they apparently teach you NEVER to volunteer information about “problems.” If the reporter doesn’t ask, you don’t tell. You just hope the issue fades away before you get bad press. After the fact, maybe you can admit the truth.

    For example, I remember US Airways’ operational meltdown last spring in the days following their “rez migration,” where they combined their two reservation systems. It was obvious almost immediately that things were going badly and airport delays would be extensive. But management chose to put on a brave face and provide less than candid information about what travellers could expect. It was only months later that the admitted the size of the problem. Not sure I would have done things differently, but that’s how they do it.

  3. I’ve always been impressed with the America West team – they’ve always done things a bit differently, taking an airline that by all counts should’ve been a disaster and turning it into a solid success.

    I’m always in favor of openness in PR – I actually think talking about problems early on makes it seem like you’re actually doing something about them. Compare this to when Delta just launched their “Change” ad campaign, which suggested things had actually changed at the airline. Nonsense to anyone who has flown them. I much appreciate their proactive PR where they discuss what they’re going to do differently at JFK to deal with the miserable operating environment there.

  4. Be impressed with the America West management all you want, but if you ask me, they’re taking a big dump on Pittsburgh. Even Sen. Specter let USAir hear his frustrations (most of which wasn’t fit for print, according to Rep. Doyle), especially after all he’s done to make Pittsburgh a hub airport.

    And why can they take that dump? Easy: because they can. PHI is a bad airport that is congested beyond all repair, and that’s just my impression from flying Southwest! They need to think about moving some of their hub operations back to Pittsburgh. Seriously.

  5. Alexander Carmichael

    I have traveled to Glasgow Scotland from Lax Via Philadelphia on US Airways several times and have enjoyed my stop over and my flight immensely.
    I would like to do the same again on May or June 2012

  6. I am extremely displeased with my whole experience regarding our canceled flight. The flight was re booked due to an engine problem. We were put on a much later flight which caused us to arrive in Frankfurt at 11am the following day. I have an extremely bad back an must travel with my husband because I am unable to bend over or carry anything. I explained my problem and asked for our re booked flight seats to be together, which they were unable to do. But what angers me even more is the fact that we will now be stuck paying for our hotel and rental car even though we are arriving the following day. It baffles me how horrible US Airways customer service is handled. My husband and I travel extensively and they have lost our future business.

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