Organizational chaos

Is there anything worse that today’s airline travel, from a customer service point of view? I realize that this is a form of transportation that has gotten incredibly cheap, logistics are complex, competition is cutthroat.
And yet. Our flight from New York to Chicago – which has to be one of the most common routes – was a paragon of organizational stupidity. At the check-in counter, a long line of passengers waited for 5 agents. In the next bay over, six machines were there to facilitate self-check-in. Of the six machines, 4 were broken, with no one servicing them. Get your self-service ticket, and go to the agent to get your tags? Instead of calling out names as they came out, another half-shambled line formed, and they took customers in half-random sequence.

Before we left, I checked the AA website and the flightchecker widget on my Mac. AA says the flight is on time, flightchecker says it’s delayed by 40 minutes. When we checked in at the pre-security gate, the flight was listed as ‘on time’. At the gate, the flight was listed as delayed by 45 minutes (assumedly for weather, we never really found out). Gate was changed, again for unknown and unannounced reason.

I won’t even touch on security, though there is a dissertation in there about the transformation of undirected, amorphous anxiety into specific fears. So instead of just being afraid of bad stuff happening, we’re told to be wary of particular kinds of things – whether or not these things are at all correlated to actual security. It’s not, as many suggest, an illusion of security. It is the channeling of fear into specific concern. These are different propositions.

The new proposition for American Airlines is to give you beverages and sell you food. $3 for a candy bar. Rock on, AA, this is clearly where your future profits will all be recouped.

Upon arrival, I noticed that the traditional norm of waiting for people in front of you to get off the plane before you take off down the aisle seems also to be gone.

And an hour late, with our bags in tow, this actually constitutes a good experience in air travel now.

If I was senior management for this airline, I would be embarrassed. I would be ashamed. I wonder if s/he is.

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