As a COPC Inc. consultant, I spend a lot of time on the road and up in the air visiting clients all over the world. Aside from the enjoyment I get from experiencing new places and meeting new people, my extensive travels have given me an opportunity to get a firsthand view of what the customer experience is like for many different airlines.
Recently, I’ve found myself booking a lot of flights with United Airlines. Unfortunately, several of these flights have coincided with severe weather events, causing delays and even cancellations with some of my flights. Although dealing with sudden travel changes can be daunting, United Airlines has done an amazing job of keeping me and other customers informed through a variety of communication channels, including SMS text, email and messages through the United Airlines app. Although I’ve received many messages from United Airlines and other carriers over the years, one recent set of communications really stands out.
In early May, I was scheduled on a United Airlines flight with a connection in Houston, Texas. The area had just been hit by a major spring storm that soaked some spots with as much as 12 inches of rain, leaving many areas without power. George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the airport where I’d be grabbing my connecting flight, was directly in the path of the storm and impacted by power outages. As expected, United Airlines was on top of the weather conditions, providing up-to-the-minute and ongoing communications about delays, gate changes, etc. But they also took the time to send a message that was quite thoughtful. Due to the power outage, the airport’s caterers were unable to load hot food onto my connecting flight to Orlando. Granted, the flight from Houston to Orlando is only two and a half hours, but I had already spent the better part of the day traveling. Getting that message was a heads-up to grab something to eat in the terminal, which I happily did.
Many companies, both inside and outside of the travel and hospitality industry, are catching on to the value of transparency and open lines of communication. It would have been much easier for United Airlines to just let passengers find out about the absence of hot food once they boarded the flight. In fact, given the flight’s duration and extenuating circumstances, taking such an approach probably wouldn’t have even mattered to most customers. But instead, United Airlines erred on the side of informing, and that meant a lot, at least to this particular passenger and many others, I’m sure.