April 11, 2008

Inconvenient Apologies

CNN is reporting that in the last 3 days American Airlines has been forced to cancel nearly 2,500 flights because their planes failed to meet federal air-worthiness standards. Today alone, they cancelled 595 more flights, about 25% of their schedule.

This is a substantial, nay, catastrophic failure of duty, not to mention a disruption of service on a titanic level. So I just had to visit AA's website to see what kind of soothing PR spin they had waiting. Imagine my surprise that I found only an orange link in the same font as the rest of the page. No splashy special text box, no extra section, nothing to let you know that they were taking any extra effort to make it seem like they care. At least the link is at the top of the page, but check out their language: "Aircraft inspections affect some AA travel".

Some travel??! Well, I guess 25% of your flights is "some" but assuming there were only 100 people per booked flight that would mean disrupting just shy of 60,000 customers in 1 day. "Some travel" indeed.

Here's in part what their advisory states: "We are very sorry for inconveniencing you with the cancellation of a portion of American Airlines' flights which started on April 8. Additional inspections of our MD-80 fleet are being conducted to ensure precise and complete compliance with the FAA's directive related to wiring in the aircraft's wheel wells...Please be assured that safety of our customers is, and always will be, American's first priority."

Hmmm...may I so boldly suggest that if safety was truly AA's "first priority" they would have already had "precise and complete compliance" with the FAA and not be in this situation! And let's have a frank conversation about the misuse of "inconvenience". Having your dentist appointment cancelled or delayed is an inconvenience. Waiting in a long line at the bank is an inconvenience. Being one of tens of thousands of stranded customers at an airport away from home is not an inconvenience--it is a harrowing and very stressful experience. I should know: I've been "inconvenienced" by the airlines in so many memorable ways.

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