Overbooking and Doing What's Right
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Posted by: Phil Symchych
The following is a letter sent by Phil
Symchych, CMC to Mr. Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Continental
Holdings, regarding United’s overbooking actions that stranded Phil in Denver
for 24 hours.
Chief Executive Officer
on being voted the most admired airline by Fortune magazine. That is a
significant accomplishment in a highly competitive industry. Source: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/most-admired/2012/industries/2.html Your employees, especially the
pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and baggage handlers deserve this award.
I’m not so sure, however, about the executive suite.
You see, your
award-winning airline stranded me in Denver for an entire day. There may be a
lack of alignment between your corporate mantras and customer experience.
states, "As a company, we realize that the actions we take and decisions we
make matter. Learn about our sense of responsibility and commitment for doing
what’s right.” Source: http://www.united.com/page/middlepage/0,6998,1276,00.html You may want to change the wording
order: people make decisions first and those decisions guide their actions.
Here is what
I’m mad about. I recently flew from Cleveland to Denver to Regina, Canada. My
Denver to Regina seat was not assigned so I approached the gate in Denver.
Donna, the friendly gate agent, advised "The flight is oversold by seven people
and you are number four on the waiting list.”
good. I had a first class ticket from Cleveland to Denver. And I’m bumped? Does
this happen often?” I inquired.
going on for 20 years and it’s especially bad around spring break,” she said,
sat and watched my plane leave for Regina, without me.
to rationalize that overbooking is a standard industry practice and helps to
maximize revenues and share price. I don’t care.
You see, your
company flew me, intentionally, into a no win situation. Had I been informed of
the situation in Cleveland, I may have mitigated my problem. For example, I
could have flown to Chicago or Toronto and, most likely, been home on the same
to your overbooking practices, lack of proactive communication, and failing to
do what’s right, I was delayed an entire 24 hours in Denver.
your company made and the actions your company took (and didn’t take) showed
disrespect and caused inconvenience and stress for your involuntarily stranded
passengers, their families, friends and clients.
You know, the
hint that your strategy may be flawed is when you need a permanent sign
involuntary compensation of a $400 travel voucher, for a 24-hour delay, works
out to $16.67 per hour. When was the last time you were happy with $16.67 per
overbooking align with doing what’s right? It doesn’t.
Here is some
consulting advice: make decisions and take actions that are in the best
interests of your customers. And, stop intentionally stranding your passengers.
That advice is worth more than $400.
Mr. Smisek, I
ask you to practice what you preach and do what’s right for your customer.
In conclusion, Phil sent the letter to
Mr. Smisek through United’s website and is awaiting a reply. There are
consulting opportunities to help all businesses improve their customer service,
retention and experience.
2012. Phil Symchych. All rights reserved. Phil Symchych CMC, is the president
and founder of Symco & Co. Management Consultants that provides strategic
and financial advice to high growth organizations. Phil is a chartered
accountant and certified management consultant who accelerates profitable
growth and mentors entrepreneurs, solo consultants and accountants. firstname.lastname@example.org