Employees say a lot about an airline

Published 10:12 pm Saturday, November 22, 2008

I believe that businesses and organizations develop personalities.

These personas transfer into their operational styles and approaches toward customer service. Call or walk into any place of business and you should be able to immediately gauge the attitude and mood of the organization by how you are greeted and treated.

All too often we encounter unmotivated employees who dread being there. Admit it, this corporate culture impacts the way you the customer are handled.

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In the airline industry I feel that there are two distinct corporate cultures-personalities. One type is an innovator, a risk taker and willing to lower fares to generate business.

They are customer focused and driven. The employees are glad to be at work, interact with and actually have fun with their customers.

The other personality type is more conservative, willing to follow along and react to what the other guys are doing or a pack mentality. These firms are driven by company dictates and policies.

Their buzz words and advertising jingles may indicate a customer focus, but in practice customer wants and needs are not a major concern to these employers and employees.

Real world examples are Southwest Airlines versus the legacy carriers like Delta, American and United. Traveling during the December holiday season a few years ago I was met at the Southwest ticket counter by an enthusiastic group of employees clad in Dockers and polo shirts. Many were wearing Santa hats and other displays of the festive holiday spirit.

On board the plane the cockpit crew sported holiday ties and even treated us to “Jingle Bells” on the public address system. A professional, safe and good time was had by all.

Can you imagine one of the mega carriers allowing that sort of behavior? Of course not!

Delta and Northwest Airlines are in the process of merging the two carriers in what will become the world’s largest airline and guess what one of their top three priority items was?

Rollout of a uniform. Blue-black pumps with a one inch heel and a three or four button blazer was a top three concern!

As a traveler (and customer) I am more concerned with low fares, excellent service and on time arrivals-departures. A fashion statement will not make me book passage on them, but if this “new” Delta can get me there on time, safely and affordably, I will.

Southwest Airlines has just completed a three-day winter sale with fares starting at $49 one way. Rick Seaney, CEO of the airfare Web site FareCompare.com, said Southwest’s sales have prompted other low fare and network carriers to do the same. These include Alaska Airlines’ “Winter Escape Sale,” American Airlines’ “Travel Airfare Sale,” Delta Airlines’ “Holiday Airfare Sale,” Northwest Airlines’ “Holiday Sale” and United Airlines’ “Holiday Fare Sale.”

Seaney said that the fare sales include popular travel holidays including Christmas, Inauguration Day and Presidents’ Day.

“It is pretty obvious that there are more than a few empty seats hanging out this winter, even with the substantial seat cutbacks,” he said, adding that he could not remember Southwest holding three sales in a quarter, much less in a week.

Need I say more about leaders and followers in the airline industry? Happy travels.

Steve Call is the Travel and Tourism program director at Ohio University Southern.