WSJ: “The Art of the Airline Apology”

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Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on their website that should have been in their Wednesday print edition about how airlines process and reply to complaints that they receive.

WSJ The Art Of The Airlines Apology

According to the article, Southwest has 200 agents handling the complaints while United has 950 agents replying for regular, frequent flier and package related complaints.

You can access the WSJ article, which is behind a pay wall, here. You may just want to do a Google search for “The Art of the Airline Apology” and the first hit is the WSJ piece that you will have full access to (by being sent from Google search).

Here are some tidbits from the piece:

Complaints are sorted by complexity and by the value of the customer—top-tier frequent fliers and big spenders get priority. A low-level customer may get 3,000 frequent-flier miles for a canceled flight, while a high-value customer who complains is soothed with 10,000 miles.

Agents research incidents to verify and provide explanations. Complaints also are tracked so airlines can peg frequent complainers trawling for extra miles or discounts.

Customer feedback is compiled into reports for top executives, and individual letters—complaint or compliment—do get forwarded to supervisors and employees, airlines say.

American Airlines uses a library of responses built over the years that agents can search and then customize. That allows for consistency and accuracy in responses. “We’ve gone completely away from corporate-speak to personally showing empathy,” said John Romantic, American’s managing director of service recovery.

United said it tries not to go overboard on the apology. “Generally we tell the customer we are sorry they did not have the experience they expected on United,” spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said. “We try to be empathetic to the customer but not sound insincere.”


This is an excellent piece by the ways airlines handle these complaints that they receive from customers.

I always say that complaints are not complaints per se, but rather a way for the customers to tell the firm how they can perform better in the future.

If the company takes care of the customer that was initially unsatisfied, the customer is generally more likely to use the company’s services in the future than a customer that was initially satisfied.

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