At American Airlines nothing is more important than ‘D0’ it often seems as if American would be happy if they could eliminate customers from the equation and just run their operation they’d be happy.
D0 means flights departing exactly on-time. And they’re willing to sacrifice most everything else for that goal. Gate agents can skip processing upgrades. Flight attendants get called in if they delay a flight for catering to bring servingware for international first class.
Departing on-time matters. If you depart on-time you’re more likely to arrive on-time. However,
- It means having systems down to accomplish everything that’s necessary in time, whether it’s all of the work needed at the gate or having everything on board for the flight — not skipping over things.
- The airline needs to staff appropriately to get this done, not tell staff to skip over necessary items if they feel they don’t have time.
There’s a new story that provides an illustration of what the way American has implemented their focus on D0 means for customers.
On August 7 a pastor brought 40 people on a mission trip they had all raised money to take. They arrived at the airport two hours before their flight. Only one person was ahead of them at the check-in desk in Cincinnati.
- One agent was assigned to handle check-in for all 40 of them
- They decided to check in everyone, and then try to put all 40 bags on the chaperone’s reservation. Then they went back to assign bags separately to each passenger. This ordeal took about an hour and a half.
- With only 30 minutes to departure they went to security and they ran to the gate. They arrived 7 minutes prior to scheduled push back.
- The door was closed. The gate agent wouldn’t let the group of 40 people on board.
The group was forced to pay for hotel rooms and fly out the next day. Check-in again took an hour and a half but they came to the airport even earlier, and ironically the plane had to be held several minutes for late arriving crew. (Obviously the plane cannot take off with crew, but to a passenger it’s hard to understand holding the plane for people in that case but not the day before when airline staff delayed their group.)
The pastor says he had to argue to even get everyone rebooked, that airline staff told them it was all their fault for showing up late. The group lost part their trip, and were out $1350 in additional costs.
According to American Airlines,
We are aware of the issue, and our customer relations team has reached out to Mr. Davis to obtain additional details of what transpired at the airport. Our [Cincinnati airport] team is also reviewing these allegations. We never want to disrupt our customers’ travel plans, and we are sorry for the trouble this caused. The group was rebooked on a flight the next day.
At Cincinnati airport I believe check-in counter staff also work flights, but apparently no one called down to the gate about these forty passengers. No one wants to get called in for delaying a flight. And if what you measure is D0, all you get is D0 even without passengers on the plane.
(HT: Four different readers who sent me this story all with a subject line mentioning ‘D0’)