Just as American Airlines management may be facing their biggest test yet with their board of directors the airline’s operation appears to be improving after a long, hot mess of a summer.
Over the summer the carrier cancelled more flights than anyone, faced not just with a mechanics’ job action but also too much deferred maintenance and management failure to deploy parts where they were needed.
However the month of September was American’s best in two years based on the most important metric of on-time arrivals.
good September operationally pic.twitter.com/N6FCzLov0C
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) October 4, 2019
Delta focuses on A0 – exact on-time arrivals. For American I’ll gladly take A14, arriving almost on time.
There’s lip service here to the airline’s historical commitment to D0, exact on-time departures, however if they can lead with anything else it could be beneficial to customers. To be sure, departing on time helps arrive on time but does not mean arriving on time. Airlines certainly delegate too much control to the government from the time of pushback to touch down. However their own operational decisions at airports from scheduling to maintenance determine gate and alley availability to get planes in and out of airports, D0 push back notwithstanding.
And the obsessive focus on D0 has meant measuring whether flights and employees hit the metric, rather than creating the conditions necessary to hit those metrics including,
- Making sure gates are properly staffed
- So that upgrades and standbys can be properly cleared
- Getting flights catered on time
- Allowing customers to board with their bags when overhead bin space is available
- And having planes cleaned
Customers don’t actually care about exact on time departures. They care about on time arrivals. Managers yelling at flight attendants who take a delay to cater international first class, or when first class meals are missing on the outbound of a double catered flight, where gate agents don’t clear upgrades or demand passengers gate check bags just in case bins wind up full (out of fear that gate checking will take too much time and risk D0, getting them called in) doesn’t deliver an experience customers want.
Now that the carrier seems to be beginning to get its operation running right – hopefully this continues – employees will be less stressed and happier. When I walked into my home Admirals Club in Austin on Wednesday morning staff there seemed thrilled that flights were going off as expected. They aren’t hurriedly rebooking customers, they aren’t dealing with unhappy passengers. And these employees are the ones more than any others I’ve met at the company who want to deliver for their customers. This summer’s inability to do so seemed to take a real toll.
American deserves congratulations for improving its operation, doubly so because they’re leading with and trumpeting arrival statistics and not just D0.