This is an update to a post I wrote yesterday based on a Chicago Business Journal story (you can find the original post below). American Airlines tells me that this story isn’t true, and that American Airlines hasn’t introduced a new “service analyst” position.
Instead the airline sometimes sends people from their flight service team on flights, which is a practice that happens on almost all airlines. The airline also says they haven’t increased the number of flights on which this happens.
American has issued the following statement regarding this:
“From time to time, members of our flight service team ride along on flights to ensure our planned service is running smoothly and as designed, but we have not increased these rides recently.
As it relates to customer service training, all of our new hire flight attendants receive onboard service training when they begin. Additionally, we’ve put them through two rounds of company-wide customer service training we initiated last year – Elevate the Everyday Experience. Safety is our top priority, but after that, nothing is more important to us than improving the customer experience.”
One of the issues with US airlines is that service is consistently inconsistent.
Why is service on US airlines often not great?
This can be attributed to many factors, though I imagine that at least one of them is that there’s virtually no oversight of service on flights.
Once the doors close, flight attendants can do whatever they want, and they don’t have any supervisors onboard. While there’s typically a “purser” on the flight, in reality they’re just paid a couple of extra dollars per hour to do paperwork and make announcements, and they’re in no way a supervisor or manager.
In many ways I think this is one of the reasons that service on US airlines is worse than on many foreign airlines. Many foreign airlines have a true cabin manager who is tasked with providing performance evaluations of the crew, and who is accountable when things go wrong.
American Airlines now has some “service analysts”
While American isn’t going that far (there’s no way unions would allow it), Chicago Business Journal is reporting that American Airlines has recently introduced “service analysts” on some flights. This is being done to create a more consistent level of service, though many flight attendants are angry about this.
The “service analyst” is a management employee and not a union employee, and as a result they’re assigned passenger seats during takeoff and landing, and aren’t technically part of the crew.
According to a memo to a crew that recently had one of these service analysts on a flight, he introduced himself and said he would be on the flight “performing a work along” to help with “everything from boarding to service.”
Not surprisingly, some employees aren’t happy about this:
At least one AA pilot source said in the past he has admonished AA employees seated as passengers not to interfere with the cabin crew while they do their job.
I appreciate that American seems to recognize the inconsistency of service (I mean, I think it’s pretty obvious). At the same time, I’m not sure to what extent this will actually be helpful:
- It’s not like flight attendants can actually be disciplined for what they do on these flights, unless it’s a serious safety violation
- I imagine many of the flight attendants in need of extra training will also be the ones who give the service analyst the cold shoulder
- This is creating frustration among some flight attendants, who view this as a way that management is checking up on them
At the end of the day if American wants to improve their corporate culture, having crews feel like they’re being watched (without any sort of potential for punishment) isn’t the solution.
The big problem here is simply that the airline lacks a vision, so the employees have no common goal to get behind. American wants their employees to provide better service, all while they’re sending them mixed signals, configuring their planes like Spirit Airlines while pretending to be a premium airline.
What do you make of the alleged presence of American “service analysts” on flights? Is this useful, or just creating more frustration among employees?
(Tip of the hat to @xJonNYC)