Saturday, January 17, 2009

Life as Customer Service Agent for a Major Airline

I know quite a few of you fly a lot, and some may have never stepped on board the aircraft! Kind of surprising but they are out there. I know a lot of you may have seen or heard about the show “Airline” which featured one of the major airlines to fly in the USA, Southwest Airlines. As many of my readers probably know and personal online friends I used to work for this airline back in 2007. It was a great time, and I absolutely LUV-ed every minute of it even the tough times. I wanted to type this up because I got so many questions that seemed to make the airlines and employees of the airline out to get you, and screw up your travels. I promise you, we are NOT out to do that. If we were to do that, not only does it make it hard on you guys, it makes it harder on us, because to the passenger it is about ONE person and that is all they care about. We as an airline not only have to care about you, but every single other passenger traveling at that moment too.

One of the most asked questions I have been asked was “Why do Airlines overbook?” While some policies differ from airline to airline, the basic reason is, we usually have a high rate of people NOT showing up for the flight. We overbook to compensate that and fill up seats that would have otherwise gone out as empty. It also is a way to raise revenue also. We get to keep your money if the passenger does not fly, however at Southwest if they contact the airline; they may be re issued a refund in the form of a travel voucher to future travel on Southwest. Most other airlines have this same policy but they also require a cancellation fee of upwards to 150 dollars. Kind of sucks. So what happens when everyone does show up? This is when we do deny boarding. Keep in mind it is AGAINST THE LAW to deny boarding on an airline WITHOUT asking for voluntarily passengers. We always seek them first to see if anyone does not mind taking another flight. Depending on the airline the reward for volunteering to be bumped could be an upgrade to first class, or a refund of the ticket you purchase in a voucher, or an extra 400-800 dollars in flight voucher. It’s pretty nice isn’t it?! On my shifts, I never had to deny anyone boarding, I always was able to find someone willing to accept a voucher. If you have questions regarding overbooking, and denied boarding please ask!

Two examples of flights being oversold, we had a Flight to Phoenix out of St. Louis, it was a Boeing 737-700, and it held 137 passengers. We were overbooked to 142 passengers and they all showed up. Oh no! My partner made announcements that we were in an oversell situation and that we were seeking volunteers to get off this plane. In return they would be issued a refund of their ONE WAY segment, and a 200 dollar voucher added on to it also because we would not be able to get them out of St. Louis within the four hour limit. I had to collect the passengers boarding passes for those who did want to volunteer. We were able to get 137 passengers OFF the plane, and find five passengers, who were willing to be bumped, issue the travel vouchers, and board another 137 passengers onto the plane, in 17 minutes! Yes, that is correct, 17 minutes; we actually were able to push the plane 3 minutes early! This friend is TEAMWORK. Another situation was we had a huge oversell, we had an aircraft that held 122 seats and it was overbooked to 140 people! This was clearly not going to work and we were not in the mood to deny 18 passengers. We called Chicago Midway Airport where Southwest bases one of the aircrafts and asked for a 137 seater, which is our biggest in the fleet. This way we would only oversell by 3 passengers. Chicago agreed and swapped the 122 seater for a 137 seater. When the plane had arrived into STL, it turned out three people did not show up, we had 137 passengers for a 137 seat plane! Wow, we got LUCKY! We were happy, and the Customers were happy too.

Finally one more event that people ask. Why do they delay our flight and the account of weather and storms, when I am looking out of the airport and it is sunny and not a cloud in sight! I was ALWAYS asked this in my shifts. Passengers seem to think the planes magically appear at the gate and take us to the destination we are booked to. Well folks, I have to say sorry this is not even true. You have to realize the planes are 100% likely coming from another destination that may have bad weather in that city. That is why, your St. Louis to Dallas flight in St. Louis which is sunny and cloudless is delayed for 1 hour due to snow, because the plane is stuck in say Chicago or Boston. Then they sometimes seem to understand but there are some that have to see it to believe it. Obviously we cannot show them the snow covered runway in Boston or Chicago but they just have to take our word for it. We want nothing more to get you on time and safely, but safety is every airlines NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. We will do everything we can to get you there on time, but Safety comes first. So we apologize that we delayed that flight or cancelled it not allowing you to get to Hawaii in time for your drink at the beach because we were concerned about your safety and may possibly have prevented a plane crash or something. We will never know, but please take that into consideration the next time your flight is delayed or cancelled, it is for a SAFETY reason and we probably have a very good reason for doing that.

I will bring more stuff to my blogs upcoming, I will discuss in flight incidents, medical situations on board, death, drunk people, why the fees and changes and “nickel and diming” passengers and a big issue is obese people taking up two seats, which we call COS-Customer Of Size. This is probably another blog in itself. Hope you have a good weekend!



J.Matheson said...

Looking forward to those posts!

Seek Geo said...

Sweet, after me watching Airline, I couldn't believe how so many excuses people tried to come up with. I also had no idea that drunk passengers are very common.

"Your airport served me alcohol!!" Oh lord.. so it's airport's fault that your drunk?! WTF...

I don't get it with people being so pissed that the flight was canceled due to weather reasons.. I mean wtf?

I rather to get there in ONE piece rather than to have my life being risked. If we can't go due to weather, that's okay.. at least it's for safety reasons.

I always say to them if they think they can fly in that kind of weather then you go get a license and fly on your own for all I care. *rolls*


chandra said...

This seems to be a world-class write up! yes customer support to me is an art of helping the world. The story was shared with face book!!

Customer Service Job Descriptions