Mark Mitchell, American Airlines’ managing director of customer experience, is the point man for customer service at the airline. With the summer travel season now underway, I asked him how air travelers could have the best possible experience, and what airlines like American are doing to make it better.
Q: What can air travelers do to get the best possible customer experience from an airline like American?
Mitchell: Our goal is to provide travelers the best possible experience, and it begins long before someone steps inside an American Airlines plane. We strive to ensure that our tools, processes and interactions make it easy for someone to choose American — whether it’s booking online at aa.com or redeeming AAdvantage miles with our new flexible awards booking tool or making a call into our reservations system. And once in our care, the American Airlines team is committed to doing everything within its power to offer travelers the best customer service.
We take this very seriously. More than 200 employee-led teams across our network over the past two years have been working to identify issues and develop solutions within six key issues customers care about: delays and delay management, gate interactions and the boarding experience, on-board interaction, cabin interior condition, baggage handling and baggage resolution.
Q: Is it possible to run a profitable airline and have happy customers? Or does an airline have to choose one over the other?
Mitchell: We believe that customer satisfaction is a critical part of the path to profitability. American is committed to enhancing the customer experience, and we believe that will help turn our company around financially.
Although the economic environment remains challenging, we continue to look for new ways to improve operations to provide passengers the best experience possible. For example, we know on-time performance in the form of predictable and reliable schedules is important to our passengers. Some aspects that affect on-time performance — such as bad weather – we cannot control. But American is focused on those things we can control.
We implemented new procedures last year, including adding time to our schedule, re-adjusting flight plans to increase speed, pairing pilots and flight attendants with specific aircraft and deploying new technologies to help speed our customers through the airport. The enhancements were made with one simple goal – get our passengers to their destinations on-time, with as few hassles as possible. And while we do not control bad weather and delays because of air traffic control issues, we are seeing that the new system we have built is helping us to navigate a better airline when these events occur.
Q: What should customers expect from an airline like American?
Mitchell: They should expect that American will deliver on its promise to offer safe, dependable, on-time service. American is continuing to invest prudently in the airline, even during these difficult economic times to help us deliver on this promise more consistently. In addition to many technology investments to provide better tools for our employees and customers, we also began taking delivery of 76 Boeing 737 aircraft that will help us keep customers loyal to American while helping the company reduce costs.