wingletTom Brollini had to cancel a recent American Airlines flight because of health problems. He was left with the impression that he had until mid-October to rebook the flight — a common misunderstanding, as I’ve noted in the past.

In fact, Brollini’s ticket credit had expired. Was he out of luck?

If I had to call it, I’d say “yes.” Compassion is in short supply in the airline industry. American would have told him to get lost.

I would have been wrong.

Brollini explains:

I contacted American Airlines via email. Within two days I had a response from Anita Jackson of their customer relations department.

She was very nice in saying, “Sorry you screwed up,” and said they would not only re-instate the ticket but would give me a voucher for the whole ticket amount.

There was no re-issue charge. In addition, it is for a whole year from the date of the email.

Now that is customer service going above and beyond!

I agree.

But I also wonder: Why can’t every customer service interaction be this positive?

Let’s have a closer look at Brollini’s case. He had already paid American Airlines, but had to cancel his ticket. Under its rules, he was offered a voucher that was valid for a year from the date of his ticket purchase. How would extending that date hurt the airline’s ability to make money? The amount of revenue lost would be negligible.

How much goodwill would be generated? In Brollini’s situation, a lot.

As I noted in a story last year, a negative customer service experience with United Airlines made him inflict financial pain on the airline:

When United Airlines lost Tom Brollini’s luggage on a recent trip to Hawaii, he didn’t get mad. He got even. The airline refused to cover his costs for toiletries and a change of clothes, and when it recovered his belonging three days after he arrived, it offered him a $50 discount off a future flight. “Needless to say, all I got was the run-around and nastiness, all the way up to the corporate level,” he says. So Brollini, who was then a military officer in charge of recruiting, instructed his travel department to never use United again. His decision cost the airline anywhere from 250 to 300 roundtrip tickets before Brollini retired. “I conservatively estimate I lost them the potential at $150,000 plus in business,” he adds.

Brollini says he’ll continue to give American his business, and encourage others to do so, because of one agent’s compassion.

(Photo: VancityAllie/Flickr Creative Commons)