US Airways’ Heroic Customer Service

By now, everyone knows about the heroic efforts of the captain and crew of US Airways flight 1549, which had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River after its engines had been immobilized by a flock of geese.  The captain, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, and his crew became instant celebrities in the aftermath of this incredible event, and rightly so.  We read interviews, and we watched them on morning and late night television.  We saw them in parades and at ballgames.  These were true American heroes.

But one thing we did not hear so much about was the heroic efforts in customer service that the extended team of US Airways personnel to care for the passengers, all of whom survived, following the emergency landing.  This was practically as amazing as the flight crew’s actions.

Recently, BusinessWeek ran an article on how the airline immediately put teams into play, to assist the passengers and their familes.  The article called the airline’s performance “a model for crisis management.”  After reading the article, I must agree.

Here are some of the things that US Airways did right:

  • Activated a special 800 number for families of passengers and crew to call
  • Scott Stewart, managing director for corporate finance, brought a bag of emergency cash for passengers and credit cards for employees
    to buy medicines, toiletries, or personal items that were needed
  • Others arrived with suitcases full of prepaid cell phones and sweatsuits for any passengers who needed dry clothes
  • Staffers escorted each passenger to a new flight or a local New York hotel, where it arranged for round-the-clock buffets
  • Arranged train tickets and/or rental cars for those who did not wish to fly
  • Some passengers lost their driver’s licenses, so US Airways reached out to
    high-level executives at Hertz and Amtrak to ensure they had no
    trouble getting a rental or a ticket
  • Retained the services of locksmiths to help passengers who had lost their keys get back into their cars and homes
  • Sent three letters providing updates to customers, along with a ticket
    refund to each passenger and a $5,000 advance check to help cover the
    cost of replacing their possessions
  • Employed claims adjusters to compensate passengers whose losses were higher
  • Did NOT require recipients to waive their legal rights, “an unprecedented exception to the industry norm.”

US Airways has not been known as a provider of world class service.  In fact, oftentimes, their service has left a lot to be desired.  But this time, during and after this crisis, they shined.  Their employees should be proud, the public should be aware of their efforts, and anyone who has anything to do with customer service should take note.  This is how you care for customers.

— Chuck Dennis

One Comment

  1. Posted October 14, 2009 at 8:22 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Truly a wonderful reaction. Easy Click Travel was part of the group of travel agencies that helped arrange flight tickets. They all did a marvelous job!

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