Thursday, July 12, 2012

Focus and Leverage Part 131

It wasn’t long ago that I was traveling with Delta Airlines and had all kinds of problems that I told you about.  Well this time it isn’t Delta, but it is another problem with an airline.  Recently, because of bad experiences with Delta, I recently switched my airline of choice to Southwest.  I had heard great things about them and I knew their prices were much lower than all other carriers and price is a differentiator isn’t it?  Sometimes it is, but not always…..let me explain.

In the past several months I have flown Southwest four times and each time it was a good experience.  Each time the flights arrived on time and for $10 I even purchased an option that would pretty much guarantee me a good seat.  In case you don’t know about Southwest, they don’t pre-assign seats like other airlines do.  It’s first come, first serve with Southwest and for someone like me who’s always early, it works out great!

Today I’m on my way from Atlanta, GA to Newark, NJ via Chicago, IL of all places?  I didn’t understand their sense of direction when I made the reservations.  I fly West to Chicago, change planes and fly East to Newark.  I questioned it, but I felt they must know what they’re doing….after all, they have a great reputation.  At any rate, I left my home in Kennesaw, GA at 9:00AM and started driving to the Atlanta airport.  At 9:30 I received a message on my Black Berry that said the flight that was originally scheduled to depart at 11:25, was delayed until 12:20.  If you know anything about Atlanta traffic, you’ll understand why I was calmed by that message.  You see, Atlanta is known for its horrific traffic jams and today was no different.  But then I look at my connecting flight and I only had 15 minutes between the new arrival time and my connector.

At noon I got in Southwest’s priority boarding line and began the wait until 12:20.  Southwest hadn’t actually started the boarding process, but my personality drives me to do things early and then the announcement of a new, maintenance delay came.  It seems that one of the autopilots was inoperable and had to be fixed before we could leave for Chicago.  So I waited…..and waited….and waited until around 2:00 when I knew I had missed my connector.  I went to schedule a replacement flight, but Southwest had already taken care of that.  The only problem was, it didn’t get me to Newark until midnight!  When I explained that that wouldn’t work, I was met with a stare that would kill.  The response was, “That’s all we have sir.”  When I asked about another port of entry, there was none.

So left with no options, I finally boarded the plane to Chicago.  But while I was in the air, I had received another delay notice on my new connector flight which would now get me there at 1:00AM!   I mentioned earlier that I didn’t think price was always a differentiator and here’s why.  Even though Southwest’s price was almost exactly 50% less, they couldn’t respond to my need to get to Newark on time for a very important meeting.  So how much was that missed meeting worth to me?  A lot!  In fact, that 50% I saved on the price of the ticket pales in comparison to missing that meeting.

It’s now 7:15PM and here we go with another delay.  To me, Southwest lacks the capacity of other airlines and as a result, they can’t respond fast when delays happen, and they will happen.  Southwest can't or should I say won't (at least not today) send you to another airline flying to your destination.  So here I go again, out searching for a more reliable airline…one that can respond to ever-changing conditions.  One that I can rely on to get me to where I need to go when I need to be there.  Isn’t that what airlines should be doing anyway?

Bob Sproull

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