Posted on January 7, 2010 by Dennis Snow
My post about my recent experiences with Southwest Airlines, The Curse of Arrogance, seems to have struck a nerve with some folks, especially Southwest Airlines flight attendants. Another site picked up the thread and included several comments from flight attendants who placed the blame on obnoxious or abusive passengers. I agree; no employee of any organization should put up with abuse. But the situations I observed involved no abusive passengers. As I wrote in the original post, I've recently started to notice more and more Southwest flight attendants being standoffish, mechanical, and impatient. In other words, more like flight attendants on other airlines.
Keep in mind that I'm not talking about rampant poor service at Southwest - they're still the best by far. There have simply been enough incidents of mediocre service that caused me to notice; that's all. On another airline I wouldn't have even thought twice about it since mediocre (or poor) service on other airlines has become the norm. But Southwest is special - and I hope they always will be. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that today's Wall Street Journal shared Department of Transportation data that ranked Southwest highest in on-time arrivals and fewest customer complaints (An Airline Report Card).
But here is something that truly impressed me. I received a thoughtful comment from the Vice President of Inflight Services for Southwest (see the comment from Mike Hafner below). Just the fact that someone in that position, who I'm sure has plenty on his plate, is concerned enough to comment on one blog post, well that speaks volumes. He's rightly supportive of his team, but also acknowledges that "there is not much room for having a bad day." One of Walt Disney's greatest concerns for the Disney corporation was that they would rest on their laurels. He said, "In this volatile business of ours, we can ill afford to rest on our laurels, even to pause in retrospect. Time and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our focus constantly on the future." He always cautioned that no matter how strong our reputation is, "the show goes on tomorrow." Mike, I appreciate you taking the time to write, and I also appreciate the pride you obviously have in your team.