Monday, November 24, 2008

The Unfriendly Skies

I was scheduled on a United flight last week from Boston to Orange County via a 40 minute connection in Denver. Scheduled departure was approx 5:15pm EST. I was very happy to have received my upgrade request to First Class because I had been working all day in Boston and was tired and had a workshop starting at 8am the next morning.

The plane was in and the crew was doing their pre-flight prep and the gate agent started prepping us for boarding. A few minutes later, they make an announcement that one of the flight attendants has had an accident onboard and needs an ambulance. They immediately posted a 15 minute delay. We all mull around the gate waiting to see what was next and then they announce a one hour delay because the injured flight attendant (obviously) couldn’t fly and they were having problems locating a replacement crewmember. I am now in a panic because this delay means missing my connection which is the last flight into Orange County for the night.

Now, I feel terrible for the poor person who got hurt enough to require an ambulance but honestly, it is now MY freaking problem because United runs the crews so lean and has NO backup plan for something like this. The next gate over was boarding a direct flight to LAX. I asked if they had room, and they did but of course not in First Class. I asked how I was going to get to Orange County since I was not supposed to be in LA and really didn’t want to incur the cost of the cab fare myself (probably a $75 fare). I was told to let the ground crew know when I arrived and they would take care of me. Thank God I had the presence of mind to not check a bag or it would have been complete disaster.

I was given one of the last seats available, in the Exit Row against the door. The door was so poorly sealed that cold air poured in on me for the whole 5 hours of the flight. Thank God United actually still offers blankets because I was bundled up with my coat plus three blankets to keep warm.

When I arrived at LAX at approx. 10:30pm PST, there was no ground crew at my gate. I asked at a nearby gate if someone could help me and I was told that I had to go the customer service desk in the next terminal. I was starting to get the impression that again, the lack of service recovery from United was going to end up MY freaking problem. The counter was empty and I waited ten minutes and no one came. I went into the Red Carpet club across the way and was walked out since I was not a member (never mind the fact I am an Executive Premier with them and couldn’t get any service from anyone else). I ended up in baggage claim and spoke with someone there, now weary, frustrated and so tired - a last ditch effort to force them to make good on their promise to get me to Orange County. It was the principle.

They put me on Super Shuttle, made me share it with other people who made stops before mine so I got to Orange County Airport at 11:25pm, five minutes before the car rental counter closed (LAX was sold out of cars – I checked).

Because United was unable to recover swiftly from a simple problem of a single crew member out of service, it created a terrible night of inconvenience and stress for a loyal United customer that flew over 65,000 miles with them in 2008. They don’t care – I guess it is MY freaking problem since I bought the damn ticket. Sucker.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Employee Engagement

In Marcus Buckingham's book "First Break All the Rules" he discusses research that shows, unequivocally, that employee's don't leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses. Buckingham and his team have created 12 questions (called in the business as the "Q12") to determine how engaged an employee is to their company and supervisor. One of the questions is "Do I have a best friend at work?".
When I share this concept at speaking events or workshops, most managers scoff.
"'Best' friend at work? Isn't the old saying to keep work and personal lives seperate? Doesn't is make everything more complicated when co-workers become best friends?".
The answers are yes, yes and yes. It does make things messier but the question requires a yes answer to confirm employee engagement. Having a best friend that you get to work with makes fun from drudgery, laughter from strife, and sharing rewards of hard work that much sweeter. I highly recommend it.