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Cenk On A Plane, A Customer Relations Disaster

Although the title is about Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks American Airlines experience at Los Angeles International Airport. This article is also about the disturbing lack of customer service skills in the US in general, either deliberate or through incompetence. I have experienced dozens of incidents where customer service was severely deficient, which sadly seems to be the norm, not the exception.

First of all, I am not condoning cursing or getting in people’s faces to force a resolution, in my view, that often achieves nothing. The front line staff often get to face the backlash of decisions made by people that never have to deal with the real world consequences of their actions. I have worked in customer service (tech supt) and know what it’s like to have to deal with angry customers, the first thing you do is apologize for the situation. In this case the supervisors at American Airlines, LAX failed spectacularly in defusing the situation, their disdain for angry, frustrated customers further escalated the situation needlessly.

Airlines expect you to be at the airport upto 2 hours before the flight, yet think nothing of delaying flights for four hours with no reason given. Saying a plane is being brought from the hanger to the terminal in 20 minutes, that plane fails to arrive, people get understandably agitated, they have paid $400+ for the flight, you expect it to be on time baring mechanical or safety issues, passenger safety first and all.

There were so many options available to American Airlines, moving passengers to other flights, offering refunds or just being nice and understand that their customers are frustrated. Usually if people are taking internal flights, they need to be somewhere at a certain time for business meetings for example. The whole idea that they can delay you or even not allow you to board without financial repercussions is absolutely crazy. “We f**ked up your trip and we’re keeping your money”, disgraceful customer service.

I do like that Cenk live streamed the whole thing to Facebook and later uploaded to YouTube. I really do like the way social media and connected devices hold these companies accountable in real-time. Gone are the days where businesses can provide terrible customer service without any financial and marketing repercussions. This is why it’s often better to Tweet @company than call customer service, I have done this many times and got my issue revolved within hours instead of being given excuses over the phone.

I truly hope that American Airlines lose business over the live streamed treatment of customers, I would only fly American Airlines as a last resort. Oh, yes, the official reason for Cenk being booted from the flight, he was filming the whole debacle. American Airlines claim that its policy to not allow recording of their locations and staff, so why did no-one make the number of people recording aware of this policy?

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