May 17, 2007

US Airways to ramp up customer service

US Airways Group is focused on integrating the rest of the merged airlines' work groups and improving poor customer service, CEO Doug Parker told shareholders at their annual meeting on Tuesday.

"If we don't start running a good airline, we'll drive customers away, and that is not something any of us can tolerate," Parker told shareholders in Philadelphia.

Parker issued his priorities amid his outlook for flatter industry revenue and higher fuel prices. The CEO said the resulting slippage in profit margins was "not acceptable" to US Airways.

After merging with America West Airlines in fall 2005, the new US Airways still needs to reach unified contracts with pilots, aircraft mechanics, flight attendants and bag handlers. Pilot ire over an arbitrator's ruling on merging the carriers' pilots seniority was blamed for delays May 6 when only 50 percent of US Airways flights left on time.

US Airways plans to hire 1,000 bag handlers and customer-service agents this summer and upgrade some 600 check-in kiosks at airports in the East to beef up passenger service. In addition, it will set up help centers at hub airports (not Pittsburgh) to guide to alternate flights those passengers arriving too late to make their connections.

The focus on customer service followed an independent survey released yesterday that showed US Airways and most of the industry got lower marks from passengers last quarter than a year ago.

Passenger satisfaction declined 3.1 percent for the industry, and 1.6 percent for US Airways, said the American Customer Satisfaction Index compiled by the University of Michigan. Continental Airlines fared best, with a 3 percent improvement, while United Airlines' 11.1 percent drop was the worst of the seven major carriers surveyed.

"Chances are that disaffected labor has been a contributing factor in the large drop in passenger satisfaction," said Claes Fornell, the university's business professor in charge of the annual survey.

By Thomas Olson.
Contact: or (412) 320-7854

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