Speak Well To Those Who Pay the Bills

united, airlines, baggage

One chapter in Outstanding! is titled “Never Forget Who Pays the Bills.”

Yet, some people do.

I witnessed an airlines gate agent in Richmond, VA, fall into this trap. It happens. 😉

Our flight was overbooked and/or overweight, so she asked if some passengers would take a later flight. At first, there was no monetary offer—and no response from the crowd. Then, the agent offered a $750 travel voucher. When no one answered the call—or not enough people did—she upped it to … $1,400.

Wow! But …..

Frustrated, with microphone still in hand, she admonished her customers:

“If none of you will take a later flight, we will not be able to board this one!”


What I heard:

“Shame on you, customers, for not helping us solve our problem. We sold too many tickets and put too much cargo on the plane, so YOU must act NOW to cover for our mistakes!”

Too dramatic? Maybe. But that’s what my QBQ! brain processed as she spoke.

In the end, though, do I hear my lack of Personal Accountability when interacting with people? That’s what really matters. 👍🏻

How could the airline have handled this differently? Comments welcome!


8 Responses

  1. John – The Agent could have said something like, “I apologize for our mistake in overbooking this flight. I appeal to you to help us resolve this problem so the flight can take off. Please consider our offer of a $1400 voucher for future travel.”

  2. The agent should have chosen her words more carefully. Our airline would like to compensate our customers who have some flexibility in their travel plans. Then make offers. I would see this carrier as disorganized and unable to adapt to any situation. This is a bad optic for an airline given recent safety issues very much in the news.

  3. How about owning the challenge and the opportunity to resolve it! “Folks, we find ourselves with an oversold flight, but this provides up to X fortunate flyers to earn $1,400 if they have flexibility in their flight plans. Come up to the podium if you’d like to learn more about how you might take advantage of this opportunity.”

  4. Did the gate agent *say* the flight was overbooked/overweight? Perhaps there was another reason – weather? Experienced this recently when severe storms at the arrival airport forced about 25% of passengers to be rebooked because the flight needed additional fuel in case it needed to divert due to weather. We *do* need to give people the benefit of the doubt, and, yes, the gate agent could have handled the situation differently.

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