Teachable Moment - the Saga of United Flight 996

By Marjorie Silverman Honorary President, UICH, Les Clefs d'Or | August 09, 2010

How do you recover as a service organization when everything that could possibly go wrong, does? I had a recent experience with United Airlines where I spent six hours on a plane to fly from Newark to Chicago and I was actually almost grateful to have done so! As a service professional, I became fascinated with the way the captain and the customer relations department handled the situation each step of the way. It was a textbook example of Service Recovery that made me marvel at how well it was executed.

The sequence of events:

1st delay-Late arrival of aircraft

August 2, 2009 was a cloudy, rainy day at Newark Liberty Airport at 9:15 AM, approximately 1 1/2 hours before flight time. Scheduled to depart at 10:46 AM, United 996 was showing an on time departure. The aircraft appeared to arrive a bit late and so we boarded at about 10:50AM or approximately at the time we were supposed to depart. Not at all an unusual occurrence these days.

2nd delay-Mechanical problem

We pushed back from the gate, did the safety review and then the captain made an announcement. They had discovered in their preflight check that there was a mechanical problem which had been fixed but airline rules demanded that a mechanic complete some paper work and we could not taxi to the runway until this paper work was filed-he estimated that it would take 20 minutes to an hour. He apologized for the delay.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.