Incredible Airline Customer Service

Business,Personal,travel by on September 17, 2007 at 8:40 pm

An oxymoron? I’ve traveled United and USAir extensively, and don’t have a single story like either of these:


Several weekends ago, I booked two one-way flights from Seattle to Reno. Yes, both in the same direction. I probably had the cheapest tickets available as I had booked the flights way in advance.

I realized my error at the checkin counter in Reno airport. I thought I was either: Not flying to Seattle that night; or buying a really expensive ticket.

Instead the Southwest agent smiled warmly, commented that I looked like a ‘nice young man’, invoked a little known privilege and put me on the flight with no ticket.


Last week my wife attended an American Marketing Association meeting that was supposed to feature a Sonja Hagen, a Jet Blue Sales Manager, on brand management during a time of crisis.

Unfortunately, Sonja missed the event. Entirely. And didn’t let anyone at the AMA know.

Several days later, Sonja sent this personalized note to my wife (and presumably all the meeting attendees).

It is to my understanding that you attended the Puget Sound AMA monthly meeting last Wednesday, September 12th in Seattle. This email is my opportunity to sincerely apologize for my absence from the event. I was scheduled to give a presentation on brand management during a time of crisis. Last week was a time of crisis for me, since I have never in my professional career not followed through with a scheduled commitment. I am truly and deeply sorry for my absence at your event, as well as any inconvenience that my absence presented to you, AMA leaders, and membership.

I would have loved to have shared the JetBlue story with you and the things that we have learned over the years regarding our brand, marketing strategy and customer loyalty. Unfortunately, I did not get that opportunity and would love for you to experience our product first hand. Please accept my apology and this complimentary roundtrip travel certificate on JetBlue Airways. It is my hope that you will allow JetBlue the opportunity to serve you in the future.
Mistakes and errors are unavoidable. Nothing tells you more about a company or an individual than how they handle their mistakes and yours.


  1. Rahul Pathak — September 17, 2007 @ 10:15 pm


    Awesome stories. The amount of goodwill these two airlines is staggering. I love flying JetBlue and tell anyone I can about them. To echo your point, I just got a note from US Airways telling me I had forfeited 30,000 miles. I think they’re missing the point about loyalty.

    Maybe, just maybe, there’s a connection between heinous customer service and a tough time making a profit.


  2. […] Dave posts about some great airline experiences and it doesn’t surprise me that the airlines involved are Southwest and Jet Blue. There is this great opportunity for up and coming airlines that emulate these guys to take over and provide a great, efficient air travel system for our country. The main thing holding this back is the lobbying efforts of the old guys. The old guys grew up under the old system of regulated air travel and while they adapted once the industry was deregulated, they never figured out how to escape the trap of their old business models that were based on charging 10x fares to last minute and business travelers compared to everyone else. They also appear to be stuck in a fundamentally hostile management/labor relationship and the combination results in the bizarre poor service that we all see. […]

  3. sa — September 18, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

    the story about brand management is almost too perfect – she demonstrated brand management in a time of crisis far better than she could ever have spoken about it ;)

  4. mathew johnson — September 18, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

    tell me more about walking on to planes with no ticket – i am interested in that.

    shukran (no i didn’t!)

  5. ljnd — September 24, 2007 @ 8:22 am

    This is incredible – and you’re so right; so much branding is inherent in customer service. You might post a comment at – it’s a new consumer service website where customers share experiences like this one. If a company aggregates enough comments (positive or negative), it gives a good picture to other consumers about what that company is like.

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