Dear US Airways
I am writing to express my concerns regarding recent changes to the morale of your frontline employees, the quality of your product, and changes to the Dividend Miles program. I also intend to relate how those concerns will impact the business I conduct with US Airways. Growing up in the heart of Central Virginia, I have enjoyed a lifelong connection to US Airways and the strong heritage from Pediment Airlines. While training for my own pilots license, I frequently followed a familiar blue and crimson Dash-8 into LYH. When travel became a part of my professional life, I was proud to live in an area served by US Airways. For the past several years I have been a very loyal customer, frequently basing my choice of itinerary on my connection with US Airways rather than price.
Over the past twelve months I have witnessed a steady decline in the morale of your frontline employees: gate agents, flight attendants and even staff of the Chairman's Preferred hotline. When time allows, I have enjoyed engaging employees across the company, and the general sentiment is that they feel less empowered and connected to the company than before. I believe there is a correlation between morale and poor customer service that has become pervasive throughout the system. When your employees feel slighted, whether that is emotionally or financially, they express their feelings through their interactions with customers.
Traveling extensively has given me an insight into the travel industry that I am grateful for. I get additional input from my wife who is responsible for the corporate travel contracts for a fortune 200 company. To that end, I have a rough understanding of how competitive the industry has become and the unique challenges you face in staying profitable. What I am unclear about is why the US Air products offer so much less value than many of your competitors. I am referring specifically to the poor condition of the cabins of many aircraft. There are always stains in coach and ink pen marks covering first class seats. I have sat in sour milk and found vomit in a seat pocket. Frankly those types of inexcusable issues outweigh things like plastic cups and worn plane interiors. My experiences were not isolated incidents but a fairly consistent lack of quality across 70-130 flights a year (both domestic and international).
The Dividend Miles program does offer many benefits that make travel more comfortable. The unlimited upgrade policy is very competitive among other offerings in the industry. Nevertheless, those of us who travel extensively, spending weeks away from our homes and families derive real value from simple things like the 500 mile minimum on short segments. My personal reward for leaving my family every week is knowing that I am earning (what amounts to) a trip for my wife and I to go somewhere to relax rather than work. When US Airways creates barriers to entry, it will drive customers away. The requirements for the Chairmans Preferred qualification are higher than many other industry programs. Charging a fee for redemption of award travel on short notice feels like taking advantage of your core customers.
Considering my earnest and heartfelt ties to the old US Air it is with some sadness that I will be moving my business to one of your competitors. What I will not miss is interactions with rude employees or lost luggage. I will no longer be embarrassed when I insist that my family all fly US Airways for vacation, often at a higher cost. I am looking forward to service like I experienced on a recent United code-share flight. In the face of a long delay, gate agents were empowered to share everything the knew about the situation and did everything they could to help even the most frustrated travelers. I am looking forward to a first class product like Continental’s offering, that is an experience and brings real value, not just a larger dirty seat. It is my sincere hope that my comments are construed as constructive. This is a time to embrace change that brings value to your employees and customers and can function as a beacon to the industry as a whole. When that new, progressive US Airways emerges, one that makes travel a positive experience, I will be happy to bring my business back.
Chairmans Preferred Membership Number: xxxxxx