When Did HR Go AWOL in the Airlines?

The Huffington Post | Dec 11, 2009

I’m among 200 or so passengers on a Saturday morning, waiting to board a Continental flight from Barcelona to Newark. The boarding is 30 minutes delayed and no explanation has been offered. Nine employees of the airline are joking around with one another, apparently disinterested in what customers are feeling, although there is clearly a concerned buzz making its way through the crowd about whether the plane has a problem. In fact, the Continental employees have their backs to the crowd. None have bothered to say hello, to thank customers for their business, or reassure them that the plane is OK.

I’m a frequent traveler - a long time “platinum” with millions of miles on multiple airlines - and the behavior of these Continental employees is an all too familiar site at many airlines in airports around the world.

When did the airlines forget that passengers are customers? Where is management? Where is HR?

To the HR leaders at Continental and other airlines, here are a few specific actions you might take:

Be a customer. I mean a real customer, not a Continental employee that periodically flies for free. My advice is that airline management ensure that every employee buy a ticket, stand in line, deal with long delays on the phone, and struggle as the rest of us do when the flight is delayed or cancelled. In short, put your Continental employee card away and experience what it’s like to be one of us.

Learn about other actions HR leaders might take.