This morning I got an email from Alaska Airlines, which was intended to mollify me for my anger at being treated so badly during a recent botched so-called First Class flight. I had (and still have) a broken back, the airline did an exceptionally poor job with my care, given that my treating doctor required that I be able to recline 180 degrees.
I’d have happily been re-booked on another airline to avoid what happened, which was that I had to spend the entire flight with my head jammed against the bulkhead, my back in agony, after having gotten up at 2 am in Dubai, flying 12 hours on United Arab Emirates, and then being placed on Alaska Airlines for the final leg home. The position of the seat in full recline (3 inches back ge, wow, zowie, placed my back in precisely the worst possible position because of the nature of the breaks and I had to lean forward. Thanks, Alaska Airlines.)
I wrote to Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden, in whose bio he describes himself on the very first line as an Eagle Scout.
I looked that up.
I have a problem squaring being an Eagle Scout with the way his airline treated a 64-year-old woman with a broken back, in First Class, with a seat that reclined three inches, non-working wifi and a rude crew member. But then, I digress.
So I wrote directly to Tilden, wrote a story on Linked In, and got a response this morning from a customer service shill.
The shill, a “Customer Care Specialist” named Steven Mataya, apologized for First Class not having pillows or blankets. No really, you think? on a $600 leg in first class to Denver? in a cabin that was so cold even the crew complained, and it set my broken back to spasming even though I was wearing a down jacket, and here we were in August?
This is the huge grand gesture that Mr. Customer Care Specialist Mataya made for the pain and inconvenience I experience, given my broken back:
Julia, I apologize for any inconvenience you experienced. As a customer service gesture, I am including a Discount Code. Please reference the appropriate code below at the time of booking. To use your discount, go to alaskaair.com/planbook and enter the Discount Code into the Discount Code field on the right side of the booking form.
This discount code is for a whopping $300. I’m utterly and completely underwhelmed.
This airline honestly believes it can buy off a genuinely angry customer, whose doctor demanded a reclining seat due to a broken back (hey guys, not a broken nose, not a broken arm, not a deviated septum, but a BROKEN BACK, that would be something EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO PROTECT) with a $300 coupon.
Not only am I not impressed by this offer the size of a hummingbird turd to a first time First Class customer with an extremely serious injury who was treated like crap, but this is an extraordinary insult. It speaks to how little this, and many other airlines, thinks of its customers.
Give ’em a coupon and make ’em shut up and go away.
Unfortunately for Alaska Airlines when you break a fundamental service promise trust, that you will offer First Class service to a customer, that’s a serious failure.
A very serious failure.
You don’t clean up an oil spill with a dinner napkin, Mr. Customer Care Specialist Steven Mataya.
As a courtesy, I had sent Mr. Customer Care Specialist Steven Mataya a copy of my doctor’s orders. Clear English. I didn’t have any difficulty understanding them. United Arab Emirates certainly didn’t have any difficulty understanding the instructions. If Alaska Airlines couldn’t provide that care, they should have sent me to an airline that could. That kind of LACK of attention, especially in First Class, when you are dealing with someone with a severe injury, takes the breath away.
I cannot in any circumstance recommend this airline. I’d honestly rather paddle my sea kayak to Alaska, which actually sounds like a lot more fun. At least I could pack my own food. The crew didn’t bother to offer me the salad they were serving.
Given an opportunity for service recovery- the gold standard for cleaning up your messes, as any major corporation learns- Alaska Airlines fails twice.
As a professional speaker I thank Alaska Airlines for a perfect example in what NOT to do when you screw up. We are always in the market for great stories. We prefer positive ones. However examples of those like United’s dragging someone off kicking and screaming, of the free fall of service in the airline industry are just as potent. Like Alaska Airline’s low brow First Class experience.
You see, I understand free fall. As a skydiver, I know what happens when your parachute doesn’t open.
A very serious failure.
Here’s the difference between Alaska Airlines and me when it comes to free fall:
On two separate occasions, my main parachute failed to open. That’s a very serious failure. Skydivers can relate.
On both occasions, as evidenced by the fact that I am sitting here writing this article, I managed an instantaneous recovery using my reserve chute.
Gold Standard, Mr. Customer Service Care Specialist Mataya.
Instinctual. It’s called Doing It Right The First Time, and when you Fail, because it does happen,
Absolutely Positively Doing It BETTER the Second.
Or end up as road kill. On the altar of public opinion.