During my airline career, one of the marketing VPs was fond of quoting a particular service study. It apparently found that when the first interaction between the airline and the customer goes well, everything else tends to go well. I found myself reflecting on those comments and several like them that I’ve heard over the years since yesterday. Why?

It’s the Little Things

I just completed a 1-night business trip to Miami. I booked American Airlines for these flights, but the flight down was on a Republic operated E-175. While I don’t mind the airplane, I’ve found the Republic crews to be hit or miss. Frankly, I wasn’t really looking forward to the flight, and briefly considered changing to an earlier one which is operated by a mainline Airbus. In the end, I stuck it out. My AAdvantage gold upgrade cleared at the window, so at least I was assured of a somewhat comfortable seat.

Something was different than many of my Republic flights from the moment I crossed the entry door. I was greeted by a smile and friendly welcome. No sooner than I had taken my seat, an offer to hang my coat was extended along with a pre-departure beverage (PDB). We all know that American (granted, this was an Eagle flight) struggles in this department for unknown reasons, so I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was a PDB offered, I was even asked if I’d like a warm up on my coffee, all during boarding. The pleasant service continued throughout the flight, and even including my being addressed by name, something that doesn’t happen all that often anymore.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

On the return, I was booked on a late mainline departure, but having finished up with work sooner than expected, I was able to change to an earlier departure. Again, my earlier flight was aboard an E-175 operated by Republic. Even after yesterday’s pleasant flight, my hopes weren’t high, but my upgrade cleared at the gate. We were running a bit late due to some of the east coast weather issues that impacted many airports today, but again, no sooner than I’d taken my seat, the flight attendant was there offering a PDB. In this case, it would have been imminently reasonable to skip a PDB service in my opinion, but the flight attendant got it done with a minimum of fuss, and little to no interruption in boarding as far as I could tell. The pleasant service continued into the flight, and I walked away with an overwhelmingly positive impression of the flight experience……even on an E-175.

What Does This One Experience Tell Us?

A couple of things in my opinion. First, small gestures can go a long way in creating a positive customer experience. A pleasant welcome, and yes, even the offer of a PDB set the tone of a flight. But it also says something about the state of service with airlines. Should these little gestures be a big deal? Probably not, but I’m happy to have experienced one roundtrip airline flight where everything went the way it should have. I hope it’s a trend at American and American Eagle.

-MJ, February 24, 2015