Defects in Air Travel — At Least I Got There Safely


    Ah, what a day yesterday. You'd think getting from Boston to Philadelphia would be easy. I'm here, teaching my “Key Concepts of Lean in Healthcare” workshop for the first time for LEI.

    I got to Logan a little before 1 PM for my 2:30 PM flight. I got a call from the airline (part of which used to have the nickname “America Worst”) that the flight was canceled. At 1 PM, the ticket agent puts me on the 1:30 flight. “Do I have time to make that?” So, off I went.

    First defect in the process was the TSA video that was playing. That video must be FOUR years old, because it clearly showed and explained that passengers should put their beverages (showing a Coke bottle and a bottle of Juice) into their carry-on bags for screening and x-ray.

    HELLO?? Liquid explosives threat, circa 2006 anyone?

    Of course, the TSA agents were confiscating a lot of drinks at the x-ray station. BAG CHECK. Slowing things down for us. No, it wasn't my drink, but the infrequent flyers could understandably be confused by the conflicting rules.

    So I run to the gate, near B6… they were in final boarding, I hand the agent my boarding pass, she tears it, and I go down to the tarmac, gate check my suitcase, and get on the regional jet.

    Hmmmm, my ticket says 17F and there are only 11 rows on this plane. I ask the flight attendant about this and he says, “Oh, this flight is very empty, just sit anywhere.” I guess it didn't seem strange that I got assigned a non-existent seat.

    About 2 minutes later, the intercom pages “Robert Graban” (no, my dad wasn't on the plane, but my middle name is now on the boarding pass, thanks to new TSA rules). They must mean me.

    Turns out I had boarded the wrong gate (off by one) and this was a plane to Rochester, NY. So much for the error proofing at the gate (the bar code scanner, not being used, apparently) or checking as you board the plane (as they often do).

    I'm standing on the tarmac and, of course, the gate check bags had already been loaded.

    “What's your bag look like?”

    “Um, a black suitcase. It has my name on it, the American AAdvantage tag.”

    They pull a bag off that, at a distance, looked like mine. They wheel it over. Argh, not my bag. They had already close up the plane.

    “Try the one with MY NAME on it,” I had to shout over the engine noise.

    Now, the Rochester people are getting delayed, and I figure I'm going to miss that 1:30 to Philly.

    They finally find my bag, and off I go back into the terminal. The 1:30 flight is now delayed for three hours due to Philly weather.

    At least US Airways and their staff didn't treat me too rudely or do much to blame me for the error. That's the first time I've boarded the wrong plane. I'll blame the process!

    And like I said, at least I got to Philly safe and sound. That's what really matters. No defect there.

    Back to regular Lean Blog posts tomorrow. No more defect-plagued travelogue entries… actually, check back later today at 1 PM when I'll have an announcement about a future Lean Blog Podcast about patient safety…

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. Here's an airline incident I experienced recently…

      While taxiing to the runway for takeoff at O'Hare last June one of the pilots told the passengers that he needed to turn around to "go get some required paperwork." So I asked myself, with a full plane, running behind schedule, what kind of paperwork could be so important as to delay this flight? He never told the passengers the nature of the paperwork… Why not? My guess… it was safety checks. I wasn't happy that we were turning around, and the pilot shouldn't have started taxiing out before having the document, but in the end I when I figured it was to verify safety, I was glad he was turning the plane around.

    2. I sent an email to TSA about the inconsistent message from the security line video.

      I got an email back saying they would forward it to MassPort, since they run everything outside of security.

      Lame. Left hand and right hand of government can't create a seemless, consistent experience? Nice.


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