LinkedIn Post: American Airlines Cannot or Will Not Serve Their Customers?


Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 10.06.31 AMI wrote a post for the LinkedIn Influencers series:

American Airlines Should Own Their Situation, Not Just Blame the Weather

Looking at this problem (long phone hold times), it seems to be a simple mismatch between demand (the number of phone calls coming in) and supply (the number of employees working and the amount of time it takes to handle each call).

I know for a fact that American Airlines hires people who understand queuing theory. They have hold times of two hours or more. Do they rightfully blame the storm or do they have to blame their own staffing levels and other decisions that might make the situation better?

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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. There are no easy answers to this operational challenge. There’s a big “surge demand” created by the storm and not enough “surge capacity” to deal with it, it seems.

    The more I think about this, I wonder if the Dr. Deming solution would be more cooperation amongst the airlines. They already cooperated a bit, when Delta flew me home from Columbus instead of American.

    If Delta and United phone reps are not overwhelmed by a storm at the same, wouldn’t it be nice if they could also help answer phones? This would require a great deal of IT interoperability, of course, and there might be other organizational and political barriers, but wouldn’t all of the airlines win if they could help each other avoid situations where customers are waiting on hold up to 5 hours?


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