ASQ Quality Report Recommends Improved Passenger Communication; Operating Procedures

    Lack of Airline Quality is Root of Passenger Dissatisfaction

    MILWAUKEE, September 6 /CNW/ - Airline passengers today are more
dissatisfied than ever with the airline industry, and their dissatisfaction is
due to a lack of quality, according to experts sited in the latest Quarterly
Quality Report from the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the world's
leading authority on quality improvement. According to the report, the airline
industry needs to change how it operates, implement more quality standards and
methods and improve its processes.

    The airlines are quick to point fingers and pass the blame when it comes
to taking responsibility for delayed and canceled flights. While it's true
that weather is a legitimate reason for flights to be delayed or canceled,
this factor only accounts for 9.5% of delayed flights. Airlines must fix the
other contributing problems before customer satisfaction will improve.

    With reasons other than weather accounting for an average of 13% of
delayed flights, there is a lot airlines can do to improve their performance.
The report outlines two key areas where airlines can do better--operating
procedures and passenger communication.

    "Be Prepared" Should be Airline Motto

    According to the Quality Report, airlines need to significantly improve
their operating procedures. Jack West, industry analyst and past president of
ASQ notes that at the most basic level airlines need to ensure that systems
are in place to handle any challenge from weather delays to maintenance
issues. Southwest Airlines, for example, has designed its own business systems
to operate effectively within these kinds of typical constraints. "Sure,
traffic congestion is a problem for them, like everyone else. But they've put
in place a structure that enables them to land the plan, turn around and get
it back in the air quickly because they know the only way airlines make money
is to have planes flying."

    West notes that in addition to strengthening day-to-day operating
systems, airlines need to continue exerting influence on the people who
control the infrastructure, such as airports and the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA). The FAA must also improve its air traffic control
systems to help alleviate flight delays and cancellations. New satellite-based
technology is in the works, which will improve the system.

    Process improvements with the FAA and air traffic control coupled with
improvements at each airline are going to pave the way for a more successful
flight system in the United States. Improved technology is necessary for air
traffic control operations, but airlines will have to adopt that technology as
well. Even with the new technology, airlines must be equipped with robust
systems on the ground to handle passenger check-in, plane turnaround, baggage
handling and mechanical operations. No matter how efficient and effective the
air traffic control systems are, airlines will continue to see delays and
cancellations if they don't improve their internal systems.

    It will take time for these new technologies and process improvements to
take effect, but immediate changes can take place to improve customer service
on the front line.

    Keeping Passengers Informed

    John Goodman, ASQ member and vice chairman of TARP Worldwide, a customer
experience research consultancy, has researched customer satisfaction in the
airline industry. He has found that proactively communicating with passengers
when problems occur is another way to improve satisfaction. In today's world
of fast-moving technology and information, people are used to instant
communication. Passengers want to be kept informed as to what is going on when
their flights are delayed or canceled. According to Goodman, "You can't fix
the weather, but you can give people better information."

    Airlines can also improve communications by implementing more effective
cross-training programs so that employees can be moved quickly to work
baggage, ticket counters or the gate based on the greatest need. "Lines move
faster, people feel like they are making progress and anxiety levels are
lowered," says Goodman.

    Please visit 709.pdf
to view the complete Quality Report. (Due to the length of this URL, it may be
necessary to copy and paste this hyperlink into your Internet browser's URL
address field. You may also need to remove an extra space in the URL if one

    The American Society for Quality,, is the world's leading
authority on quality. With more than 93,000 individual and organizational
members, the professional association advances learning, quality improvement
and knowledge exchange to improve business results, and to create better
workplaces and communities worldwide. As champion of the quality movement, ASQ
offers technologies, concepts, tools and training to quality professionals,
quality practitioners and everyday consumers, encouraging all to Make Good
Great(R). ASQ has been the sole administrator of the prestigious Malcolm
Baldrige National Quality Award since 1991. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis.,
the 61-year-old organization is a founding partner of the American Customer
Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a prominent quarterly economic indicator, and also
produces the Quarterly Quality Report.

For further information:

For further information: American Society for Quality Megan Coulomb,
800-248-1946 or Christel Henke, 414-332-2933

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