Amercian Airlines Poor Service and Bill Marriott's Blog Post

Before we get to the blog post for today, I want to tell you about an organization that badly need to read my new book, THE CUSTOMER RULES, and maybe CREATING MAGIC too. The company that needs to read it is American Airlines. A month ago my wife and I had 7 flights booked with American. One way from Virginia Beach to Dallas for two of us, roundtrip from Orlando to Dallas for two of us. Roundtrip Dallas to Shreveport for Priscilla. One way to LaGuardia from Dallas for me.

As many of you know AA became very unreliable and were cancelling flights right and left because of a pilot work slowdown and a high number of pilots calling in sick or slowing down flights with maintenance requests

I had a flight booked from DFW to LaGuardia on Sunday morning, September 30 to connect with a flight at 5 p.m. for Istanbul. With all of the flights American was cancelling I could not take a chance on sticking with them so I cancelled the flight, and booked a flight on Saturday, Sept 30 to Newark on US Air. I had to leave my 50th high school reunion a day early so I would be in NYC and that way I could take a van to JFK the next day to connect with my Delta flight to Istanbul.

I received an email from Suzanne Rubin the President of the AAdvantage Loyalty Program apologizing for the issues American was having and how much they valued my business. I wrote a letter to Suzanne a month ago asking for a refund or even a credit on my ticket for the flight I had to cancel from DFW to Laguardia because they had become so unreliable during the negotiations with their pilots.

I am still waiting for a reply from her which I do not expect to receive. I now tell everyone in the speeches I give around the world to not fly American Airlines. My problem is not that they had issues with the pilots. My issue is that they did not even bother to respond to me after a month, when I took the time to write a letter and drop it in the US Post Office mail with a .45 cent stamp on it…I guess Suzanne really does not appreciate my business and her rules are more inportant than THE CUSTOMER RULES.

They especially need to read chapter two of THE CUSTOMER RULES, titled, You Win Customers One At A Time and Lose Them A Thousand At A Time.



I trust Bill Marriott opinion a whole lot more than I trust our elected officials….Lee

Bill Marriott’s Blog Post for this week on how to grow the economy.

Is it still possible to build a business today like my mom and dad did in 1927?  I certainly believe it is.  I think the answer lies in choosing the right path for your business, and hopefully, the government will choose the right path for the economy.  If you’ll indulge me, I came across a road map that may take us there.

Next spring in Dallas, Texas, President George W. Bush (#43) will dedicate his presidential library – named the George W. Bush Institute.

President Bush has stated that one of the roles of the policy center is to promote economic growth at home and freedom abroad.  Recently, the Center asked a group of Nobel Prize winners and renowned economists to establish a blueprint for restoring America’s economic growth to an average of 4% of GDP for the next several years.

The contributors all believe that this is an achievable goal, and they suggest several ways that this could take place.  The group does agree that even with current growth at 2%, 4% is a stretch but very doable.  Former U.S. Treasury official David Malpass writes, “Based upon the ageless American principle of sound money, low tax rates, limited federal government, the market-based allocation of capital and labor, and sensible regulatory and trade rules, a consistent 4% growth is achievable.”

The authors conclude that the objective of economic policy is to allow hard-working individuals, no matter their status at birth, to take advantage of opportunity and achieve a good life.  As Brendan Mintner of the Bush Institute writes in Chapter One, “There is a certain virtue to prosperity.  It inspires people, removes pressures that lead to embitterment and division, and allows all of us to step back and get a healthy perspective for what is important in life.”

One of the major themes of the 4% solution is growth, growth, growth and more growth!  In Chapter One, Mintner writes, “A growing economy produces jobs that allow workers to provide for their families, live comfortable stable lives and give back to their communities.”  As they discuss growth, W. Michael Cox and Richard Alon state, “We spend our lives making choices based on the costs & benefits of what we do.  Incentives rule our behavior, and economic growth grows through incentives.  Free markets encourage workers, companies and investors to undertake productive activities.  Growth picks up when people choose to get an education in a field the economy values highly, when they choose to work full time and become more productive, when they choose to save, invest and take business risks, when they choose to start a company and hire workers, when they choose to innovate and create new products; and when they choose to seize the business opportunities around them.”

I personally know this to be true as I have witnessed it firsthand.  I certainly wasn’t around in 1927 when my dad opened his nine-stool root beer stand.  I was not there when he worked for six years to get through college – the first in his family to do so.  But, I was there as he built the root beer stand into a successful restaurant chain, and I was there when he opened his first hotel in 1957.  Dad and mom opened their root beer stand with six employees.  Today, Marriott and our franchisees employ over 325,000 people in 74 countries around the world.  I get a lot of wonderful letters from our associates expressing appreciation for the opportunities and wonderful lives our company has given them.

Is it still possible to do this today?  Steve Jobs at Apple certainly believed and did it.

But the book often expresses great concern about the power of the federal government to limit our growth.  Writer Kevin Haslett argues about the great importance of lowering the debt level and states that cutting spending is a more effective way to lower government debt levels than increasing taxes.  When government stops spending recklessly, consumers and investors are willing to spend more because they no long expect that high government spending will lead to higher taxes down the road.  It will reduce GDP growth in the short term but increase economic growth in the long term.

I think we all need to recognize the proper role of government in helping us reach the 4% goal and help small businesspeople like my mom and dad continue to build successful businesses in the future.

In closing, let me list five takeaways as to how to reach the growth target of 4% of GDP:

  1. Lower taxes on individuals and corporations.
  2. Reduce government spending.
  3. Reduce economic policy uncertainty.  If business cannot reasonably predict future policy, they may hold off making large investments and consumers may hold off making large purchases.
  4. Execute more free trade agreements so we can see more American products around the world.
  5. Provide for a sound and stable dollar so people will invest with confidence in the good old USA.

We have a lot to do, but with the proper government policies, my parents’ dream of creating and building a business can continue to repeat over and over and over again.

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

  1. Lee…your comments on American Airlines are perfect! I have numerous issues with United since the merger. Recently, one of their ticket agents insisted on charging me for a checked back, in spite of my Active Duty military status and United’s stated policy of free checked bags for military.

    Upon returning from my trip, I wrote a letter to United asking for my $25 to be refunded. Instead, I got a $125 credit. At the time it seemed very fair, so I gladly accepted.

    I have now used the credit and booked a United flight for my wife and I to see family over the holidays. We picked specific flights to be able to rendezvous with my daughter at the connection city. Not once, but twice now, United has unilaterally changed my flight from what I had booked (and booked intentionally!). Both times I called and was connected to someone for whom US English was a second language. Both times they kept telling me that the schedule had changed, in the face of the original flights still being available. And both times, they begrudgingly put me back on my original flight, with no guarantee that I won’t be changed again.

    With the shrinking number of airlines, I can understand how the competition may be lessening, but that is no excuse for not recognizing that the customer should always be a focus. Hopefully, in the future, it will be a lesson that Ms. Rubin and her counterparts at United may eventually learn.


  2. I find the AA comments to be inappropriate, although I may have misunderstood the intention of this blog. I follow this blog to be inspired, to learn and to grow as a leader. My apologies.

  3. Can’t agree more with Bill Marriott’s comment. We are the land of opportunity. Each of us has the same opportunity to think. To work. To seek to better oneself. When you take the opportunity to get ahead away people do what needs to be done and no more. We have to allow people to realize that their hard will benefit themselves. Thanks Lee for sharing and your comments. Without understanding bad service how can we realize what great service is. It still is amazing that airlines continually struggle with this. When airports are adding seat side servers, beds and free gyms why do airlines continue to think passengers don’t have choices. The airports are starting to realize this.

    We currently live in Milwaukee and even though its cheaper to fly our of O’hare we refuse because the airport has horrendous reliability. We have choice and should exercise it when we deem it necessary.

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