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A Business Improvement Solution Left One Man Stranded

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A warning to airline travelers: regardless of tickets, checked luggage and your presence at the gate, there is no guarantee your plane won’t leave without you. For Luke Mueller, a Los Angeles teacher and musician, one quick bathroom stop cost him more than a wasted $700 flight—it resulted in eight hours of grueling travel.

Luke Mueller departed LAX on a red-eye AirTran flight headed for Pittsburgh. Prepared to travel through the night, his arrival time was set for 9:30 a.m.; however, he found himself stuck in Ft. Myers instead. According to Mueller, his short lay-over turned sour when his departure gate was changed at the last minute.

At 8:45 a.m. everyone at the gate was told to relocate to a different terminal for departure at 9:30 a.m. But when I got to the gate at 9:15 a.m., I was told the plane already left.

Preposterous? Perhaps. But, to the AirTran gate attendant, his “tardiness” was not the airline’s responsibility.

She told me that all the passengers were paged in the terminal and that everyone was accounted for. But clearly that wasn’t the case because I was standing there, stranded.

What Mueller later found out was that the flight actually departed at 9:05 a.m.—25 minutes earlier than scheduled. As a result, he spent the rest of the day trying to catch up with the fleeing flight.

I got on the next flight out from Ft. Myers, but still missed my second connecting flight. So, I had to wait again. After all was said and done, I didn’t arrive in Pittsburgh until 5:30 p.m.

The only compensation for his ordeal was an upgrade to first class on his remaining connection and a $25 travel voucher. A reimbursement that, according to Mueller, is “not enough incentive to ever travel their airline again.”


© Flickr user Michiel G

There’s no doubt that AirTran, in hopes of adding in some flex time to buffer potential delays in the future, left early for the sole purpose of getting ahead of schedule. After all, what disadvantages would it have caused if everyone was on the plane? Not only would the airline have created a nice schedule cushion, but all the passengers would be grateful for arriving at their destination earlier. The problem, as Mueller experienced personally above, was that not everyone was on board. And so, though 99% of the individuals affected by the change  were probably satisfied, 1% was left incredibly dissatisfied.

This story shows the difficulty in achieving an idea with little planning. AirTran’s last-minute aspirations of getting ahead of schedule caused their business standards to take a toll.  After all, their early departure and early arrival came at the cost of one dedicated patron.

At some point someone was under the impression that all passengers were accounted for. But clearly, one was missing. That’s a major oversight that not only cost them a potential return customer, but likely cost them even more than that when you consider everyone that Mueller told this story to.

Being ambitious when conducting business is great when the idea is properly planned out. Taking the time to contemplate a venture not only weeds out any discrepancies, but it also provides time for identifying both the benefits and disadvantages to its implementation. By understanding the effects, you and your stakeholders will not be surprised by its results. Proper planning will prevent unpleasant outcomes.

Still struggling with how to properly plan out your ambitious endeavors? Then don’t hesitate to reach out. We can help and would be happy to do so! The business improvement consultants at AccelaWork have seen all sorts of organizational problems and we can get you on the fastest route to success.

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