Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Quality Triangle - Fast, Good and Cheap

On my way home from Airventure Oshkosh (the superbowl of aviation), I had a real life experience with the quality triangle. Of course being the miser that I am, I opted for the low price tickets on American Eagle from New Orleans to Milwaukee and then returning Milwaukee to New Orleans. No problem the flights stopped through St. Louis with what I thought was a decent layover.

On the takeoff roll out of Milwaukee the pilots aborted the takeoff. They caught the problem early enough that you didn't really notice any problem. Taxi back to the gate. I am familiar with aborting takeoffs. As a private pilot, I have done so myself but usually for stupid reasons such as the passenger seat belt still hanging out the door. They blamed it on fuel sensors and instruments. I don't second guess these decisions as safety is paramount in flying.

To accommodate our flight, American Eagle dispatched a plane from Chicago that either never left the ground or it turned back enroute. Now it was starting to be a long day. Ultimately, after about a 5 or 6 hour delay we boarded another plane for St. Louis. We received a reroute from St. Louis to Dallas to New Orleans for the next day. We had to spend the night in St. Louis.

The next morning when boarding. I was flagged and pulled aside when my seat had been assigned to another passenger. Yikes after all this. American did honor my ticket as there must have been at least one or two unassigned seats on the plane. From here on out we finally arrived home about 20 hours later than initially planned. OK so that's not the worst travel story, however, it did tell me a little about choosing the lowest priced connections.

1) American Eagle had issues with two consecutive planes. Can't say why but this seems unusual. I thought aircraft reliability was better than this.
2) Attendents and service personnel were overworked and rude. I did not get one, I'm sorry or please from a single employee at American Airlines.
3) American Eagle agents made no announcements in Milwaukee. We got more information from discussion with the pilots than with the agents. This was unusual.

In the end, my choice to choose the lowest price ticket left me with service that was not fast and questionably may not have been very good. The quality triangle at work!
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