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There’s been a lot of talk about the need for an Air Traveler’s Bill of Rights of late, particularly since February’s JetBlue fiasco. I’m all for pressuring the airlines to be more proactive in its approach to customer service, as goodness knows I’ve experienced my fair share of delays and aggravations.

More than anything, though, I think that the airlines need to focus on treating all passengers like they treat their elite frequent flyers. Here’s the kind of thing I’m talking about: I flew yesterday to New York, but got delayed in Houston. Not for a long time — we were about an hour and a half late departing, first because of an air traffic control delay, and then because of a mechanical issue. Continental delayed boarding until we were actually ready to go, so we weren’t trapped on the plane all that time. It just wasn’t that big a deal.

However, this morning, I got this email message:

Dear Ms. Kathleen Fitzpatrick:

You are a valued Platinum Elite member of our OnePass program and we strive to meet your travel needs at all times. When we don’t succeed we take it very seriously. Our records show that you experienced an inconvenience while traveling with us between Houston/ George Bush, TX (IAH) and New York/ LaGuardia, NY (LGA) on 03/23/2007.

We work hard every day to ensure that all Continental Airlines flights operate safely and on time. There are times when even our best efforts cannot prevent a flight disruption. We are sorry if this experience was inconvenient for you.

So as a goodwill gesture, 500 OnePass bonus miles have been deposited into your account. Continental Airlines employees are committed to providing you an excellent and safe travel experience. We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you in the future.

The miles, while a nice touch, are more gestural than anything. What actually meant something to me was the apology — and even more than that, that the apology appeared without my demanding it. I hadn’t complained, and didn’t intend to. So what’s amazing here is that the airline noticed that I might have been inconvenienced, and acknowledged their responsibility.

Granted, there are many more passengers than there are Platinum Elite frequent flyers. But how hard would it be for the airlines to issue such an apology to every passenger so inconvenienced?



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