To apologize or not to apologize

Ok, so I started reading this yesterday on, and wanted to put this out to you all. I have been really amazed by the range of response the op got with the following post:

*"Yesterday LAX-KOA morning flight was delayed 2-hours (ultimately, as we took off at 10:35). It was a delayed aircraft arriving, not weather or mechanical.

Now 2 hours is not a huge deal, especially when going on vacation (though I did miss the end of my friend’s lavaman triathlon because of the delay). And UA was nice enough and the Y+ seat was fine.

What really took me aback though was that not once did anyone from the airline say “we are sorry for the delay” or “thank you for being patient” or whatever. In 30+ years of flying, this is the first time, across the board, not one person from any airline bothered to simply ignore that passengers were inconvenienced. Delays happen, but the crew always says something on to thank the passengers for being put out, which to me goes a long way toward convincing pax that they matter and they should fly the airline again in the future.

The pilot didn’t say it, the gate agents, the F/As, etc. It was as if it was 100% business as usual, and I’ve really not experienced anything like that before. (It’s been 20 years since I last flew UA because of such poor experiences in the late 80s, but I figured I would try them again, as it’s a “new generation” of employees running things.) The closest anyone came to the word “sorry” was when our LAX gate was being used for an SFO flight and the SFO agent asked everyone to “please be patient, as our flight will be the next on the gate.” But that was about it. Otherwise, when boarding came, they treated it as a typical boarding.

Are UA employees trained to actively NOT say sorry or thanks for being patient lest they be admitting fault to customers that can be used against the airline? To me, when an airline treats a delay not due to weather so casually, it makes me feel as delays are just SOP for them so they’ve become immune. And on this flight, which is listed as on-time a mere 60% of the time despite being between two airports that rarely have any weather delays, (pretty poor) but maybe the crew is so used to it it doesn’t faze them anymore?

UA should realize that I do have a choice in non-stop air travel between LAX and KOA. I debated between AA or UA, and decided to give UA a try."*

Now my feelings are, if I’m on a flight and it runs late…so be it I understand the industry. On the flip side people who do not need to hear something. We live in a time when we can get immediate news updates to a phone in our pocket. Do I expect an aploogy, no. Does it feel good after hearing it yes. Another point someone made in a response that I agree with is OVERALL customer service in a lot of industries is slack. I am a firm believer in not spending my hard earned $ if when I walk into a store and don’t hear at least a “Hello” nothing more needed and I’m happy to spend my $. So I really am curious to hear how this group that frequents these forums, who may have read these threads as well feel about this posting. Happy flying!!! :wink: :slight_smile:

Yes - they should apologize for the delay. They should also keep people informed, even if all they say is that there is no change in the stats.

I remember on of my longest delays was on JetBlue from LGB to OAK. They kept insisting the flight was on time, even though it was nearing departure time and the inbound aircraft was not even close to being on the ground.

They did apologize, if I recall correctly, but they did not really keep people informed.

Agreed, they should apologize for the delay.

However, in UAL’s case, this should be doubly so because of them having been voted as having the worst on time performance in 2000-2001, with a little over 70% of their flights arriving on time; something which UAL spent 2 years getting right.

I seem to recall a flight of mine being delayed for just about as long around that same time; SWA puddlehop LAS-LAX… about an hour and a half late. Everyone on the flight was given a free flight voucher.

General rule is that they have to compensate unless it is something out of their control, like weather.


I think they are taught to never apologize. An apology could be construed as an admission of guilt.

Employees are not taught not to apologize.

I think there are two likely scenarios here:

  1. They did apologize and this guy didn’t hear it. Maybe he has bad hearing. Maybe he just likes to whine and complain about everything and makes up things to complain about.
  2. The average gate agent at a hub who works numerous flights every day in rapid succession, they may have not even realized the flight was late. They may have just had the flight transferred to their gate and when the flight was ready to go, worked to load it as quickly as possible. They spent their time helping customers rather than spending time apologizing.

United was #1 among network carriers in on-time performance in January. … ily53.html … artner=RSS

Please get your facts right before making baseless statements

You may wish to get your facts straight.
Here’s some quotes from the above references:

Airline On-Time Arrival Rate Percentages for January 2009

  1. Hawaiian - 90.82%
  2. Southwest - 83.30%
  3. ExpressJet - 79.80%
    4. United - 79.04%
  4. Pinnacle - 77.93%
  5. Delta - 77.56%
  6. Continental - 77.43%
  7. AirTran - 77.39%
  8. US Airways - 77.34%
  9. Northwest - 76.40%
  10. Frontier - 76.32%
  11. SkyWest - 76.30%
  12. American - 75.47%
  13. Mesa - 75.45%
  14. JetBlue - 74.92%
  15. American Eagle - 72.04%
  16. Alaska - 71.51%
  17. Atlantic Southwest 68.30%
  18. Comair - 56.75%

United ranked fourth in on-time arrivals during the last two months of 2008

United, for instance, finished 17th for all of 2008 despite its surge at the end of the year.

All of the airlines above have networks. Did you mean United was first among the hub-and-spoke airlines? That’s wouldn’t be correct because Hawaiian operates a hub-and-spoke network as does ExpressJet. Did you mean among the major carriers? That wouldn’t be right either because Southwest is larger than United’s domestic services (these figures are for domestic services).

Maybe he meant among “legacy” carriers?

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that he meant “legacy.”

If you are referring to me, my facts are straight, and you didn’t read my post completely. I said worst on time performance in 2000-2001, and the LA Times seems to agree with me. Incidentally, MSNBC seems to think that their on time performance from the past year matches their 2000-2001 numbers.


Network carrier is a BTS classification: Using the business model classification, there are seven network carriers (Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways) and eight low-cost carriers (Air Tran, America West, ATA, Frontier, Independence, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit).

This would mean that 4 on the list were regional/feeders, which makes sense. But should they even be on there? Midwest is no where to be found on this list, and they’ve remodeled themselves into a LCC. ACY? COM? that’'s bad even for regionals, where they tend to go where the mainline carriers can’t.

BTA actually had incentive for being on time or ahead of schedule; IIRC, the pilots received a bonus if they arrived ahead of time for each flight.


I remember at one time the airlines were classified based on their annual revenues. Has this changed or is the BTS classification use simultaneously with the network and low cost classifications?

This I believe is incorrect. Right at the moment I’m to lazy to look up carrier contract of carriage info…but I will after I get some coffee in me :wink:

If this were true, there would be a lot more people flying on free tickets.

By the way, I tried putting a 3rd option in my poll of “Don’t care either way” I don’t need to hear an Im sorry, just a status of what is going on is fine by me. 8)

I found this interesting. I could not today manage to find the paragraph that says anything GREATER THEN 2 hours UA will do something. It does say they’d provide updates in a “Timely” manor. But as was pointed out above, an agent at a hub may arrive at a gate just prior to departure, board the aircraft and that is that.

Lets not forget, the guy was going to Hawaii for vacation, my heart bleeds purple piss for him. Not everyone in this day and age has the time or $ to make that trip.

Here’s SWA:

Section 85 mentions what they aren’t liable for. JBU and FFT offer pretty much the same but reference ‘Force majeure’, which is the same as the last on SWA’s list…


I was in Atlanta yesterday and the automated voice thingy apologized for me. Plus I loved how none of the agents were constantly being asked questions. It just made me jealous. From now on, I’m not answering any questions on how long a delay is, I’m just gonna point to my board.

P.S. Just kidding, I would get axed so fast.

These are the reasons I work the ramp and not pax service…I’d have punched someone upside the head. I will NEVER forget the guy who yelled in my face for me to “Get me my F’ing bag NOW!!” The only reason we still had it was to clean dog “S” off of it from a dog that got loose. I said “Fine I’ll get you your f’ing bag but it has $h!T all over it”. When I brought it to him in the terminal he got apologetic real quick. I said “Nope you had your chance get out”, so he did.

Flying AA this week from ATL to DFW, we returned to the gate after our short hold on the runway turned to a three hour delay for weather. The pilot provided a detailed explanation of the situation in DFW, and the crew apologized several times for the delay, eventhough it was not required or expected.

The basics of customer satisfaction starts with “please” thank you" and “I’m sorry”. An apology is not an admission of guilt, especially in the airline industry where the requirements are regulated and on the back of the ticket.

I fly on business; I live with delays, I understand the issues, and welcome them if I’m avoiding weather. I need information that is accurate, so I can plan my business and communicate as required. At this point all I ask for is for the airline or agent to not stonewall me, tell the truth, and keep me informed. An apology for a company screwup is nice, but not required.

Over at there is a column called “Ask the Pilot”. The author discussed this topic of airline announcements in this week’s column: … index.html

tks for the 411 :smiley: