America: Bad Airport Services Tarnish Our Image As a Super-Efficient Post Industrial Economy Flights delayed because of a sudden lack of cleaning crews. No proper announcements

By Paolo von Schirach

December 8, 2013

HELSINKI – Almost everybody experienced flight delays and cancellations due to weather or mechanical problems. Add this one to the list of causes: a three-hour delay because of lack of cleaning crews. Yes, of all of a sudden –this is a semi-official version– there were just not enough crews to prepare incoming aircrafts so that they would be fresh and clean and ready to welcome new passengers. On account of that, several international flights were delayed –we are talking hours– at a major US Airport.

A service economy?

Let’s take this unbelievable fact in context. Please remember that America is supposed to be a post-industrial economy totally focused on value added services. If we truly were a world leaders in services, an egregious breakdown such as this one, whatever the semi declared cause (“people were fired because they were caught stealing”), would be simply inconceivable. We are talking about thousands of passengers severely inconvenienced. We are talking about missed connections, missed meetings, works schedules undone.

This should not happen

No major airport in the world can allow this type of breakdown. But it did happen. And of course, to make things worse, the real facts were not revealed. Each announcement talked about an additional twenty minutes delay. Inconceivable that the airlines could not get a proper reading of the actual situation on the ground and make the appropriate announcements. “OK. this is bad. But let’s see how bad. How many cleaning crews do we have? How long does it take to turn around an incoming aircraft, (adjusting for size, number of seats, etc.)? This assessment could and should have been done. Whereas, nothing. Not a thing. Passengers were more or less left standing at the gates, with the mild reassurance that “we are boarding soon”.

Airlines get the blame

Anyway, you get the picture. Unhappy passengers, personal and work agendas disrupted, missed connections and major airlines that get a bad name.

Once again, please think about the fact that America is supposed to be a world leader in services. We design them better, we staff them better, we execute better. We are so good that we teach others.

Well, that’s the theory. In fact let’s say that this “was” the theory. Now it looks as if we need to do major repair work to be at least average.


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