I am the airlines worst nightmare. Give me a wireless connection to the Net and I will guarantee I know more about the state of affairs, alternative plans, lies and prevarications than the most bored and hapless gate agent can muster.
My last day of vacation and it is being spent inside of Terminal C of LaGuardia, courtesy of US Airways, who two weeks in a row has screwed me with massive delays (and one outright cancellation) while trying to fly from NYC to Cape Cod. Today’s destination is Martha’s Vineyard. The plan was an 11:30 departure, 12:30 arrival, and an afternoon of fishing. Well, that is not going to happen. It is 1 pm and I will be lucky to sit on the plane by 2 pm.
The plane was in Lebanon, New Hampshire up to a few minutes ago. The gate agent just lied or had a bad system, because at 12 he said that plane was in the air. It wasn’t. It was on the ground in New Hampshire and I knew it and he didn’t.
Now I know exactly where it is thanks to Flightview. More importantly, every other pissed off passenger sitting near me also knows where it is. This knowledge is sparking a revolution, with everyone dialing like mad to cover ourselves with alternatives. To US Air’s credit — unlike Southwest — they actually welcome electronic communications.
I just had a terse chat with a rep named Julie W. I received an email with the transcript. I love the last line, the ultimate in happy face insincerity. Anyway, before I launch into the transcript, let me declare no industry — more than the airline industry — needs to get its social media marketing act together (maybe healthcare insurance). Hostage passengers are literally able to blog in real time while stuck on the plane. Every action is captured on cell video phones. There is more information at the passengers’ command than ever before, and we all know what information is.
I hope Congress kicks the airline industry’s butt this week. 70% delay statistics are deplorable.
Julie W: Hello David. Welcome to US Airways online customer support.
I have received your message and am currently researching your question. I will be with you in a moment. David Churbuck: thx Julie W: Please give me a moment to check that for you. Julie W: I am showing that flight 4892 is delayed and has not departed yet. Julie W: It is giving a time for departure at 12:10pm with an arrival of 1:29pm. David Churbuck: It is 12:21, the gate agent said 30 minutes ago it has departed David Churbuck: should I make other plans? I MUST get to Martha's Vineyard today Julie W: She must have more updated information. I am showing the above in my system. David Churbuck: Thank you Julie W: I would recommend speaking with the agent at the airport about rescheduling the flight
if your trip is futile. David Churbuck: They won't commit until they cancel David Churbuck: They did this to me last week on a flight from LGA to HYA David Churbuck: I wait three hours, the delays keep getting pushed out, no one shares any information,
and then it is cancelled Julie W: Do you have checked in bags? Julie W: Did you check in any bags on your current flight? David Churbuck: no Julie W: I am going to see if I can change this for you. The next flight departs at 3:59pm and
will arrive at 1:29pm. Julie W: I mean 5:24pm. Julie W: Would you rather be scheduled on that flight? David Churbuck: Okay -- what if 4801 actually arrives before 4 or does not get cancelled. David Churbuck: This is the last day of my vacation, I'd like to get at least one hour of daylight
at my destination Julie W: If I change this then you would be confirmed on the later flight not the earlier flight
if it arrives early. David Churbuck: no thanks, that would be terrible to see the flight leave because I was impatient.
Are there many seats on the 3:59 pm available? Julie W: I am showing that the flight is approximately 80% full. David Churbuck: okay, I will take my chances on 4801 and if it cancels rush to get rebooked Julie W: Are there any other questions I can assist you with today? David Churbuck: no thank you Julie W: You're welcome. Thank you for choosing US Airways. Have a great day!
Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion before the CEOs and Presidents of WPP‘s family of agencies and operating companies (Y&R, JWT, Ogilvy, Mindshare, etc.) on the topic of social networks. The moderator was Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the Internet Advertising Bureau, and with me on the stools were:
- Michael Barrett, EVP Fox Interactive Media and Chief Revenue Officer
- Kevin Wall, founder and producer of Live Earth
- Peter Daou, Internet Director Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign
I was the token corporate presence, and gave my spiel about the role of Social Media Marketing as the true builder of an online brand through monitoring and detection, outreach and participation. The audience, senior as it was, had been brought together to focus on strategy in the era of what I call the “online avalanche” — a silent cascade of online media that is burying traditional assumptions about classic “Four P’s Marketing” and brand management.
Given the huge scope of the topic, I wasn’t able to get into full Belushi mode and launch a Jim Cramer inspired rant, but I landed a few punches around the notion that one cannot manipulate the network and control the conversation without getting nailed on charges of insincerity and astro turfing. I invoked the usual bugaboos of interactive marketing — Dell Hell as the tocsin for blog marketing and conversational/engagement strategies, and the Wal-Mart/Edelman RV blog as the death knell for ulterior motive marketing.
Midway through the 90 minutes I realized how bewildering and cataclysmic this must all seem to a senior executive with thirty or forty years of solid experience in a world once rocked by the web, and now getting churned as the pieces all fall into place. I wonder how many are ready to push the plunger and blow up old assumptions and structures to approach their clients’ in this strange new world. Indeed, I think the ultimate challenge would be to launch, purely online, a new brand with no traditional media support in terms of the old 30-second spot.
The discussion was far ranging — with the common ground between us being the use of the network on cause related initiatives — corporate social responsibility, union organizing, flash mobs, citizen class action movements. Some very perceptive questions emerged, including concerns that clients accustomed to controlling the message would make a half-baked, versus an all-in approach, and the return of “public” to Public Relations which has, heretofore, been primarily a “Press Relations” function.
Good stuff and worth the vacation interruption. Now to have US Air shake a leg and get my flight back to the island back on schedule (I was not voted off the island).
Disclosure: Lenovo is a client of Ogilvy & Mather, a WPP company
Cousin Pete is adamant I not go into detail so he can rent the cottage next year, so I won’t get into gory details other than to make the following observations:
1. Distance traveled has no correlation on the quality of the experience. I went less than forty miles for this break, driving from Cotuit to Woods Hole, crossing Vineyard Sound on the Steamship Authority, boat in tow, then down North Road to Menemsha. Total travel time: three hours. I might as well have travelled to Hawaii.
The boat aboard the MV Nantucket, first on-first off
2. I rented the perfect cottage. 100% perfect from the paint-by-number Winslow Homer over the beach stone fireplace, to the circa 1930 novels in the bookshelves.
3. There is no luxury greater than vacationing off-season. Kids in college, one away on aÂ school camping trip … suddenly Indian Summer takes on a whole new meaning.
4. Fishing is never about the catching, but the day spent standing in quiet water looking at nice things with people you want to hang out with.