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A Tale of 2 Airports
By: Mike Bush
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While we in PR aren’t necessarily in customer service, the reality is, we kind of are.

If you’re an in-house comms person, you probably do (and absolutely should) have some input into messaging aimed at your customers.

The following is the tale of two airports, and a discussion of how all it takes is one, small overlooked department to completely obliterate all of the good feelings and hard work teams have put into creating a winning customer experience.
  • A couple deplanes, and at the gate, a young woman greets them with a sign (the sign had the names of the couple on it). The woman explains that, because the time between flights is so short, she’s been asked to meet them at the gate, radio ahead to the second flight (to make sure it doesn’t leave without the couple), and serve as a guide to get them to their next stop. The couple thanks the young woman (a few times), remarking how nice it was to be greeted and so well taken care of. Customer service win!
  • A couple deplanes an international flight, and hurriedly makes it through customs, where they grab the luggage they’ve checked and hand it over to a security guard where it will be rechecked (having gone through the U.S. scanner). The security guard hurls the bag a dozen or so feet through the air, as the couple eyes each other, realizing that “anything made of glass in that bag just shattered.” Moments later, as they try to make it through security, it’s explained that they will have to leave behind a purchase they made in the Duty Free shop. The explanation is as follows:

We’re the only airport in the U.S. that won’t allow you to take duty-free purchases through security. It would have had to have been checked. (Note: this conversation took place 10 minutes AFTER the couple was required to check their bags… somewhere, Adam Sandler screams ‘Once again, things that could've been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!’).

Needless to say, all of this actually happened at the same airport.

So, to the folks who are tirelessly working to craft a wonderful customer experience at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, I’d say this:

You’re absolutely on the right track… but until you change the way TSA agents treat the public, you’re not going to be remembered very fondly.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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