When the Rules Don’t Fly Was performance management to blame when a major U.S. airline failed to give a friendly welcome home to a U.S. Army unit returning from Afghanistan?

When the Rules Don’t Fly
Was performance management to blame when a major U.S. airline failed to give a friendly welcome home to a U.S. Army unit returning from Afghanistan? When the 34-member unit arrived in Baltimore for an 18-hour layover, the airline transporting them informed two staff sergeants that they needed to pay $200 for each soldier carrying a fourth bag. The military orders for the unit stated that the bags would be covered by the ticket price, but the sergeants could not persuade the airline’s agents. These employees insisted that they had to follow company policy, and according to that policy, checking a fourth bag costs $200.
Airlines impose the fees as a way to keep up with rising transportation costs even as fliers shop around for the lowest airfare. This airline’s policy was in line with similar fees at other air carriers. Like other kinds of companies, airlines make their employees responsible for following the rules. Following rules is often the most basic kind of performance standard.
In this case, however, the employees’ attempts to follow the rules led the airline into an embarrassing situation. The frustrated sergeants videotaped their reaction at the airport and posted the video on YouTube. Before long, the airline was publicly humiliated for its treatment of soldiers who had been away serving the country. Shortly afterward, the airline announced that it would refund the $2,800 it had charged the soldiers for excess-baggage fees. It noted that the normal procedure is for traveling service members-who fly at a reduced rate-to be reimbursed by the military for any excess-baggage fees. Apparently, the agents had not explained the procedure clearly. Also, carrying an unlimited amount of baggage for free would put airlines at a disadvantage in serving their most profitable customer segment, business customers. These customers place a high value on reliable transportation of their bags and on-time arrivals.
To avoid this kind of embarrassment, what kinds of performance standards do you think an airline should establish for employees working at ticket counters?

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