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Kick the tires

I've been flying USAir for over 20 years, Like all other airlines, they've had their ups and downs. An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal tells us good news: USAir now ranks as first in on time performance. The story - the management lesson - is how they did it.

USAir focused on on time departure and performance as the number one - and central - goal, a goal laid out to the entire workforce. From that one goal, the company then looked at who to reach that goal - what was interfering with achieving that goal? They added 100 mechanics at the Philadelphia hub (I've been through there many times - it was pure hell, the worst airport in the country and no Starbucks!), they changed how they handled bags for connecting flights, they put in display screens so that ground workers could better see where each plane was going and the departure time.  They discovered that some thought that pushing back 30 minutes late was acceptable. They adjusted schedules to better reflect reality, such as sitting on line for takeoff and landing.

To help all this, the company gave out bonuses of $50 a month when ontime performance targets were hit. This helps motivate and remind everyone of how important this goal is to the company, and that everyone has a part in making it happen.

USAir invested in the company, invested in people, and set a clear, measurable and very public goal. If the planes don't fly, the company doesn't earn income. When passengers have choices, they will leave for other airlines, and even if stuck with the lousy airline, passengers are going to be more outspoken, and generally braced for problems - which, of course, helps lead to problems.

I'll be travelling on USAir twice in the next few weeks, including one trip to Philadelphia. My daughter has flown through Philly, and independently came to the same conclusion I have. I'm looking forward to see changes.

Now, if Delta could only learn a lesson or two.