This past weekend I had the misfortune of traveling on United Airlines. It was a rather frustrating and difficult process typified with customer service as everyone simply going through the motions. This does not appear to be unusual. In addition to this there were two significant instances where United could have easily excelled at customer service but instead chose to needlessly inconvenience their customers. To be fair to United I've noticed that all the other airlines have also chosen to ignore these opportunities so I'll make this an open post to the airline industry on some simple technology suggestions to improve your customer service.
1. Notify people of their connecting gates while they are still on the plane. Due to a delay in leaving Vancouver we were late in arriving in Denver and people were naturally anxious about making their connections. The flight attendants announced that they no longer received connecting gate information and asked people to check the monitors after leaving the plane. Connections to Kansas City and Chicago were apparently particularly tight. A few minutes after their first announcement they did announce the connecting gates for Kansas City and Chicago which of course frustrated everyone else that was left with no information.
Announcing connecting gate information used to be commonplace and as this example it can still be done if airlines really wanted to do it. I'm not sure why the don't do this anymore. Presumably it is because the attendants are busy with other important duties which makes a prime opportunity to use technology to improve customer service. Since the data exists and they already know which connecting flights are of interest to each incoming flights passengers why not either use the video monitors (if the plane has them) or put up simple announcement monitors with this information. It would provide people with the information they want and not tie up the attendants.
If they really want to do it right, they'd also include the connecting flight status. There is nothing more frustrating to arrive late, make a mad breathless dash across the airport only to learn the connecting flight is delayed. Why not relieve passenger anxiety by letting them know that before they even get off the plane?