A Small Step in American/US Air Merger Becomes Something More

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's probably not such a big deal in the ultimate scheme of things, but on Friday the American (AAL) counter at Charlotte Douglas International Airport was moved closer to the US Airways counter.

It was just one small moving part in the list of a million parts that have to be moved to assemble the world's largest airline. In the past two weeks, most of the attention has been focused on sub-optimal developments in efforts to negotiate post-merger flight attendant and pilot contracts.

But in Charlotte, some employees worked Friday to integrate the airlines at a more basic level after the smallish American counter at one end of the airport's main floor was moved a few hundred feet to become part of the sprawling US Airways counter at US Airway's busiest hub.

"This is not really about combining the ticket counters," said Terri Pope, American's vice president for the Charlotte hub. "This is about continuing to build a culture. The employees get to know one another and we get to continue to foster an environment of efficient teamwork and partnership.

"That is the culture that the employees of US Airways in Charlotte have fostered for decades," Pope said. "It's a blessing from inheriting a culture of employees with a foundation of caring about the customers."

That culture, Pope said, came from US Airways predecessor Piedmont Airlines, a hometown airline that started 90 miles up the road in Winston-Salem. "The culture of who we are is still that," Pope said.

It's unclear what fraction of the approximately 10,000 US Airways employees came from Piedmont, but every work group has a contingent, even if many former Piedmont employees left in the downsizing following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Pope noted that the majority of the two dozen agents at the US Airways ticket counter Friday morning were former Piedmont employees -- their seniority entitled them to weekday morning shifts.

As Pope talked to a reporter, a passenger began to question her. He held a US Airways credit card, which entitled him to check a bag free. Yet he was not offered free bag check when he checked in on line. Pope chatted with him and ascertained that he was going to an international destination (Mexico), so the free bag check did not apply.

Nevertheless, she said, "We listen to people, and we try to make it right." She instructed a manager to issue the passenger a refund for the bag check fee he had paid.

Meanwhile, at the American ticket counter, a group of about 50 soldiers from Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., was preparing to fly to Dallas. The group was headed to Fort Sill, Okla., for training.

Angel Delgado, a 14-year American agent, was checking them in. Delgado figured out a way to print all the boarding passes with a single computer entry. Then he stepped out from behind the counter with a stack of passes, stepped in front of the group of soldiers, and began calling out their name and handing them their boarding passes.

It was far easier and less time-consuming than having everybody stand in line and be issued boarding passes one by one.

In Charlotte, two airline service cultures are working toward a successful combination.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

To contact this writer, click here.

Follow @tedreednc

 

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

More from Stocks

Week Ahead: Trade Fears and Stress Tests Signal More Volatility To Come

Week Ahead: Trade Fears and Stress Tests Signal More Volatility To Come

3 Great Stock Market Sectors Millennials Should Invest In

3 Great Stock Market Sectors Millennials Should Invest In

Why Millennials Are Ditching Stocks for ETFs

Why Millennials Are Ditching Stocks for ETFs

Trump's 'Space Force' Could Launch a $1 Trillion Industry, Morgan Stanley Says

Trump's 'Space Force' Could Launch a $1 Trillion Industry, Morgan Stanley Says

Abiomed Stock Should Rise Some 12% From Here, Piper Jaffray Analyst Says

Abiomed Stock Should Rise Some 12% From Here, Piper Jaffray Analyst Says