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Jan 12

When Little Things Matter…

Every company in corporate America thinks that it is more clever than its customers. That statement applies double to travel companies. A cut here, a cut there, and they’ll save a few dollars. Change some signage or numbers and the customers won’t notice. The company will save a few bucks and net income will go up.

Except customers do notice. A company might get away with one or two minor changes, but ten of them, even if each individual one is insignificant, won’t go unnoticed. I got a couple of those this week, and it’s going to cost at least one hotel some money.

Westin Philadelphia And The Case Of The Missing Internet

I spent the past couple of nights at the Westin Philadelphia. All in all, it’s a decent hotel. It’s old, so it has the usual issues, but the rooms themselves were fine and the facilities were good. The location, especially for business travelers, is unbeatable.

But there’s a problem, and it’s this:

westin philadelphia

That’s enhanced high speed? It’s barely enough to watch Netflix.

Internet at the property comes  in three forms: Free, high-speed and enhanced high-speed. I have to give these guys credit, in that most hotels only have two levels of internet. Somehow, the Westin managed to sneak in a third. I got mine for free because I have elite status, but the regular high-speed is $15.95 per day and the enhanced high-speed is $21.95 per day. There’s no excuse for charging that much for internet access (other than “because we can,”), but if you do, it had really better be high speed. Instead, with the most expensive internet, I got the results above, which was barely enough to keep Netflix running. I spent 30-45 minutes on the phone with their outsourced tech group, who told me that the hotel had set the peak speed at 10 Mbps. The “regular” high-speed capped out at 3 Mbps. I  don’t even know what the free access got you, but I’ll assume it’s something akin to the days when I got those AOL discs in the mail.

I have no doubt that a bean counter at the hotel decided to save a few pennies by keeping the internet speed capped, or forcing people to buy up. The problem is, there are a ton of hotels in the area.

But forget the hotel guest’s cost of the internet. Theirs barely functioned, and business travelers won’t put up with that. I wonder how much revenue they lose because of (lack of) service issues, a number that they can’t measure.

If you want to read an example of another Starwood hotel that pinched pennies to their detriment, it’s worth taking a look at this Flyertalk thread. The thread was launched only two days ago and has already received over 1,000 views. That number will grow and show up on any Google search for anyone looking up the hotel.

D-0 Or A-0?

Airlines are required to report their on-time statistics and often refer to a number known as D-0 or A-0. D stands for departure, A stands for arrival, and the number is how many minutes late the flight was. So if the number reads 80% of flights were A-15, it means that 80% of the airline’s flights arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time. The airlines do build in extra block time* to pad their numbers, but those times are pretty similar across the board.

When discussing their performance with the public, American Airlines refers to D-0, or flights that depart on time. Delta, on the other hand, discusses A-0, or flights that arrive on time. It may not seem to make a difference, but it does. It really doesn’t matter what time a flight departs. Nobody cares what time they push back from the gate. What they do care about is making it to their destination when they were supposed to. A flight that departs the gate on-time but sits on the runway for two hours may show as D-0, but you’re going to have a lot of unhappy passengers.

I saw that in person the other day. My flight to Philadelphia left the gate at D-8 (eight minutes late), a perfectly good number. And that’s what showed up when I checked the flight later, and it will go into American’s statistics when they brag about their performance to analysts each quarter and in the media. Sadly, though, reality didn’t play out as well as the numbers would sound. We sat on the runway for an hour and a half, the flight arrived over an hour late and many of the people connecting missed their flights, including the family sitting next to me, who was heading home to Puerto Rico after two months away.

It may seem to be a minor point, but any passenger who thought that the departure time meant something may have found out the hard way that it didn’t.


*Beginner’s Hint: “Block time” refers to the additional time that airlines build into their schedules to account for delays. For example, a flight from Boston to New York might only be 45 minutes in the air, but it gets scheduled for 90 minutes. The extra 45 minutes accounts for all the time that the airplane will spend waiting on the runway.



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