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Landing in first place

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US Airways ranked last in on-time performance among major airlines last year. This year, so far, it’s No. 1. How did the airline manage to turn things around?

Chief operating officer (and turnaround specialist) Robert Isom says inspiring employees to deliver better service was the push behind the change.

Three ways he rallied the workforce:

  1. Offer financial incentives. US Airways pays $50 monthly bonuses to all employees when the airline achieves its operational goals, and it offers hefty financial rewards to employees who generate customer compliments, including quarterly drawings for $262,500 in cash prizes.
  2. Set them up to win. Example: The airline changed its scheduling practices so that crews flying the last trip of the night weren’t the first ones out in the morning. First departures were often delayed because of federal crew rest minimums, which meant those planes ran late all day.
  3. Redefine “on time.” Some employees thought that planes pushed back within 30 minutes after departure time was OK. Isom created the common rallying cry of “D-zero”: every departure at or before its scheduled time.

— Adapted from “How US Airways Vaulted to First Place,” Scott McCartney, The Wall Street Journal.

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