At a time when the travel industry, airlines, hotels, credit cards, and travel agencies should be benefiting from the extra leisure time and disposable cash from the demographically huge ‘baby boom’ generation, the travel industry seems to have lost or fired their marketing people. The revenues and profits of the entire industry should be huge and unprecedented. But, instead, today everything about travel and the credit card industry is upside down.
Let’s start for example with the labyrinthine policies for flight changes or cancellations. They have totally forgotten about customer satisfaction. It’s all about the airline, the credit card and their respective lawyers. They have forgotten their customer, except perhaps for Southwest where changes or cancellations are very simple and they seem happy to accommodate. On other airlines, passengers are penalized for almost any change or cancellation, unless you buy trip insurance or pay a higher penalty fare for fully refundable tickets. Reading the fine print in travel insurance is torture. What’s wrong with making travel simple? If you want customer loyalty, then make your product efficient, simple, easy to use and reasonably priced. Such an airline, credit card, hotel or car rental agency or travel agency website would not need a “customer loyalty program.”
Almost all airlines and credit cards today are about the fine print terms and conditions. They use negative incentives, penalties and higher prices to attempt to get passengers to upgrade. Then they use loyalty programs to trap customers into repeat business, because passengers are so dissatisfied that they are constantly changing from one carrier or card to another. This is really stupid from the point of view of customer satisfaction. Better product results in customer satisfaction and loyalty. All passengers can see that airline and credit card services have been downgraded over the years. The only place lower they can go now is to require travellers to clean plane, clean the toilets and carry out the garbage.
Now imagine if you actually got a comfortable seat when you booked a regular coach ticket. Do you remember economy seats where you could open your laptop on the fold down tray and get some work done. When the passenger in front of you could recline their seat while you were sitting up in yours to work, without you have to become intimate with their hair products and scalp issues.
Do you remember being able to walk on and off a plane almost immediately, instead of standing in the aisles while 200+ people load or unload their baggage from the overhead compartment? This is classic upside down airline thinking. Instead of charging passengers extra to bring their main baggage or extra baggage into the cabin, the airlines charge you to check your baggage. Which means almost everyone tries to get everything into their hand carry baggage and then cram all their baggage in the overhead compartments and under their seats. The result of this misguided, mistaken marketing effort to generate more revenue is customer dissatisfaction. The cabin is crowded. There are long delays in boarding and de-planing. Departures are delayed. On the other hand, when customers had incentive or at least no extra charge (i.e. penalty) for checking their bags, boarding and de-planing was swift, planes ran on schedule. Cabins were not as crowded. If airline must charge extra, it should be for those things that delay and inconvenience other customers and potentially delay the flights, such as carry on. On the other hand, when passengers arrive at the terminal, we generally have plenty of time to check bags because they know there will be usually be security delays and airlines want you at the gate 30 minutes prior to boarding, also there is plenty of room in the terminal and usually multiple counters to check bags. In addition, the airline has plenty of time to check the bags in with no rush, and their customers are not waiting while the conveyor belts and baggage handlers load the bags in the belly of the plane. Basically, they are doing it upside down and backwards with regard to customer satisfaction.
Instead of penalizing passengers in normal economy seats in an devious attempt to get passengers to upgrade to premium economy, business class or first class, airline should be providing comfortable seats and more room in regular economy. Business class would then be distinguished by more services such as WiFi, more room where it is important to work or rest, better food, meals and drinks included. First class is then further extended by full recline sleeper seats, first class meals on china with silverware, drinks, services, arrival and departure lounges, concierge greeting at the airport, with concierge-assisted accelerated, guided security clearance and baggage checking.
Bottom line, in an industry like travel, customer satisfaction should be the supplier’s most important goal and consideration. Today, it is mendacious rhetoric covering up fine print. Yes, it’s a sign of the times.
Why do airlines, credit cards and most of the travel industry require a law degree to travel, to understand the terms and conditions? Don’t get me started. That’s a discussion for another time after several libations.