It seems that, after banks, airlines have become the most hated companies for customers to deal with. I’ll bet there is not one person reading this blog that hasn’t had multiple bad experiences with airlines; either at check-in, on the phone or internet, boarding or trying to unravel the mystery of lost luggage.
But what gets me about the airline industry is, they just don’t seem to have the desire to improve. Oh, they rebrand (at a cost of millions; e.g.. American Airlines new logo and branding) but they don’t improve their customer service. As if we are supposed to accept crappy service because the paint is new.
“We’ve changed our look on the outside to reflect the progress we’ve made on the inside, revealing our new logo and the refreshed exterior of our planes.” quote from the American Airlines website
One of the issues I hear about most from airline travellers is the hidden charges that have sprung up over the past several years. It seems that every function and department now is a profit centre (instead of a service centre).
It’s not just a simple ticket fee any more. Now you have to pay an extra charge for baggage, then a fuel surcharge, many charge for seats, and of course the exorbitant ticket change charges. Some airlines even have an early-boarding charge, many now charge for meals (if you call those high carb snacks a meal), and a drinks charge.
So what’s next on their ever escalating search for more profit? I wouldn’t be surprised if they begin charging for life vests. How about a charge for a seat belt? A charge for use of the lavatory? Next in line will be a toll charge for walking up and down the isles. Oh, and they could make some real money by charging for the air vent and to recline your seat!
Profit ahead of service seems to be the motto of most airlines today. Their lame defence about all these charges is that the cost of fuel is so high they risk going out of business if they don’t have other revenue sources. To me the real costs in the airline business are poor employee productivity, bloated management layers, exorbitant executive salaries, and poor teamwork. “It’s not my department!” is the standard reply when asking an airline employee for help!
And recently at our summer Young Virtuosi Music Festival in the south of France we ran into a particularly onerous fee charging policy. It seems that to take a musical instrument, like a violin or cello, on board the plane, you must by a separate seat ticket for it. And since no one wants their precious instrument to go in the cargo hold (also known as a “trash compactor”), this is pretty much standard and grudgingly accepted by travelling musicians. And of course it’s a full fare ticket, not a reduced ticket.
But here comes the best (or worst part) of the customer service equation. You are not allowed to check any luggage on that instrument ticket! In other words, you have standard baggage allowance for a passenger ticket, but no luggage allowance for a musical instrument ticket, even though you pay full fare!
Do they actually try to piss off customers on purpose, or is this just another example of a business run by accountants? After all, customers or customer service isn’t a line item on the balance sheet so they must not be important.
Let me be very honest and just say that if any airline would let me take the violin and the laptop on board I would fly that airline all the time. ~Lara St. John
United Airlines slogan used to be “Fly the Friendly Skies of United”, but they dropped that for “Let’s Fly Together”. No service promise implied!
It’s tough being an airline customer! And expensive.
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress