Airlines and Customer Relations

OK, I’ll admit it. If I never had to set foot again in an airport or on a airplane life would be better, if not good. Wonder how many others feel the same way these days? Of course, that ain’t going to happen for a variety of reasons — but mostly because I like to travel to parts of the country and world that make flying the only reasonable option.

And I’m still quasi-working — which requires some business travel.

Suck it up, big guy. Get in the queue — be prepared for the strip search — and don’t even think about bringing any luggage. Say what?

And I understand — and agree with — the need for security. That came home again early this a.m. when I got up and checked the news alerts on my BlackBerry signaling a possible security incident on a flight from DC to Denver. And in-flight security alerts and issues are becoming more common even with the emphasis on airport screening and public and media awareness. USAToday reports that the number of flights forced to land prematurely because of security alerts doubled — to 35 — in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2009.

That, I guess, points to both increased security — and increased stupidity on the part of airline passengers. Go figure.

So given the security concerns — and hassles associated with flying — wouldn’t you think that the airlines would try to make passengers feel as good as they can about flying? Well, here’s the latest.

Spirit Airlines has announced that it will begin charging as much as $30 for each carry-on bag that you can’t fit under the seat. None of the so-called major airlines have piled on — as yet. So we’ll see. Maybe this is just the policy of one airline. Maybe it is an industry trial balloon.

And I get it. As Christine Negroni points out in her NYT article — “Less Baggage, Big Savings to Airlines” — there are plenty of cost savings involved in limiting baggage. And I expect that every dollar helps an industry that is struggling financially.

Yet it doesn’t strike me as doing much for customer relations — or customer loyalty. Maybe that doesn’t matter all that much these days. Sigh.

And I have to fly to DC in early May — with at least two bags in hand.

Double sigh.

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3 responses to “Airlines and Customer Relations

  1. “So given the security concerns — and hassles associated with flying — wouldn’t you think that the airlines would try to make passengers feel as good as they can about flying?” —

    You would think so, but as someone who also flies a lot, it honestly seems that they almost want you to suffer.

    I definitely think that customer service inspires loyalty in this way. As you know, we recently flew Lufthansa round trip to Malaga. On a 3 hour flight, they gave us a warm, gourmet meal, free wine and beer, and a bar of real, gourmet chocolate. And after our meal, they came down the aisles with coffees. It was a little thing these days, but it makes me want to fly Lufthansa again. In addition to that, I signed up for their frequent flier miles and they credited me for 3 previous flights I had taken on them this year, including one that was Lufthansa/Continental cross-listed from this summer.

    Finally, I don’t know if the Spirit airlines model will work unless they charge far below the competition’s prices for flights. In Europe, there are several budget airlines– Ryan Air, Wizz Air, to name two. And I don’t fly them unless they are really really good deals. Because for these flights, it’s essentially first come first serve for everything. People line up at the gate and literally run to the plane trying to get a good seat. Talk about a long way from the days when you got dressed up in your nicest outfit and drank champagne on airplanes!!!

  2. Jessica,

    Your point about customer service is an excellent one. I should have included it in my original post.

    In this business environment and tough economy, it seems to me that those airlines/companies that work hard to please customers would have a great competitive advantage. My sense is that Southwest is one of the airlines that excels here.

  3. In all fairness, my loyalties can be very easily bought for a bar of chocolate 😉

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