Home > Uncategorized > Do airlines really not like their customers?

Do airlines really not like their customers?

Last week I had the great pleasure of flying to the US and back on a middle eastern airline. One of the trips involved sitting in the middle seat in economy for 14 hours. The pain of the entire experience made me think about airline travel in general.

For starters they seduce us with ads like this.  



But the reality is that unlike other modes of travel such as car, train or ship the airlines business has stayed the same, or even gone backwards.

Yes we have better engineered aircraft like the A380 or the Dreamliner, but as a customer it hasn’t impacted us at all. Unless you are traveling First or Business. However, given that the greater volumes lie in Economy it would not be a bad idea for them to make the lives of this wretched lot slightly better.

Given that the airport authorities and the security agencies make the starting point so bad already, this should have been a relatively low bar for an airline to cross. But they seem not to really care and go after stuffing the aircraft with as many passengers as they can fill then nickel and dime them and make life as miserable as possible for us all.

Start with the check in process. Many airlines now have kiosks or mobile check in saving time standing in line to check in. However, often if you are flying international after on-line check in, you still have to make a physical presence to check travel documents. This I get. But the proportion of counters web check in to walk in are something like 1:4. Incentivising walk ins than web check ins.  I imagine airlines would be happiest if all passengers checked in on-line saving staff time on the ground. And wait time for customers. Based on counters available this doesn’t seem to be the way they think.

Then let’s look at seat selection. Many airlines used to allow you to select seats when you booked your flight. Then Emirates changed their policy last month. You have to pay to select your seat in advance. Else take your chance at web check in time. The amount they charge is not hugely consequential so why not just bundle it into the ticket price? Why irritate the customer at another moment of truth.

And the seat itself: No one prefers to sit in the middle seats because they are uncomfortable as heck. I don’t understand why an airline would not ‘compensate’ a passenger stuck in the middle seat. Could the seats be w bit wider? Could the passenger get more loyalty points? Could the passenger be served first? Or something that makes middle seat travel a wee bit less angst filled?

My last point for this blog is my biggest bug bear. Carry on baggage. Why in the world do airlines have a policy of 7 kg carry on but not implement it. I find it odd that the same airline that charges for 1 lb excess baggage at check in allows people to carry tons of stuff in a roll on suitcase that meets physical dimensions. Of course there is limited storage space inside. This is what causes people to rush to board and often people like me who actually have just one laptop bag are left struggling to find space. There are many simple solution to this issue: Ban any roll ons or duffel bags. Charge for hand baggage for the second bag on a per pound/kg basis. Allow just one bag. And so on. Recently on an Air Alaska they prioritised boarding for passengers with no roll ons or duffel bags. And after we were in, the rest were allowed to board. And curiously the overhead locker design was such that you could keep suitcases on their side, allowing more bags to be placed there. Those that didn’t were checked in. Easy. Also made for much faster boarding.

There are many such little things that airlines could start doing that may not even cost them more and, in fact , give them an opportunity to make more money, that suggests they care for their customers.

Try and bring back some of the romance of air travel.

Else no matter what Jennifer Aniston says the dissonance for hundreds of passengers is growing with every flight.


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