You’ve heard all of them:
Delta – We love to fly and it shows
American – Something special in the air
United – Fly the friendly skies
In my opinion these were, and still are, empty promises. Lip service or rubbish as my English friends refer to it. I think a lot about customer service and the lack thereof. I’m sure many of you would agree service is a crap shoot when it comes to air travel.
During a recent American Airlines flight, I stumbled across an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, Copycats Rule the Skies. The author went out of his way to quote several airline experts. He could have saved the effort and just asked you or me.
One industry analyst said, “The big 3 airlines have dissolved into one big homogeneous blob.” He did point out that it’s been this way since deregulation however they are more alike today than they have ever been. Another quote from a frequent traveler nailed it… “I feel like it’s a race to the bottom. One airline says we can give passengers less by doing X and the others say, that’s a great idea!”
If one changes its frequent flier rules the others follow suit. The same goes for seating configuration, airfares and amenities. I get that it is a crazy game they play trying to keep airfares down and airplanes full. The Big 3 have a monopoly on the long haul market. That will never change. With that said, I have one question… Why is it always about giving less to the passenger?
My flight was a hop, skip and a jump from Houston to Dallas. Prior to boarding the smallish plane in Houston we were asked to check our carry-on bags. When we deplaned at DFW, we were asked to stand in the jetway to pick up our bags before entering the terminal. Little did I know I was about to have an experience that would help me make my point!
If you have ever had to stand in a jetway in the middle of August in Dallas you know it’s pretty special. Can you say sauna? Oh but it gets better on this particular occasion. Some genius decided to make retrieving bags off of a 4 level luggage rack a self-service opportunity. I guess said genius didn’t realize that short people can’t reach the top shelf and old people can’t bend down to retrieve their bags from the bottom shelf. The best part, on this day, there’s an American agent standing there watching as the clamor and chaos reaches a fevered pitch. Seriously?
I wasn’t thrilled but I bit my tongue. One big ole cowboy in front of me was less thrilled and more vocal. As he bent down to get his luggage he couldn’t resist sharing his thoughts so everyone within earshot could hear. “This airline is ridiculous,” he said in disgust. Just as I was thinking that was pretty gentle, he got up, pointed his index finger in the face of the gate agent and yelled, “This is f-ing horse bleep” and stormed off. I guess he felt the group needed a spokesperson.
This wasn’t about American. I’m sure you have had a similar experience regardless of the carrier. The fact is they can provide “horse bleep” service and it won’t deter us from coming back. The sad thing is they seem to be okay with that.
When was the last time you were absolutely blown away by the customer service you received from one of The Big 3? This makes me wonder when one of them is going to make a conscientious effort to differentiate their brand by living up to their slogan? Just think if one of them did… Chances are the other 2 would follow and us passengers might have more enjoyable travel experiences!
Oh BTW… In 2015, the big 3 U.S. airlines earned a combined $19.5 billion in net profit.