I had some positive validation while flying from Hamburg to Miami last month about why our travel technology clients are winning– because they put into practice for airlines what the airlines are unable to do for themselves. Anyone who flies regularly knows how disconnected and disorienting the entire travel experience can be – unexplained delays, cancelled flights, desk agents with a million other priorities besides you and your convenience.
For all the talk at airline industry conferences about creating a stellar passenger experience, it’s time for carriers to recognize that they aren’t getting the job done. Passenger experience doesn’t begin in the cabin or end at the airport. I could tell a few horror stories …but I’d much rather forgive and forget and actually fix what’s broken about air travel.
On second thought, maybe just one personal story …to drive home why I care so much about this topic.
It started the day I was returning from an airline conference in Hamburg. I’d overslept (oops) and was running late. Even though the airport was only 6 miles away, there were no taxis to be hailed and there was no Uber service in town. Thinking the hotel might help, I talked to the concierge but he refused to even call for a taxi, saying there was an hour-plus wait. I felt like the concierge was punishing me for asking for his help and doing what he could to not improve my day of travel experience or provide any niceties.
Eventually, I found a taxi, got on a later flight and made it back to Miami the following day.
As for the flight itself, we flew on an old 747 and there was not a power outlet to be seen – the perfect case of an airline not anticipating passenger needs, not upgrading its service or providing even the basic amenities that passengers have come to expect. Like plugging in a laptop or a charging device for a phone or tablet. I don’t know anyone – certainly no one in my network – who carries around a cigarette charger auxiliary cord to power a laptop. That’s how things worked on the old plane.
And while airlines can’t instantly upgrade their fleets with the latest and greatest aircraft, they can improve the little things that make up passenger experience – and they can do it incrementally and affordably with the help of our clients’ travel technology solutions.
For all the industry talk about passenger experience and marketing of new technology solutions, it’s really the basic things that matter most – like getting to the airport on-time and checking in quickly, having staff at the gate who understand customer service, and having the right outlets and other basic amenities onboard the flight. How can airlines expect to up-sell and cross-sell passengers when they don’t even have the basics down?
Cheap fares have helped create an airline industry that has gotten comfortable with cheap service – but that’s not the way to keep an industry dynamic and growing. Airlines can survive in a “race to the bottom,” but for how long? At the end of the day, airlines are replaceable – customers are not.
What’s your poor passenger experience story? And more importantly, what’s your solution? Let’s start a discussion in the comments section below.
If you liked this blog post, you’ll also like this one about what beleaguered car rental companies have to teach us about listening to their customers.