Saturday, July 19, 2014

The airline industry finally gives back. OK no they didn't, and they probably never will, unless...

It seems that the bigger an industry gets the less care goes to making customers happy.  I do see how ultimately it is near impossible for the people on the top to care about the customer. Customer complaints and suggestions trickle down the line and pretty much get lost by the time they get to people who want to make change.  When that customers suggestion gets up the line it is lost by the all more important factor of making the company money.  I wanted to bring up what I know any airline traveler feels when flying the "Friendly Skies".

I think South Park summed up the airline industry best in their episode "The Entity" which actually aired just 2 months after September 11th back in 2001.  The basic concept was instead of the airlines people drove around in the "IT".  The "IT" was a monowheel vehicle which was driven by two rods ,one inserted in the mouth and the other through the anus.  The constant joke was the "IT" drivers stating "At least it beats the airline industry".

Fast forward 13 years later and nothing has changed.  In fact it has gotten worst.  Airline industries have cut things like blankets and pillows.  We are now charged for bags, food, reduced the size of the free peanut bag, and also charged for tv's.  In fact Frontier Airlines charged me for water.  Oh and have you noticed we are still getting charged a $10 September 11th fee?  This topic alone would take another whole blog.

I travel about 6 months out of the year and I now just kind of get out of my car and let go of trying to have any type of control of where the airlines will send me.  If I try to care it only leads to frustration.  Most all airports have the frustration energy built around it.  This "giving up" attitude is what is wrong with the industry.  So what can we do?

I should probably explain the latest rod insertion that happened to me today.  I am leaving on Friday to fly to Bali.  I had booked an "Award" ticket about 6 months ago.  In order to book this free "Award" ticket I called everyday for 1 month to check to see if they could find me an available ticket.  Every day I was on the phone for 15-30 minutes while they checked the award travel network.  They only pull a few tickets for the Award program and these are limited.  As the years pass there are less and less tickets available (or more and more people are using them).  If you do not call over 1 year ahead you are more then likely out of luck (at least with American Airlines).  Now my ticket was all set.  Unfortunately, my plans had caused me to change my flight.  So back on the phone for 2 weeks everyday seeing if I can change my ticket.  No luck.  So I took the matter into my own hands.  WRONG move.  I originally was flying Bangkok to Hong Kong and then Hong Kong back to Orlando.  I went ahead and purchased a new ticket from another airline from Bangkok to Hong Kong.  I then figured I could keep the rest of my "Award" trip as is to get me home.  I called up American Airlines and thought I was helping them out because I was opening a new ticket for them for someone else to buy.  Instead I was charged $150 for a change in departure city.  You see now I am started my trip home from Hong Kong and not Bangkok.

I do not lose my temper, and still find no reason to argue or bitch to the customer service department.  We all know what that does.  Instead I talked to customer service department and asked her straight up if she thought this was a fair practice.  I asked if she would like to be treated this way.  After all, I use their airlines quite a bit and I am supposed to be "Rewarded" with an "Award" ticket.  At least it is in the name.  The customer service rep is taught that her company has rules and regulations, and she should not try to steer away from these rules.  You could hear that in her response.  She told me, she loved American Airlines and she would write an email to her manager to ask for change.  With her tone of her voice I could tell she was going to get right on that.  I asked her if she thought the Airline Industry would ever turn into a Friendly industry.  Her response was "I believe it will because American Airlines is merging with US Air."

All this was just to bring up an example.  The bottom line is we are all guilty of not making the change.  We as customer accept that we have to pay a "$10 September 11th fee".  We as airline customer service department accept that Frontier Airlines needs to charge the customer $25 at the gate for a bag that actually does fit on as a carry on.  We as TSA accept that people are not comfortable being patted down or harassed in the security line.  We as a Manager accepts that there is no way to bend the rules. Ultimately we as CEO's of airline industries worry about how much money we make.  Until we make the change we will remain frustrated.

Maybe it's time to restructure.  Start at the top.  Ask the question "What can I give to my customer to make them more comfortable."  Stop asking the questions "What can I pretend to give to my customer so I can advertise it and ultimately make money".  Make the shift to GIVE.

I am happy to be able to have control over my new company.  I am happy that I can give back to my customer.  I am happy that I can GIVE back to my customer.  My goal is not to make money my goal is to make my customer happy.  The airline industry continues to drive this message into me, and I will in return drive it out into the world.    Here is a link to the beginning of my company.  Two Feather Connection