I fly American. Not because I love the airline - I don’t. But a few years back I found myself with about 100,000 miles on United, American, and Delta and no elite status on any. If you travel enough, you start to learn that these things matter, so I flipped a coin one day and picked American. I signed up for multiple AAdvantage credit cards and an Advantage bank account. Now I’m trapped and would switch in a heartbeat if I found something better. Last week I had to fly Delta, since somehow America’s largest airline doesn’t fly direct to one of America’s largest cities. I had been wondering whether Delta was any better than the others, with the in-seat TVs and menu created by well-know chef, Todd English.
Seemed like they were on the right track. I don’t think paying for airplane food is such a bad idea, as long as it’s food worth paying for. Nor paying for a movie, if it’s a movie I want to see. In fact, I’d pay just for them not to show the latest Billy Crystal or the tv-version of the 40 Year Old Version three years after the fact.
Here’s the thing, and I’ll put it bluntly: after all the hype, the food sucked. The orzo had way too much oil - to the point you couldn’t taste anything else. And my rowmates didn’t seem to fair too much better – one woman liked her caesar salad, but the other one threw away almost her whole fried chicken sandwich. Todd English should be ashamed.
Oh, and roughly half the TVs on the flight, including mine both directions, didn’t work at all. I didn’t want to watch TV — I’m writing this on the return flight now — but if you offer it up, you better be able to deliver.
When are the airlines going to wake up? Stop nickel-and-diming your customers to death. Get into some real work defining what’s going to make your brand different and better, and then get serious about executing it. Can’t they see that nearly everyone is frustrated with nearly every airline? Don’t they see that they have a tremendous opportunity to be the one who gets it right?
I flew business not too long ago and there was an Ameritrade placard on my meal tray. To be fair, it could have been Schwab, or actually any one else in that business. Not only do I not remember who it was, it offended me that this airline I don’t like, who isn’t doing anything to really earn my business, had the arrogance to think I’d take their word for anything. They can’t even tell me within reason when my flight takes off.
1. Stop calling us “passengers.” We’re customers. That means you need to kiss our asses like you want our business. Treat my time like it’s valuable by being on time, even if that means you have to adjust the schedule so you can cheat your way into being on time. Move me through the airport quickly and efficiently. Stop losing luggage — that’s just ridiculous. Stop tolerating rudeness on the part of your staff. 2. Get your marketing off the TV and out into the world. The jingles and the hand drawn blah blah blah. Who cares! Travel — especially air travel — is one of the primary topics of conversation among friends, family, co-workers. Focus on providing the best possible experience and everyone will talk about it. You need to work your word-of-mouth. 3. Leverage what you’ve got. You have the captive attention of millions of people. At the gate, the lounge, in the air. That’s the time to be marketing to me. Not just by telling me — but showing me — what a great job you’re doing. It’s also the time to get other brands involved. Let’s get some free McDonald’s up on this bitch; let Coors give away free beer; get P&G to sample some of their new products. Whatever — just give stuff away. People will gladly fill out surveys, email addresses, and whatever if there’s something in it for them.