Ed (Brill), my response or more on customer service of airlines in general

Ed, your comment brought so much to my mind, that I didn’t think I could fit it all into a response comment of my own…

Every time I fly, which, I admit, is not nearly as often or as far as Ed, I can’t shake the feeling that since 9/11 most airlines have come to view their passengers as necessary evil, a nuisance of sorts, with first class and premier level passengers, perhaps, being the only exception.  I generally don’t fall into either of those categories and if United could make the same amount of money transporting live stock, they would rather give my ticket and my seat to a cow.  The overall goal of the airlines seems to be one of cutting costs and looking good to Wall Street analysts at the expense of passengers.  It’s like a giant human experiment with everyone an unwilling subject: how far can we squeeze the passengers without them rebelling?  I think if the airlines could get FAA’s approval, they would replace Boeings and Airbuses with Stolypin cars.

I understand that charging a premium for certain seats is the policy of some airlines and that they have to protect their revenue stream.  However, once the doors are closed – “armed” – it is not like the plane is going to dock mid-flight over Ohio and take on more passengers — those seats are going to remain empty and will generate no more revenue.  At that point, if the circumstances permit, i.e. the flight is only half full, and the airline cares about the comfort and satisfaction of their paying customers, they might want to offer at least certain passengers to take more comfortable seats.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to walk through the cabin and spot people who are the most uncomfortable: tall people, heavy people, people squeezed in middle seats.  Offer them to move somewhere else.  Some of the older passengers, for one, will certainly appreciate the offer to stay in the front and not have to schlep all the way to the back of the plane with their carry-on luggage.  To me, this would fall into the category of common sense.  Alas, common sense is anything but common and even less so when it comes to most of the airlines of today.

There are exceptions, of course.

Air Mexico automatically reserves front rows for their older passengers and minors traveling alone.  That’s common sense.

Southwest, which is my favorite domestic airline, on “empty” flights would anything but force extra snacks and drinks on its passengers.  That’s common sense.  Compare that with United sharing each can of Coke between 3 passengers.

(Perhaps, I’m exaggerating, but I don’t think I’m too far away from the truth.)

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2 Responses

  1. You’re right, common sense often does not apply.

    I think we all grew up with a somewhat more romantic notion of airlines.. at the time flight was more exclusive, more regulated, more expensive (in inflation-adjusted dollars), and more risky. Today, flying is like taking a bus, even (increasingly) on international routes. I like your analogy, because one of the case studies we looked at in college was the notion that if the rail companies in the US had looked at themselves as transportation companies, they might have been able to carry over their logistics expertise and become airlines. Instead they allowed a whole separate industry to evolve, and lost dominance. But both are logistics industries all the same.

    As the price of oil goes up, airlines are going to be under more and more pressure to cut costs. We see the same starting to happen with automobiles. Gas guzzlers are, finally, coming under pressure. When I was in Brasil a few months ago, I didn’t see any SUVs, any imported BMWs, or even a flashy convertible. A car there is a method of transport only, and there’s little room or tolerance for being extravagant.

    We will all long for the days when flying meant a hot chocolate chip cookie (Midwest Airlines), magazines were available on board, each passenger got a pillow and a blanket. Such luxuries are still available, but have been priced away from the typical consumer. Eventually, they will become untenable, unless new sources of fuel are devised. Already, the list price on a business class round-trip to Europe from here is over $10,000. I don’t want to even think what first class costs. At some point things will change, further.

    Meanwhile, all the airlines suck, you can just try to focus on making the experience suck less.

  2. Ed, very true. Things are changing and airlines suck. That’s why I tend to fall asleep as soon as the door are closed and wake up when the wheels touch the ground at my destination. Now if only TSA would make getting to the point of me sleeping easier…

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