I’m on airplanes. A lot. The experience of jet travel has slowly declined since its inception. The days of the glamorous jetliner where guests dressed in their finest and were seated in the lap of luxury are now long long gone – unless of course you can fork over the cash to upgrade into business class (or better). For the majority, the experience is nothing better than a flying Greyhound bus – perhaps worse as you’re often trapped in your miniscule seat for hours and hours with no chance for escape at the next stop.
From the start, the whole concept of flying is completely backwards from any other consumer experience we face today. Think about it – in what other industry do you pay hundreds, often thousands of dollars to submit to a strip search and then be held hostage behind guards until you board the plane. Not to mention if you’re delayed – to be kept completely in the dark with misinformation or worse lack of information with little to no regard for your comfort or schedule. Imagine if this happened when you went shopping for a big screen TV? God forbid if you become frustrated or angry at the lack of regard for your needs after spending all that money, then you can be branded difficult and then denied to take the trip at all? I mean come on.
In the airline business, the customer is no longer a customer. You’re merely someone who paid a lot of money to 9 times out of 10 be treated like shit. And we still submit to this every single day.
On a recent trip out of New York, I arrived at the airport ahead of a flight to Nashville only to find out that not only had my flight been cancelled, but that the airline had graciously booked me on another flight just 36 hours later. No consideration, compensation or EVEN accommodation was made for the inconvenience. All day I checked online to make sure the flight was on time and only learned of the cancellation when I tried to check in. It turns out the flight was cancelled due to Air Traffic Conditions. The airport was too busy to accommodate all of the flights it had confirmed for the day. Right. Ok.
As a result of the cancellation, I had to pay to get myself back to Manhattan, lose a deposit on the Nashville hotel and pay for another night in my NY hotel. Since my trip to Nashville was only for one night, it meant that entire leg of my trip was now off and I was forced to re-route home. When the dust settled, the airline had the nerve to charge me a change fee and refused to refund for the leg of the trip out of Nashville that I couldn’t take due to their cancellation.
When (and if) you get on board the plane, the fun doesn’t stop. Why on earth are they making the seats smaller and closer together? I mean, I get the concept of cramming more bodies on that metal tube so the airline can make more money, but really? I worry that the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis increases exponentially everytime the person sitting in front of me, reclines their seat. Dude, I am quite sure that the extra 3 inches of space you gained in front of your nose must make you so much more comfortable. The last time I flew a new “tourist class” airline, I had a rather intimate relationship with the seat back in front of me, it was that close.
Should we talk about the food? Like why? Why try and be fancy when that really stopped the day they replaced the silverware with plastic. At this point, can we just simplify things? Nice fresh sandwiches. Cheese and crackers. Fruit that’s not served with some kind of strange dip. Keep it simple if it can’t be fancy. Simple and good would be just fine.
And Wifi. Really, I would pay for wifi on an airplane EVERY TIME I FLY. Did you hear that? PAY REAL MONEY. Its not hard to do, some airlines are on the case with this. For those of you airlines that haven’t jumped on this bandwagon yet – WHY THE HELL NOT? I know lots of people that would very happily pay for wifi on a flight. Lets just do it, ok?
The real question here is why does the airline industry seem to not get these things. Why have the basics of customer needs fallen so far by the wayside? And why do we as the consumers continue to allow the bad service and crummy experiences to happen over and over again? Why? What can we do about this as an unhappy consumer? Go with the competition who are no better? Write a letter. HA! What good does that do? Oh, here’s a voucher for $50 for future travel with the offending airline.
I guess as long as we want to travel as much as we do, the experience will continue to, for the most part, completely suck. At this point we are so used to the dramas of air travel as commonplace that a good flight, with good experience is something to get excited about. So for now, I guess we celebrate the good days when they happen and commiserate together the commonplace occurrence of yet another travel day horror story.