Leggo My Legroom

Remember those Kellogg’s commercials for Eggo frozen waffles?  I’m no ad man, but I’m here to tell you.  Those Kellogg’s folks knew how to generate demand.  The frozen waffle as coveted icon, revered by everyone in the house.

I feel like I’m stuck in a bad dream back in the 1970’s, appearing in those commercials over and over.  Me on one side of the tug of war and the airlines on the other.  Now apparently, I’ve written more than a few times on the airline industry.  Like this diddy about Mr Smith and Southwest. Or this about my hometown flyboys in Philiadelphia .  I’m honestly not here to bash the airlines.  I believe to my core that people in general want to do well at their jobs.  But, when employees are pushed to the brink, their commitment to and ability to deliver service naturally suffers.  It’s human nature.  It’s dumb policies and business decisions that are at the root cause of the industry’s ills. 

So, just when I’m looking so hard to find the positives, my friend Christina Bentley shared with me this email she received that just made me hang my head and sigh.  This actually relates directly to what I argued was at the root cause of the whole Kevin Smith nonsense.    
  
Dear Elite Customer,


We’ll soon be offering a new option for customers during check-in and wanted to advise Elite members of our plans. On March 17, 2010, we will begin offering customers the choice to purchase seat assignments for unreserved, Economy Class seats that feature extra legroom.

As an Elite member, you will continue to have the same ability to pre-assign seats without paying additional fees, for yourself and any traveling companions in your reservation, including these seats offering extra legroom. 

This new offer will allow customers to purchase extra legroom seats when checking in at continental.com or at an airport kiosk during the normal check-in period, beginning 24 hours prior to flight departure. The price of these seats will vary depending on a number of factors, including the length of the flight and market.

As one of our most valuable customers, we wanted to let you know of the change and thank you for choosing Continental. We will continue to ensure that your loyalty is rewarded as we launch new offers.

Learn more about Extra Legroom Seats

Sincerely,
Senior Vice President
Marketing Programs and Distribution

Clearly, the airlines are at a low point with respect to the customer experience.  My head is spinning though trying to grasp how this is helping.

A quick scan of recent trends should make you a bit dizzy too.

  • That legroom used to be mine as part of the ride. Airlines put in more seats and took it away.  Now they want me to pay to get it back.
  • Blankets and pillows used to be available. Then you were asked to pay for them.  Now they are gone completely
  • I used to be able to check bags for free.  Now I must pay and deal with added cabin tensions like Chris Reaburn experienced because everyone’s carrying everything on the plane.
  • Food used to be a base feature.  Now, your choices are restricted and you have to pay for it.
  • A new set of headphones used to be in the seat pocket on every flight.  Now they cost five dollars (and aren’t worth one)
  • Ok so now I’m starting to get WiFi on some flights, but I have to pay.  (I paid an effective hourly rate of over $20 on my last 40 minute flight).  But, I don’t have enough room between me and the seat in front of me to even open my laptop to take advantage of it.  
  • Pay toilets….they’re coming! You know they’re on someone’s whiteboard.

Now, I absolutely appreciate the fact that airlines are a terrible business.  All you have to do is consider the list of all star entrepreneurs that have dove in a failed.  But, I can not for the life of me come up with another industry that continues to take away features of its base offering, feed those same features back as for-fee add-ons and erode the customer experience in the way the airlines continue.

Ok, so maybe the cable t.v. industry is another.  And look at what consumers think about them.

Comments

  1. I have so many negative things to say about the airline experience, but I'm beginning to wonder if it's even worth the oxygen.

    Maybe the better use of time is to find the competitive advantage. There's an obvious problem here, which means there's an opportunity just waiting to be exploited.

    I can't wait for Zappos Airlines. 😉

  2. Tim, just thinking the exact same thing today. I'm done complaining. I was thinking about (my limited knowledge) the history of the industry and how it got to this point…for the purpose of coming up with an analysis/recommendations on how airlines could get back the customer experience mojo. Any interest in collaborating on a post?

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