Delta is making a huge investment in the Los Angeles market. Just yesterday Skift carried a piece “Delta and American Air Are Fighting to Fly Hollywood’s Jetsetters.”
New York – Los Angeles is the nation’s premier, highest revenue route and airlines compete with flat beds and convenience on the ground. Delta has billboards all over New York promoting the quality of their inflight offering.
That’s the promise.
I got an email early this morning from a movie investor who lives in New York and works mostly in Los Angeles and is a Delta SkyMiles Diamond member flying predominantly their premium transcon flights between the two cities.
My correspondent frequently buys first class, especially on redeye flights back to the East Coast in order to sleep. The premium lie flat seat is a must, and commands a price premium they’re positioned to pay.
What prompted the email was boarding the plane to find this seat:
It’s obviously not what they paid for.
Here’s what a walk up fare on this flight runs.
When contacted, Delta offered compensation in the form of a $100 voucher or 10,000 SkyMiles. That only served to re-infuriate the customer who didn’t get the bed to sleep in that they had been promised and paid for.
My point isn’t about Delta. It’s merely illustrative of a point about the state of airlines and customer service, and how they think about their business and passengers.
We all (or most of us) know that ‘seats and aircraft aren’t guaranteed.’
You may think you’re getting American’s new business class product overseas but there are still planes flying around with their old product that haven’t been refurbished yet. You might get one on certain routes. Seats and aircraft aren’t guaranteed.
Only they don’t advertise that way. Ads focus on the great, private suites that are wonderful for a night’s rest. Ads don’t focus on the flat bed seat you may get if you’re lucky but please don’t buy on the assumption that you will.
There’s a conflict inherent in airline marketing.
- On the one hand a belief that all a ticket buys is transportation from point A to point B
- On the other hand a promise of comfort and service that is meant to get you to choose one carrier over the other.
When things go wrong, all too often airlines resort to number one.
In fairness that’s not always so. Early last year British Airways was proactively issuing compensation in the form of 50,000 miles to first class passengers who found themselves flying BA’s old first class product. They at least didn’t wait for customers to have to spend time calling in, and offered something more substantive.
It’s up to the airline and its culture to choose how to handle their own failure to deliver a product as promised. You pretty much can’t sue an airline over operational decisions — only for explicitly violating their contract of carriage, which they write themselves to allow almost no room for judgments.
And you can only hope that an airline which consistently fails to deliver will develop a hit to their reputation such that they’ll feel financial consequences for those failures — and either shape up or exit the market.
However too many consumers lump all the airlines together as being ‘all the same’. And when a passenger gets angry at an airline, one of the easiest things they can do to express their displeasure is cancel that airline’s co-brand credit card… taking business from the bank more directly than from the airline they’re seeking to extract satisfaction from.
How often are passengers not informed of problems until the last moment, or given full information on the details behind a delay? I generally get respect from American Airlines… in the lounges at Austin and Washington National.
When US Airways flight 1549 landed in the Hudson passengers were all granted top tier elite status. For one year.
Though many complaints about airlines do seem misguided, I also think there’s a misguided belief inside the airlines about what is owed when they failed to deliver what they’ve promised. Perhaps that’s because of airlines’ relentless focus on safety and so we should cut them some slack. But they’re the ones who market more than safe, reliable transportation.