autopilot

According to the press release from American Airlines, their customers should see “no change in service” related to their bankruptcy filing today.

That’s a shame.

Might be a good time to start delivering better service so they don’t have to file for bankruptcy in the future.

Most airlines are living in customer service bankruptcy.

(From the archives: My favorite post about American Airlines – Eliminating the last olive)

and the dominoes started to fall

I called it.

Today’s announcement — United is following American’s lead.

Of course, when your industry is hated and someone else has already taken the brunt of the PR backlash — decisions like these are pretty easy. Way to step out, United.

And behold the power of contextual ad placement:

give me 6 months

I don’t mean to keep hatin’ on ’em, but it’s just such easy pickings. From AdAge, about blog coverage of American’s $15 bag PR fiasco,

Mr. Flanagan, who felt media coverage of the announcement and on some blogs was very fair, said American injected itself into conversations online only when inaccuracies were being reported. He said American hopes to have its own corporate blog operational within the next two quarters.

6 months?!?! The corporate blogging question I ask you is: are they 6 months too late or are they 3 or 4 years too late? This is one of the many reasons that you should have a corporate blog strategy NOW. It will take months/years to build a dedicated blog audience. It’s not something you can build to deal with a PR meltdown.

eliminating the last olive

There’s been some minor buzz about the customer service atrocity of hidden fees. But as with most things in our society, it’s quickly forgotten with the next thing that snaps the masses’ head another direction.

There’s hidden fee news today that may stick. American Airlines will start charging $15 for your first checked bag. Not extra luggage. Not heavy luggage. Just your one basic container with supplies that make sure you’re clothed and clean when you get wherever you’re going.

Minor nickel and diming by the airlines has been happening for a while. I flew American a few weeks ago and rolled my eyes at the ridiculous $3 charge for a bag of nuts. I understand the age of the “freebie” is over. And I can see charging a dollar. Maybe a buck and a half. But $3 is an insult to common sense. And I chose not to “ensure” the fact I would have a seat for a standby flight for $35. Also — I held it and didn’t drink the $3 bottled water instead of paying $5 for a trip to the airplane lavatory. (Don’t laugh. It may happen.)

I had said in my post about my flight during American’s last PR disaster, that the airlines have beat their customers into accepting any level of bad service. American is trying to lower the bar again. While I understand that these are rough times for the airlines, there are other ways to cut costs and increase efficiency. When times get rough (in any business), don’t cut costs where it touches the customer. Or if you really do need the extra $15 to get my underwear there with me, just raise the price of the ticket. Don’t try to hamstring me with a fee.

Fortunately for me, 95% of my flights are one-nighters where I go the night before and fly back immediately after my speaking engagement. I’ve become a semi-master at the art of packing a suit and toiletries in my laptop bag. For 2-day stays, I have to take another bag, but it’s a small one and I check it at the gate.

And that’s one of the ripple effects that this American move will have. More people trying to do just carry-ons. That means longer delays getting on/off the plane. Less room in the overheads. And longer lines at security. (Government Propaganda Tip — 3-1-1!)

I predict there will be one of two reactions to this move by American.

  1. Consumers will balk and American will back down.
  2. All other airlines will follow their lead and baggage will be extra for everyone.

I hope it’s #1. It will probably be #2.

Clarification: In case you’re not familiar with the useless trivia behind the title of this post.

come check my wiring harness

I’m a Southwest person. If they don’t go where I’m going, I’m a US Airways person. With US Airways alliances, sometimes they stick me on a United flight.

I haven’t flown on American in about 10 years — until a speaking client’s travel agency put me on an American flight this week.

On Wednesday, when I saw the lines, I thought there would be a bloggable customer service disaster. But BNA did well. They were handling the crisis very well (at least, they were on Wednesday morning). The only trouble I had was that I didn’t have any AA miles clout in achieving standby status. Luckily, I had plenty of time to get where I was going with relative little trouble.

The thing I kept thinking was that just a few years ago, people would have been incensed at the whole situation. All through the airport, there were just dead eyed accepting blank stares from passengers. The entire air travel industry has lowered the bar so much in the last few years that people are accepting of situations like this. I suppose if you mistreat customers enough, they eventually are satisified with subpar experiences.