There was once a time when flying was considered a luxury event that included the finest seating options plush with comfort and full meals that were surprisingly adequate considering the venue. Unfortunately, those days are nothing but a faint memory at this point. Airlines have since evolved to accommodate more passengers on a daily basis, and they seem no longer capable of providing that positive experience at the low-price of a standard fare. Many have argued that such luxuries could be returned to the passengers, but it would only come at a great cost to the bottom line of the airline and its executives.
Flying has garnered something of a negative reputation in the last several decades, primarily due to the hassles involved and the decreasing quality of both the airborne accommodations and the customer service of the flight crew and support staff in general. That trend has continued for quite some time until now when it isn’t uncommon to see situations like the recent issue that occurred on United flight 3411 where a passenger was forcibly removed to accommodate one of the employees who worked for the airline. In this incident, the flight was overbooked and there were several United employees that needed to be on the flight to either return home or work another shift at the destination. None of the passengers volunteered to take a later flight, even with the incentive of a cash voucher for several hundred dollars, so the crew had to use a digital lottery system to determine which passengers would be forced to give up their seats. The passenger who would later be forced off was one of the few chosen, but he refused. He refused to leave the seat he paid for and was forcibly removed by airline security which led his injuries.
This is just one of many incidents of such failed customer service in the airline industry as of late. Another recent event saw an American Airlines flight attendant physically remove a baby stroller from a woman who was struggling with it on her flight. The flight attendant nearly hit her baby in the process, and he then threatened to fight another passenger who stood up for the woman. The woman and her two children were then escorted from the plane, and the flight attendant was allowed back on.It should come as no surprise that United Airlines and American Airlines were the two most complained about airlines in the United States in 2015, and in that same year complaints were increased 30 percent over preceding years. That was one of the biggest jumps in the history of the industry, and it is indicative of a larger problem in the field of air travel and possibly the entire consumerist world. That problem is a simple one: the balance between serving customers and serving profits.
Before people had to worry about leg room or elbow room on a flight, the concerns of the airlines were quite clear. They wanted to serve their passengers to the best of their abilities. Many argue the reason for such elegance and proper customer care was that the industry was new, and therefore airlines wanted to do everything in their power to ensure returning customers. As the passengers grew more enamored with the experience of flying, the airlines became more complacent in the idea that they would always have customers. As soon as any industry feels that they are no longer a luxury, but have become a necessity, they can forgo customer service almost completely. Anyone that has ever lived in an area with only one cable provider can attest to the same idea.
United Airlines is a great example for the whole industry because they are one of the primary options. There are more expensive options that eclipse these common issues, but the vast majority of flyers can’t afford those extra luxuries. That’s why United takes extra steps to make sure their flights are overbooked instead of unfilled. They want to make sure every seat is occupied so they can maximize their profits from each single flight. That’s why such luxuries as elbow and leg room are gone from most flights. More seats crammed into the same area means more potential profit. United even has a reputation for creating situations where their customers should expect to be mistreated, like selling what they call ‘basic fares’ that include no dedicated seating but more of a first-come, first-served mentality.
The fact of the matter is that these airlines have essentially gotten too complacent in the treatment they believe their customers will tolerate before they start dropping off. Their basic philosophy has grown into the idea that they are the only option, so customers can deal with it or find someone else who will treat them almost identically. There are things the airlines could do that would improve the overall customer experience. They could incorporate AI into their ticketing and seating systems that would drastically improve scheduling and organizing. They could train their staff members to handle human interaction on a more understanding and service-oriented scale. At the end of the day, the change will require nothing more than those who control the airlines and their policies realizing that their customers aren’t cattle that need to be herded from one place to another as cheaply as possible, but that they are human beings with emotions and intelligence.