No doubt you have heard about the United passenger that was hauled off the plane because they overbooked. But, airlines have many more things that are wrong with them than manhandling customers. Personally, I hate to fly. On Tuesday we had to go to Cincinnati. We were going to take a cheap flight but we forgot to make the reservation. We wound up driving down and back in the same day. To tell you the truth, flying would have only saved a couple of hours.
A person my size dreads flights. I am 6’5″. Now they charge money for seats with a couple of inches of leg room. I saw a flight on American the other day where it was $67 extra to get an exit row or bulkhead seat. In a normal row I am better off standing. That’s another reason I prefer driving. We bought a diesel in 2009 because we are on the road a lot.
The web experience with airlines is horrible. It’s painful. Their UX is awful. Even using third party vendors isn’t that great. The mileage and reward systems are a discombobulated maze of opaque garbage.
Kevin Williamson of the National Review wrote a great article. Airlines don’t live in a capitalistic system. Few industries are truly capitalistic perfect competition models. Even though airlines were deregulated a long time ago, the entire system is heavily regulated. Same with banking, health care and other industries. That keeps competition out. Airlines seem to be run for the benefit of their employees, not the customers. That’s why you see so many people treated so badly.
I’d love to see us get rid of all the regulations that purely give existing airlines a regulatory moat against competition and keep the regulations that are there which keep us safe.
My friend Nick Kokonos who co-founded Alinea and other awesome restaurants in Chicago, commented on airlines. He says someone needs to create an airline that:
• Does not attempt to compete on price.
• Does not participate in any reseller programs
• That provides clearly superior service in every manner, including seating, food, and staff training.
• That rethinks the gate experience so that every passenger in the terminal sees the differentiated experience — it’s not hidden in a biz class ‘club’
• That never overbooks, but does not offer refunds after a 48-hour window prior to travel unless it is the airline’s fault
• That knows how to properly hedge fuel costs by hiring an actual trading desk and attempts to not only not lose money, but to make money on their fuel consumption.
Nick knows a lot about servicing customers. You should try his restaurant booking service, Tock. It’s intensely customer focused and transparent. It makes dining out much more pleasant and easier. It also helps restaurants service customers better.