Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Good Business for the Airlines

Why do people hate the airlines?

OK…their track record for on-time service is spotty. And they often have trouble with luggage. Yet, many of the factors that influence performance are outside of their control (i.e. the weather).

What is most important to me as a frequent airline customer is safety. I’ve been on a couple of flights delayed because of mechanical issues and was just amazed by the moaning of other passengers. Yes…inconvenience is unpleasant. But, I would much rather have any “mechanical issues” worked out while the plane was still on the ground.

The recent announcement by American Airlines to charge passengers a first-checked-bag $15 fee produced an avalanche of unwarranted criticism in the blogosphere. It’s unfair to American Airlines and a shame their brand has to take such a hit. My reaction to consumers irate about the 15 bucks is just as strong as their whining: get over it!

American Airlines’ corporate communications team and PR shop Weber Shandwick did absolutely the right thing in devising a strategy that focused on explaining “why” this additional charge is necessary. Airlines are under tremendous financial pressure because of the rapidly rising price of fuel. I’m happy to pay a few dollars more to ensure an airline has the resources to run an efficient, safe and (yes) profitable business.

A tough lesson I learned as a small business owner is that there’s a significant difference between business and “good” business. Exceptional clients demand great work and accountability, yet also recognize the value of your counsel, treating you well, paying you on time and respecting a fair profit margin.

Airlines need to focus on their good customers and let everyone else find a different route.

American Takes Flak Over Bag Fee, Despite PR Strategy

1 comment:

Chris Parente said...

Interesting take, Marc. No doubt we all as consumers complain without taking into account the business realities of the companies providing a particular service.

Another side of the bind airlines are in is that they can't afford a big drop off in ridership. So as the experience gets more and more unpleasant, more people do all they can do avoid flying.

No doubt it's a lousy business to be in.