In the hay days of 2005 to 2006, India witnessed its great aviation boom. It was a completely new phenomenon that caught Indians by surprise. Before 2005, it was very costly for Indians to travel by airlines. Now because of a few low cost airlines( one offered a few seats at mere Rs 500 (< $10)), you could see folks from villages, who were used to travelling only in dusty buses and overcrowded trains. carrying huge suitcases , as if they were traveling still by bus, with a desire to fly. As a result airports became very crowded and chaotic but that was sign of those times.
King of good times
I remember an airline , “Kingfisher” with quite fondness. The moment you enter the airport, you would see a courtesy not seen before anywhere else. You had people ushering your luggage. In the plane, you were presented with a small plastic pouch that had candies, a ball pen, a headphone and few other utility things, all yours to take to home. There was a TV set behind each seat where one could watch movies and popular television serials. Hot food added to the appeal of the offering. This airline had a motto “King of good times” and it made through its promises. I still possess the pouches they gifted us every time I flew with them. Talk about creating nostalgia for events that were just a few years from now. Unfortunately the airline got into trouble and it is not operating anymore.
Nothing feels same anymore
When I flew to my hometown later with a low cost airline, after the aviation industry had seen some tough times, the effect of “good times” washed away pretty quickly. The seats on the this airline were cramped. Food was now “sold” inflight. Unfortunately Nothing matched the anticipation of hot steamy food like before. It seemed like that the airlines was telling the passengers “Our job is just to ferry you from one location to another”. Later I heard the news that airlines are selling front seats for more money and it was called a “premium service”. The airlines industry works like a mechanical devices now, disregarding the fact that their passengers are still humans and not robots.
The airlines reduced the value for their passengers. They took away privileges and made flying a less favorable experience. In other hospitality industries, this would be a considered a really bad practice.
The concept of value is really not defined by first taking away facilities such as comfortable seats and/or choice of seats and then selling them as something you would like to enjoy ( when as a customer I was already enjoying them). Every business wants to make money but then there are better ways to do it. They could have for example ,
- upgraded check in quality and charged for it
- let people have more options in gourmet food than lesser
- reward frequent flyers
I do not know nuances of the airline industry and I may be wrong about things, but this article is from my experience as their customer. Airline business is complicated. However delivering value is simple in most of the businesses. You just have to think from the point of view of customer experience. Better service will always lead to more revenue ( as you can charge for them). You gain from reputation and you have repeat customers. In another news I read that lesser people are flying these days because of very high fares. They instead take trains. I would say that the value offered by airlines is a bigger culprit than high fares.
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