Experience with airlines: Lacking value creation attitude

by Ashvini on January 31, 2013 · 11 comments

in Business,My Personal Thoughts

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.

Value lost?

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.

Do you have a take on the issue? Express it by commenting below.

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Samuel Jeffery February 16, 2013 at 4:54 am

I couldn’t agree with you more about this post. This line really sums it up: “Our job is just to ferry you from one location to another”.

As a Canadian, I’ve seen how Air Canada has declined in service over the years. It’s the same things you mentioned – cramped seating, low quality food (for purchase) and just overall poor customer service.

Lori Gosselin February 4, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Hi Ashvini,
I don’t understand how airlines don’t realize how much opportunity they are missing. Seems with the poor service and offerings out there, it would take very little to stand out in this industry. I have a couple of ideas: 1) give the food, don’t sell it. I don’t think they are saving money by selling it – only creating bad blood. I remember flying Air France to Greece and for every flight was given a gourmet meal! 2) offer open tickets in advance. Last-minute tickets in the event of a death are so expensive and often people know they will need a ticket long before but just don’t know when. My daughter has blown through a lot of money flying home for funerals in the past two years – and always at full fare. The “bereavement discount” the airlines offer is a discount off First Class!!! How short-sighted this is.
My two cents worth.
You tell ’em Ashvini!

Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Hi Lori,

I think it is the same story worldwide. Its very hard to travel with most of the airlines. Cramped quarters, bad quality food and many other things dampen even good mood, what to talk about when you are attending a funeral. If we were all so rich then we would have travelled first class all the time. And if we could travel first class, then why would we even worry about discounts. It appears totally silly. The industry needs to generate more good will if they intend to keep making money forever. Of course they will because we are captive customers but I am talking of enormous money because of added value and only captivity.

Thanks for your comment and hopefully they acknowledge your displeasure here.

Radu February 4, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I remember my last flight from London to Singapore with British Airlines. Nothing to object about the conditions inside the plane but when i got to checkin in London(with 15 minutes remaining to board) they start to check all my papers, even though i had everything in order. This took 10 minutes and this lady from the check in told me that she thinks i don’t have to be allowed to go because …and then another lady came and almost smack her head and i was allowed to proceed to the plane.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Hi Radu,

That is really funny incident. I hope the smack did put some sense in her :D. But I hope your trip was good otherwise .

Radu February 22, 2013 at 9:23 pm

To be honest with you Ashvini, after a 14-15 hours flight to Singapore i arrived in one piece with a major headache and my legs numbed due to sitting to much on the chair. To have the worst of my trip, they managed to misplace my luggage and it was delivered to my ship after 8 hours. I stalled the ship few hours so the agent can deliver my luggage otherwise it should have been shipped to Malaysia.

I forget to mention that i’m a seaman.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 28, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I agree, the seats are cramped, the food is not great. This is story with most of the airlines and to top it with the headaches that you got, it is atrocious.
I feel a lot of people have experienced your kind of story. Hope things improve

Tim Bonner February 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hi Ashvini

I haven’t travelled on an aeroplane for quite some time now, mainly because of the cost but also because I have 2 young kids.

The low cost airlines don’t allocate seats so the scramble for seats where we can all sit together would just be too much for the kids!

I agree with you that to entice more passengers, the airlines need to provide more value, not less as some of the low cost airlines believe.

I know they want to keep their costs down but equally flying in a cramped aeroplane isn’t a pleasant experience!

Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Hi Tim,

India had a golden age of aviation for two years and everything was going great. Unfortunately it is all not so good anymore. Costs are soaring, facilities are declining. I don’t blame airlines completely because they operate in tough environment. However like you I too think that they need to do a lot more just like the example I gave. Unless they do that , they probably will not make the amount of money they are hoping to make.

Thanks for your comment. Its great to see you here :)

Christian February 2, 2013 at 5:03 am

Ten dollars for a flight is really, really CHEAP! Seriously, I can’t expect any kind of comfort or service for that matter when it comes to such a price.
I don’t know how much money airline could charge to make a decent profit but I’m pretty sure it won’t be cheaper then a train or a bus.
Companies will always look for way to make extra profit and as far as they have customers they will be in control.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Hi Christian,

Yes it was so cheap but there were only a few tickets of such kinds. Nevertheless they gave enough opportunity for people who never flew , to dream about it . I could see that the companies probably made money because the lower prices opened up more bigger market. That was innovative and that made a lot of sense. Of course they won’t be able to charge less than train but that is where they need to add the value. That is sadly missing.

Thanks for your wonderful comment. I appreciate it as always.

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