Strategies for Managing the Airline Seat Wars

It is no secret that the competitive rigors of Wall Street and fierce battle for those top end bonuses are pitting tortured flyers against greedy airline companies in a conflict that seems to have no bottom in sight.

Where tracking luggage, kinder/gentler reservations managers and on time performance numbers ruled policy until just a few years ago, squeezing inches, yields and staff with no regard for the cargo are at front and center to airlines today. Casting paying passengers off planes to accommodate crew is suddenly nothing new. There is no guarantee when a passenger purchases a ticket for a place date and time that the contract will be fulfilled.

Global brand strategy and marketing firm, Brandigo, conducted an Airlines Brand Perception Study in the midst of all the recent air rage.

This survey revealed:

  • 59.3% do not feel loyal to any airline
  • 56.7% of all respondents’ perception of United Airlines changed since the incident
  • Before the incident: 81.7% were at least neutral or had some level of positivity towards the brand
  • 67.3% of respondents’ current perception of United Airlines is at least somewhat negative

For those that fly most frequently (over 7 times per year), current perceptions for 67.9% of the most frequent travelers are negative toward United Airlines. Before the incident: 75% were at least neutral or had some level of positivity towards the brand. Now 53.7% are less willing to purchase a ticket from United Airlines

“Disgust” is the feeling that best describes how 41% of respondents were feeling when they first learned of the United incident.

36.2%, if given a choice of airlines, would be wiling to pay more to purchase a ticket on a competing airline to avoid flying United Airlines.

An overwhelming 73.5% feel that airlines view them as a ticket sale or piece of revenue as opposed to 12% who feel like airlines view them as a valuable customer or 4.6% who feel like airlines view them as a human.

42.5% feel more on edge or on guard when flying following a media incident like the recent United Airlines incident.

A small sampling of some open-ended comments from respondents included:

  • “They only care about the money.”
  • “Airlines have lost all respect for their customer’s dignity and importance.”
  • “It reinforced my perception that in general the airlines are indifferent to customer service.”
  • “ALL airlines treat passengers like crap! It’s all about how much money they can gouge us for!”
  • “They overbook their flights so they seem to be more interested in money than passengers.”
  • “The CEO has completely failed to provide leadership or address these incidents.”
  • “Totally inconsiderate and no sense whatsoever of customer service.”
  • “Poor leadership and customer service people with lack of training to problem solve and take care of customers.”

“Airlines are failing when it comes to building loyalty with their consumers as even the frequent flyer programs are flawed and harder to be a part of now,” said Chris Langathianos, vice president of brand strategy for Brandigo. “As a result, business travelers, who typically are members of these programs are less valued, and that leaves leisure travelers who are frankly not valued at all. Exceptional customer service and creative unique travel experiences for customers should be priority number one throughout the airline industry right now.”

UAL

 

Air Warrior Angles for Managing the Friendly Skies

Global luxury travel agency network Virtuoso looked at the rising trend in airline transgressions and imparted advice from professional travel advisors on how to cope with airline disruptions, including the now iconic United Flight 3411 incident in April. Virtuoso advisors recommend a multifaceted approach to protecting passengers from being bumped involuntarily, and insights on what to do if passengers unexpectedly find themselves in that situation.

  • Establish status with a specific airline and fly it or within its alliance partners whenever possible.
  • Reserve seat assignments as soon as the flight is booked.
  • Check in online 24 hours before the flight to reconfirm seats.
  • Avoid sitting in the very front or back rows of Economy Class as these seats may be displaced in the event of an equipment downsize on domestic U.S. flights. The last row is often reserved for families traveling with small children as well.
  • Virtuoso’s travel advisors say that bumping passengers against their will rarely happens, although nearly a third of the network’s respondents said this had happened to their clients.
  • However, should passengers find themselves in this situation, the network’s expert advisors suggest the following:
  • Insist the airline rebook the next available flight, even on another airline.
  • Comply with the request, but politely ask for more compensation than what the airline is offering.
  • Contact their travel advisor for assistance.
  • Ask for a credit card-issued gift card instead of an airline voucher, especially if not a frequent traveler.

While 28 percent of respondents said their clients have asked them to book other carriers as a direct result of the United Airlines incident, the majority has not. Reasons cited for why people will not move away from any particular airline in the wake of a publicized situation include:

  • Certain airlines dominate specific routes and airports, leaving clients to feel like they’re without other viable options.
  • The airline’s schedule best suits their travel plans.
  • Clients have status on the airline or its partner airlines, and do not wish to establish loyalty with another carrier or alliance.
  • Clients understand involuntary passenger bumping is not limited to any one airline.

 

 

 

 

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