Who Would Have Thunk? What Are Your Rights when You Fly? - By John Hendrie

Where are consumer expectations now as we travel into a New Year? Are they touching a nadir or scratching at that apogee? Two wonderful words at extremes of the pendulum of Customer Satisfaction and expectations met. In our various Hospitality businesses we do have some basics, which every customer and guest should anticipate.

LRA Worldwide With lodgings, you look forward to a clean, safe guestroom.  In our restaurants you want sufficiently prepared food, served in a timely manner, and hopefully what you ordered.  In the tourism segment, you have promoted a vision.  In the travel arena you have presented means to get from point “A” to “B”.  Of course, we all operate under the aphorism, “To err is human, to forgive divine!”  We have made a promise, and we must deliver, rather than plead ignorance and beg for that forgiveness too frequently.  Eventually, our customers and guests would migrate elsewhere.  Mea Culpa is not a banner we wish to fly.

But, speaking of the airwaves, it appears that our partners up in the blue yonder have a very active groundswell of disgruntled passengers.  Although my last flight with Jet Blue was wonderful, coast to coast and back, we all know someone or have experienced ourselves a drop in service and courtesy (but not price) with the airlines.  With more and more mergers, we have bigger entities which can pretty much do what they want.  As mergers cost money, let’s start recouping our investment, maybe charge extra for that aisle seat, certainly eliminate the peanuts, price out that extra baggage, etc.  Some airlines, like United, have always stressed service and attention to the passenger; once upon a time, they even educated hoteliers, like at WESTIN, on Customer Service techniques.  Others emphasize just the low price of travel – start that cattle call.

Dissatisfaction with the flying experience has resulted in a passenger group, FlyersRights.org, advocating a “Passenger’s Bill of Rights”.  The president of this group, Paul Hudson, wants the government to review the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 and “…correct the consumer abuses, unfair or deceptive practices and inefficiencies that have infested and degraded the nation's air transportation system".  That could be a tall order, but the group has also highlighted some demands:

THE RIGHT to a ticket we can understand and rely on, with no hidden fees, at a fair price.

THE RIGHT to be treated well when our flight is canceled or delayed, with reasonable access to available flights on other airlines and advance notice, a refund and compensation when it's the airline's fault.

THE RIGHT to airline honesty when it comes to the status of our flights and the reasons for delays and cancellations.

THE RIGHT to a safe aircraft and a well-trained, well-rested crew.

THE RIGHT to get off the tarmac within three hours at the most.

THE RIGHT to have our luggage arrive when we do - or to compensation if it doesn't.

THE RIGHT to be treated like human beings onboard aircraft, with food and drink and seats and legroom that are safe and comfortable.

THE RIGHT to retain basic constitutional rights of privacy, free speech, travel, due process of law, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure when we enter an airport or board an aircraft.

In the airline business, when you err, it can be pretty significant.  But, looking at this above list, some of these “Rights” appear to be basic to the business – such as safe aircraft, treated like human beings, honesty of the flight schedule and the like.  Few of us would disagree with these assertions.  If the airlines did not meet these basic expectations, everyone would walk or drive.  So, the full list is maybe ideal, but the point is certainly made.  There is some work to be done in the terminal and in the air, particularly if you remember airlines like Allegheny.


LRA LogoJohn Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.

Today, we are a growing company operating in more than 120 countries throughout the world, servicing our clients from offices and resources in the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions and helping clients such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the National Football League, Avis Budget Group, Madison Square Garden, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group deliver exceptional customer experiences. Every touch. Every time. For more information, visit www.LRAworldwide.com.

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