Note: I haven’t been publishing as frequently, as I am on vacation with my family; back to the daily blog after the New Year!
I recently traveled from Vancouver, Canada back to my home in San Diego. The flight up was non-stop, and everything was on time. The flight back, however, was not fun. My connection on Alaska Airlines was supposed to leave at about 9:00 pm, and we were all on board after a 10-minute delay. It was then announced that a problem had been found with a part of the equipment, and mechanics were coming to fix it. Please stay tuned and stay in your seats.
One hour later, they had fixed that problem, but two more had cropped up. The airline finally decided to let us get off the plane and stretch our legs. By now, it was after 10:00 pm. About 30 minutes later, the airline said they would need to get another plane, as this one didn’t have parts available. It was at this point the airline decided to give us vouchers for food in the airport. We all scrambled to get a voucher, as most were quite tired and hungry by now. I took mine to the closest store, hoping to at least get some snacks and water, but I was told the vouchers were only good for the concessions and restaurants. One problem. The concessions and restaurants were all closed!
If the airline had made the decision to treat its passengers more like guests, as Disney calls its customers, how might it have done things differently? It might have realized that the vouchers were not going to be helpful at that late hour. As it was ordering parts, perhaps it could have found somewhere to get a carafe of coffee to serve to guests. Perhaps it could have used vouchers that would allow its guests to get something from the store, such as a snack. Knowing that travel can be delayed at times, what if the airline planned ahead and had some non-perishable snacks in reserve somewhere at the airport (like the yummy snacks that jetBlue serves on their flights)? Surely they could have someone go and get them if it looks like a big delay. Putting yourself in the shoes of your customers, and planning out how they will be treated in different scenarios, helps strengthen not only your customer relationships, but also your brand.
On a recent Southwest flight, I was again delayed coming back into San Diego, this time due to weather. We could not even land in San Diego due to the low-lying fog. We ended up having to land in Los Angeles, 100 miles north of our intended destination. Southwest personnel were extremely helpful and friendly. At first, they couldn’t find a way to get us back to San Diego, as all flights were grounded and no buses were available. As we gathered our carry-on bags, Southwest announced to us they had found buses. Somewhere, they came up with a bunch of helium balloons, which tired passengers followed down to the baggage claim by smiling Southwest personnel. They kept us informed, and they cheerfully got us safely on to the buses in a very timely fashion. Although it was not a fun experience, Southwest made it as efficient as possible, for us and for them, with quick thinking, a cheerful attitude, and good service.
Yes, the travel experience is not a good one at any time of year. Airports are overcrowded, people are anxious to get home, and airline personnel are tired. Business is cutthroat. However, airlines such as Jet Blue and Southwest seem to have it down. jetBlue has prioritized what is important for their passengers and continues to offer it when other airlines have cut too far back (who wants to pay for a pillow on the plane?). Southwest hires people for their friendly, customer-focused attitudes. Both of them will get my business in the future.