Air travel is expensive, that is a well known fact of life. While the cost has indeed dropped dramatically over time, flying is still fairly expensive once you add up the taxes, miscellaneous fees, and everything else that goes along with flying. Last week, however, JetBlue offered a deal that was simply too good to pass up. 90% off any flight out of New York City? Sign me up!
After three frustrating days of trying to book a trip to literally anywhere JetBlue flies, I was finally able to book a round trip flight to West Palm Beach, FL for a whopping $66.99, $24.95 of which was taxes. That fare, booked the day before travel, was already incredible. At over $400 off the normal price, I was extremely happy. What came next, however, brought the fare down to less than the cost of a Big Mac.
British Airways Boeing 777. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.
Recently, British Airways started keeping information on some of their VIP customers and searching for their images online all in the name of service. The program, called “Know Me,” has some privacy advocates worried.
“Last year we re-committed to the ethos: To Fly. To Serve. That’s what ‘Know Me’ is all about – enabling us to recognise our customers in a way that is individual to them,” Jo Boswell, head of customer analysis at British Airways, stated. “We’re essentially trying to recreate the feeling of recognition you get in a favourite restaurant when you’re welcomed there, but in our case it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers.”
The idea is simple enough. Airline employees have iPads which contain information on high-end passengers. What kind of food they prefer, if it is the first time they have flown with a certain product and if they might have had previous issues flying on the airline. The software also allows the crew to identify a passenger by searching Google Images.
Although many passengers probably appreciate this high-level of service, not everyone is so happy. According to CNN, Emma Carr, deputy director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch stated, “Since when has buying a flight ticket meant giving your airline permission to start hunting for information about you on the internet?” Fundamentally, British Airways has not asked their passengers’ permission to take part in this scheme. Surely, if they want to search Google to find pictures and any other information all they have to do is ask?”
Why wouldn’t an airline take advantage of this? I am pretty sure photos found on the internet are part of the public domain, that anyone could find.
The airline states that they will not be doing this level of service for a huge majority of the passengers, but just the rare few who probably are used to being known. According the British Airways, the service is being well received. “The early results have been extremely positive, our customers love being recognised and treated as an individual, and our customer service staff and cabin crew feel empowered to deliver a really bespoke service,” Boswell said. “This is just the start though – the system has a myriad of possibilities for the future.”
What do you think? Is this a genius customer service move, creepy or an invasion of privacy?
United Airlines Boeing 757 and Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 at SFO.
If you read my blog often, you know I try to remind people of the positive side of the airline business (sometimes it is harder than others). Each year airlines receive A LOT of complaints. Some are well deserved, while others are from people who have a warped sense of what is right and wrong.
Occasionally an airline will receive a positive letter and possibly a story of one employee who truly went out of their way. Some might think that letters like these get lost in a sea of other letters, but trust me, they do not. When touring many airline operation centers, they have a special place where they show off the positive letters and cards that they receive. Unfortunately the area is not too large, since not too many are sent. Let’s change that…
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE – LET AIRLINES KNOW WHEN THEY ROCK!
Next time you are flying and someone goes out of their way or is obviously passionate about their job, take a few moments to jot down their name and email the airline. Be sure to mention the airport, your flight, their name and any other details. It doesn’t need to be long, just enough to give some kudos. Not only will people at the airline love to hear it, but this could actually help the career of the employee.
Recently, I have experienced two such instances that I made sure to tell the airline about. The first was a United Airlines gate manager in Seattle. I was waiting to take a flight to Chicago and the early morning flight had been cancelled and my aircraft had been changed from an Airbus A320 to an A319 (smaller). This meant there were a lot of people and not enough seats. He did a great job of just being honest with people and keeping a sense of humor during the ordeal. Most people were smiling as the gentleman warmly welcomed them on the flight, even the people who didn’t make the flight seemed happy (they also for $400 on United).
The next was an Alaska Airlines gate agent in Los Angeles. I had a five hour layover and plenty of time to watch her keep her spirits up and welcome each passenger by name on each flight. She was also my gate agent and it is just nice to be welcomed by name on a plane even though I was flying economy.
If you are having difficulty finding who to send it to, it is okay to send it to me ([email protected]) and I will make sure it gets to the proper people. Heck, even if you send them to the airline directly, send it to me anyhow, I love hearing positive stories and I might even post a few. If you are a Twitter user, share your stories and use the hashtag #AirlineLove (what the heck does that mean?).
Airlines and employees have to deal with a lot of crap, let’s remind them that there are still people out there who love airlines and see flying as a great experience. The ball is now in your court!
An American Airlines MD-80.
I love the self-service kiosks at airports. I was one of the first people to use them when they came out and I am still a huge fan today.
One of the most annoying issues is printing out my boarding pass and then waiting for someone to come over and give me my bag-tag. Sometimes I can end up waiting longer for my tag than I took actually checking in. American Airlines is trying to change the game by allowing passengers to print off their own bag tags.
Already at 35 airports around the world, passengers can print off their own luggage tag, but that hasn’t been the case in the US. American is giving this a six month test in Austin, TX to see how it goes. Your ID still needs to be checked, and an agent needs to watch the conveyor belt to make sure only authorized bags make their way on board, but this should be able to speed up the check-in process.
Some passengers and airline employees are not happy. Passengers feel this is a step backward with customer service and employees are afraid about keeping their job. I think it boils down to the cost of a ticket. Airlines need to get creative to be competitive and if this is a way to speed things up and save a few dollars on a ticket, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being used more in the future. Delta and Alaska Airlines have already shown some interest and I imagine that others are keeping a close eye on how this goes.
What do you think? Is this the future or a lame-duck idea?
To learn more about this program, check out the story I posted on AOL Travel News.
Image: John Rogers