Airlines to customers: Stop complaining or we’ll pack up and go home!

I remember when we were kids. We’d play all kinds of games. And when one kid pushed things too far (playing unfair) a parent might step in and enforce some basic rules on the group.

This usually had a stabilizing effect on the game. But sometimes the kid who was acting out would escalate rather than cooperate. He might ruin it for everyone by picking up the game board and throwing it. Or he’d get up and leave, refusing to play anymore because he couldn’t do things HIS WAY.

Though I’m older now, I see this happening again. But it’s no longer the snotty kid down the street having the temper tantrum. It’s one of our largest industries.

In a report today by KSTP (and many others) the airline industry is showing its response to the recent Passenger Bill of Rights.  Rather than work with passengers (and their representative organizations) they are fighting back. (I can see the game board being turned over and the pieces flying through the air.)

Instead of talking openly about fixing their (customer experience) problem, they are threatening to cancel flights. What a great idea! Just think if every industry reacted to customer feedback like this.

  • Rather than build better houses, home builders would simply build fewer of them. That would teach home buyers a lesson!
  • If hotels got complaints and suggestions to improve, they would just shorten their hours. They might also block out rooms so there would be fewer options for customers.  Much better (and easier) than listening to customers!
  • If you send your food back in a restaurant because it’s not done to your liking, they would keep it. And you’d go hungry! That would keep diners from complaining.
  • And don’t even think about giving your dentist any constructive criticism. At least wait until she’s done working on your teeth or you could be in for a world of hurt!

Of course these industries don’t act like this. And for good reason. They want their customers to come back. Even more important, they want to help their customers have a good experience. They understand their job is to work WITH their customers, not AGAINST them.

So why do airlines seem to miss this point? Why do they seem to constantly be flying in the face of common sense?

The flip side of this is a major league opportunity. Any airline (yes, even Southwest) can do better. But at this point the industry as a whole should get together and commit to doing better. If they don’t, they’ll find the Passenger Bill of Rights is just the first salvo in a long and painful war.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz