Are Customer Surveys Useless? Ask the Airlines

August 7, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Blog

Each time I fly, if I am in the airlines’ frequent flyer program, I receive a customer survey almost upon landing. Or maybe everyone gets it. I can guarantee you that no passenger feedback form is telling the airline they approve of “the new airline industry”. Customer feedback is useless to them, so why do they keep asking? Why should I reply?

 

There was a time when the airline industry was regulated by the Civil Aeronautics Board. President Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act into law on October 24, 1978, the first time in U.S. history that an industry was deregulated. Deregulation lifted restrictions on where airlines could fly.

 

Deregulation was intended to provide a free market, hence, more competition and options for the traveling public.

 

It worked for a while. Fast forward almost 40 years and we have gone full circle. Once again, we have limited options (due to countless mergers…. remember TWA, Piedmont, Western, US Airways, Air Tran, etc. several years ago) and the travel experience is much worse. If you live near a hub you are mostly relegated to one major airline. We are down to three major airlines who each have monopolies at certain cities.

 

As a result, they price any way they choose. They are packing in more seats with hideous 30” to 31” seat pitches. American, Delta and United seem to be trying to emulate Allegiant and Spirit (with their new BASIC ECONOMY product…do they really want to capture market share with a bare bones seat only?).

 

They charge absurd fees for flight changes, baggage and inflight refreshments. Their airline schedules fit the needs of the airline, not the passengers. Fuel prices have gone down several years ago and the big 3 have made roughly a collective $12 billion off our discomfort, misery and pocket books in 2016 alone. …and billions more since 2010.

 

We, the customer, are merely revenue streams to them. So, is this a value proposition? Heavens no. Not for us. Do they have competitive advantages? Why, yes they do. Should they use the advantage to abuse the public for profit. If you are a shortsighted stockholder, you might say yes? If you are a traveler, you say no.

 

Thankfully there is Southwest, jetBlue, and handful of other carriers who still treat customers as if they matter. Southwest and jetBlue are expanding routes, nationally and internationally. A new Netflix like concept is evolving: SurfAir offers all you can fly for about $1,000/month small jet service. More and more competition for the big 3 on the horizon.

 

It is spreading: The Wall Street Journal just reported that the hotels are feeling left out of the gouging game. They already tack on many fees but now are adding charges for the gym, extra towels, WIFI, parking, newspapers, etc.

 

From the WSJ: “Like their airline brethren,” Daniel Lesser, CEO of LW Hospitality Advisors, wrote last year in Hotels magazine, “I firmly believe lodging owners and operators need to be more concerned with economic yields as compared with service and guest satisfaction.” He was even more candid in another post: “I believe the lodging industry should nickel and dime the same population that flies and/or cruises.”

 

Too many executives have told me they send out satisfaction surveys, have a quick look at the replies and toss them in a drawer. Unless you have a monopoly, this is risky business. If you have limited competition and abuse the customer, your favored position won’t last long.

 

What will be the backlash for the gluttony? If you are going to ask customers what they care about, then listen and respond to their wants while minding a respectable profit. Or, don’t ask.