Everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon nowadays aren’t they? Airlines included. They kind of have to I suppose. If one airline is engaging their customers through social media, others can’t fall behind because people will take notice.
So airlines are getting social in social media. But after my last flying experience I get the feeling that they are forgetting to be social in person.
I recently flew to Las Vegas from New York and back with two different airlines. The experience left me with impressions of three different airlines.
I flew American Airlines to Las Vegas. And they left with me two impressions of their airline…
Impression #1: The first impression came walking through the tunnel to get from the terminal into the airplane. Usually the walk is takes 10 seconds through a short, straight-away tunnel. This thing was a maze! But that’s not the problem, nor do I think that’s necessarily American Airline’s fault…they didn’t build the airport.
But right when I finally go to the plane, an AA worker was stepping out of the plane to go to the terminal. Not sure if she forgot something, or if she had to relay message. But she was clearly unhappy. And in case the passengers entering the plane weren’t sure of her unhappiness, she made sure they knew by stating “seriously American Airlines! You should be shot!”
Well that’s nice. Good to know that an AA employee thinks that AA should be shot. I feel real confident in their service now!
Impression #2: The second impression came during the actual flight. I don’t expect five star service on a plane…I wasn’t flying first class, nor am I pretentious enough to expect it even if I was. Getting me from Point A to Point B safely is usually good enough.
However, the job of the flight attendant is to make your flight more comfortable, not more unpleasant. The angry flight attendant on the plane didn’t add to the experience on bit.
And what did he have to be angry about? He gets to fly to different places for free working in an environment where the male/female ratio is distinctly in his favor :).
I do understand that people have bad days. But you need to set that aside when you’re going to work, especially when your job is to serve people.
Flying back to New York i flew United Airlines. I’m generally a Continental guy because I’ve never had a bad experience with them. I booked my return flight through Continental and it was serviced by United. I was pleased to see that the merger didn’t have any effect on the flight experience.
Sure, they don’t offer free meals any more. Most airlines don’t. But they do offer you the option of purchasing a meal on board. The representative at the terminal even made an announcement that passengers are free to purchase something at the airport and bring it on board as an alternative – the first time I’ve heard an agent of any airline make that explicitly clear.
And like I said, I don’t want to be pampered on a plane. I want them to get me to my destination safely, and just don’t make my flight experience unpleasant. Continental (now Continental/United) has never disappointed me in that regard.
The Third Impression
So I just told you about the two airlines that I actually flew. But how did I come out with impressions of three airlines?
The third airline that left me with an uneasy feeling was JetBlue, even though I never got on a JetBlue plane and never even came close to a JetBlue counter.
Let me premise this by mentioning that JetBlue is often regarded as a pioneer in the airline social media game. Just search for “JetBlue social media” and you will find countless case studies talking about their social media savvy and how they nailed it.
Earlier this year, The Next Web listed JetBlue as one of five airlines that are showing social media savvy.
So how far does social media savvy get you in the airline business? In my case…not far at all!
While waiting in the terminal for my United Airlines flight, an announcement came over the airport intercom: “Attention please, would a JetBlue representative please come to your counter to attend to your customers?”
It’s bad enough that the airline was neglecting their paying customers, but it was made worse by the public announcement over the intercom. That announcement made sure that everyone in the airport, not just those flying JetBlue, knew that their service was lacking (to say the least).
Social in Not Just Media
An internet business can get by just by being social online. That’s likely the only interaction you will get with customers. But an in-person service provider needs to worry about a lot more. The emphasis should be placed on the live service providers more so than the social media aspect.
American Airlines has a whole page on their website dedicate to their social media accounts. The tag line is “American Airlines is Social.” They may be social on the internet, but they were a bit anti-social in person.
JetBlue seems to be really social in the media. And? What’s the end result for their actual flight service? It seems as though they are using social media in a reactionary manner to make up for lack of service on the ground (and in the air).
The people in the air are different than the people running social media campaigns. The social media guys understand that customer engagement and interaction is necessary for business success in today’s world. Unfortunately someone forgot to mention that to the people on the ground at the customer service counters at the airport.
Someone up top needs to send a message to the ranks that they should take a queue from the social media guys. Or maybe they should just stick some social media guys onto the planes :).
I feel terrible complaining about any airline “service” considering that they provide us the miracle of flying from one location to the next. But I guess that’s what we do. And when faced with a choice of receiving a miracle, or receiving a miracle and great service, we’re going to chose the latter.
And with that, if you’ve ever been unhappy about flying, I leave you with Louis CK…
Your Two Cents:
What is your favorite airline?
What is the worst experience you’ve had flying? And with who?
Are some companies focusing too much on their media efforts and not enough on their actual core business processes?
Are we way to spoiled as a culture at this point?