"The era of cheap oil is over," said Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in March. Everyone else seems to agree. Those waiting for oil prices to drop probably ain't gonna live that long. Alternative fuels will eventually abound, but will not be as cheap in the foreseeable future as oil was in the memorable past. Get used to it.
Airlines cut costs where possible, including cutting customer services. Today's paper announced the closing of several more executive clubs, and most such clubs that remain open ain't what they used to be. (I finally quit using the things when they began to resemble the Blue Light Special at K-Mart.)
And airlines renegotiate with airports (ala Northwest vs. Minneapolis area airports). To the extent their negotiations are successful, airports must then cut costs themselves and look for other revenue sources. Maybe the general aviation side of the airport? Airport vendors?
The inevitable result is a tightening up in all facets of aviation. It would be very easy to end up with a snarling, nasty airport environment, wherein everybody is meaner than Leroy Brown, who was, according to Jim Croce's song, "meaner than a junkyard dog." That includes the customer who takes the brunt of all the above.
The big job will be maintaining friendly customer service under pressure. We can all learn from watching the failures and successes of the airlines.
We passengers felt the difference instantly when the airlines finally decided that the customer really did want low fares and was seemingly unwilling to pay more for better service. I am honestly convinced that some airlines told employees that, "if passengers want cheap fares they're going to have to suffer."
What the legacy carriers didn't seem to understand was that discount airlines provide the friendliest service in the industry. Yes, you might have to wait in longer lines, live on peanuts, and fight for the good seats, but in the meantime, the flight attendants smile, flirt, and recite funny poetry.
As prices climb and amenities decrease, it is hard to remember that friendly service - service with a smile - becomes more important than ever. That smile costs little and means a lot.
Management must be very good at motivating employees to take pride in friendly service under tough conditions. If the boss talks about cheap customers, that attitude will be - not might be, but will be - passed along to customers by frontline employees. It is management's job to sell the truth. ("Customers are our bread and butter and we are going to keep them happy. Especially now that it is so important.")
Service with a smile. It costs nothing, matters a lot, and is difficult to achieve, because it requires leadership.
A New Fear Factor By Ralph Hood January 2002 The guvmint gonna take over airport security, and all our problems are solved. Let the good times roll! Power to the people! We shall...
The airline last week embarked on a trial that could make it look more like its competitors.