My life in consulting at Accenture included working with a lot of airlines. Anyone who works with or around an airline knows that it is a tough and complex business. The general flying public doesn’t know how hard it is to move planes, people and luggage around everyday. To that flying public, it is about myluggage and my late takeoff and my missed connection, all of which is very understandable.
From inside any airline, they know that there are good reasons why a snowstorm in Buffalo will hurt the flights between Dallas and Pittsburg. They know that there are no spare planes to fill in for the one that has a maintenance problem. They know why union rules can make them less efficient than they might want to be. They know why ticket pricing needs to change all the time based on many variables and why it is so hard to be profitable. But I wonder if they know now how some of the cost cutting efforts are hurting them with the flying public.
My contributions to airline world included two major contributions: One was moving the magazine rack to the rear of the plane so that people wouldn’t stop to choose between Golf Digest and Ski magazines and in so doing hold up the boarding process. The second contribution was to seal all the ashtrays on the arm rests. Smoking had long been prohibited and the ashtrays had become the repository of everyone’s gum and stir straws which required constant cleaning.
The tweaking continues but in the wrong direction. Charging for checked bags, and three inches of extra leg room is insulting. Now taking away the free pretzels which are ok with me; I never liked those pretzels anyway. They weren’t really pretzels but more like a pretzel or two surrounded by some synthetic doodads in a sea of some kind of garlic powder that gave all passengers bad breath. People wonder what is left to cut. Since I am cheering for the airlines, the following is my list of ways for the airlines to continue to cut costs and move toward profitability:
- Lavatories could be a revenue generator. Why not charge by the minute? Public restrooms often charge for use, so why not here? On long flights the airlines could make a killing.
- Armrests are often contested territory. A charge for the use of armrests would guarantee usage.
- Updates from pilots are often rare, especially if there is a delay. For a surcharge, you could get updates about why you are still on the tarmac four hours after scheduled departure.
- Barter could be an option too. If passengers promise to stay and clean up the cabin, they can get free pretzels and coffee.
- The “Seat Pocket in Front of You” can come in handy. They could be locked until you pay for its use.
- Sitting at a window and enjoying the scenery should be a privilege. There could be a charge to get the window shade to go up.
- There could be a slot for quarters on the armrest that would enable passengers to use the recline feature on the seat. Conversely, airlines could charge people to prevent the passenger in front of them from using the recliner feature.
- Flight attendants could charge to chat with customers. It would be extra to be nice.
- Airsick bags are often used for scribbling notes that you don’t want to forget and for air sickness.There could be a small charge to use those bags.
If I give too many ideas I may have to charge the airlines for all this consulting. But here are a few tidbits they can take to the bank with customers. I would gladly pay extra for the food if it was good. I would gladly pay extra for real service instead of cattle prodding. I would gladly pay for my luggage to be checked if I was sure it would get there quickly. And I would rather pay for everything to be embedded in the price of my ticket than to be nickel and dimed in flight.
To all you airline execs, I am available for more advice. Just call.