True innovation in the airline industry is refreshing to discover, so I must compliment you on the $1200 pillows you have in first class.
To frame it for you, I travel a great deal. 2,000,000 miles on United alone which makes me one of your partners in THE STAR ALLIANCE. Airline travel still offers me new and surprising experiences even after all those miles.
Yesterday I boarded flight 1529 from Charlotte to Denver. My seat was in coach. When I boarded first class was full except for 1D which had a pillow on the seat. Overhead, I counted four unused pillows; pillows first class passengers had stuffed overhead to get out of the way. I won’t bother you with my lower back problems except to say that a pillow makes all the difference in comfort for me on a long flight.
I made the mistake of taking a $1200 pillow (I will come to the valuation momentarily).
The first class steward (flight attendant? pillow monitor?) asked if I was in first class. No I answered. “Then I can’t let you take that pillow.” I pointed out that it wasn’t being used. He replied that it didn’t matter because it was “against the rules.” The pillow could NOT leave the first class cabin. I said it didn’t make much sense. He said it didn’t matter. I said, and I quote, “I guess this isn’t about common sense.” His reply was a vacant look.
I returned the pillow to the overhead where it still resided when I got off the plane three hours later.
Once at my pillowless coach seat I tweeted and posted my displeasure on Facebook. You might be discomforted to know that there was quite an outpouring of customers who really dislike U.S. Air including a member of your Chairman’s Club. But I digress…
I also emailed my travel agency and asked them to remind me to not fly U.S. Air again, that I’d rather connect on any other carrier. This might seem like an over-reaction but I’ll come back to this point later.
Then I did some simple math. I fly U.S. Air 3-4 times a year. Assuming an average ticket cost of $300 (probably much higher, but I don’t want to exaggerate), that means you’ve just lost a minimum of $900 from my decision. My business development manager travels periodically and while I won’t forbid her from flying U.S. Air, I will warn her. Oops. There goes another $300 for a grand total of $1200 which I can only assume is the value of your pillows in first class.
Those pillows are probably worth more, but I can’t tell how many people were negatively influenced by my tweets, Facebook posting or this blog (ah, the double-edged sword of social media).
With pillows worth that much, I’m surprised you don’t talk about them more in your advertising. How about “We’ll alienate customers so you can keep your pillow available at all times” or “First Class Pillows: Worth More than Customer Goodwill.”
Your pillow monitor could have controlled pillow count by allowing me to use the unwanted pillow and if–heaven forbid–there was a sudden demand for pillows in first class he could have asked me to relinquish mine. I’d have been copacetic with that. There are, after all, creative ways to accomodate most passengers if you are willing to try.
It would have been thoughtful had one of the passengers who didn’t want their pillow had offered it to me (and I hope I remember to think that way when I fly first class). Of course that might have invoked the ire of the pillow monitor.
Back to my over-reaction mentioned earlier. Last week I flew U.S. Air and observed a woman on boarding made to check her “extra bag” as she had a small roller bag, shopping bag and tiny hand purse. I am very familiar with the two piece rule. What bothered me is that the gate agent didn’t suggest she combine her bags (which would have been easy to do) and that the woman needed to wait at baggage claim at the end of a long day. The overhead bins had plenty of space and a woman in first class oddly had three pieces of carry ons thus violating “the rule.” The passenger made to check her bag didn’t speak English well so she could neither resist nor question the inconvenience.
But it gets worse.
I’ve learned that complaining, even when justified, doesn’t usually help, but I felt bad for the other passenger. I spoke with the flight attendant and pilot about the situation, mistakenly thinking they might be empathetic.
They seemed prepared with excuses. “The FAA will fine us if we let people bring on more than two pieces!” the flight attendant adamantly explained.
I’m sure that is possible but how often does that actually happen? I fly every week and I’ve yet to observe the FAA monitoring and fining for an extra purse. The statement may be true, but the excuse is lame especially given the lax enforcement of this rule by airlines in general.
The pilot told me not to worry because luggage in Denver gets to the baggage claim very quickly.
They said more, but here is what REALLY bothers me: there was a total and complete lack of empathy. You don’t have to agree with someone to understand how they feel. I would have felt better with a simple “We hate to hear about a passenger being inconvenienced.” Unfortunatley it seems in my experience that your employees miss that important point. Instead of helping, they spend their time justifying.
That attitude, coupled with the $1200 pillow, has motivated me to avoid U.S. Air. I’m a realist: someday I may have to fly you again or not get where I’m going, but I will work very hard to avoid doing so.
Now, two apologies:
First, I apologize for the bait-and-switch. This obviously wasn’t a congratulatory blog. I’m hoping maybe this will get your attention more effectively than “Yet Another Complaint Blog.” But I’m doubtful.
Second, in the interest of full disclosure, I muttered a bad name about the pillow monitor. I’m not sure how loud I said it or how many heard it but it was wrong to compare him to a bodily orifice. I believe that civility should trump dissent and dissatisfaction so I hypocritically violated my own values. I am truly sorry (and not because my publicist suggested it or Congress demanded it, but I digress…)
In conclusion, please consider:
Value of a First Class Pillow on U.S. Air: $1200.
Customer Goodwill: Priceless.